Jeff Brickman
Jeff Brickman (File photo)

An Alabama federal judge arrested in Atlanta last week has hired former DeKalb County district attorney Jeffrey Brickman to represent him on a pending criminal charge.

U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, who sits in Alabama’s Middle District, is charged with one misdemeanor count of family violence, battery with substantial physical harm. The judge was arrested Aug. 10 on allegations he assaulted his wife at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Atlanta.

Brickman confirmed he had been retained the represent the judge in the Fulton County criminal case. Lawyer Barry Ragsdale of Birmingham said he represented the judge in addressing an associated investigation by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Fuller is free on a $5,000 signature bond. An Atlanta Police Department incident report said Fuller’s wife told an officer dispatched to the hotel that the judge had pulled her hair, threw her to the ground and kicked her, dragged her around the room and hit her in the mouth several times with his hands. The report said Fuller’s wife had visible lacerations on her mouth and forehead.

According to the report, Fuller told the officer that his wife had attacked him during an argument over his wife’s belief that he was having an affair with his law clerk. But, the report said, “there were no marks, bruises or lacerations on his body or face.”

Brickman declined to address the police report in detail. “Judge Fuller is obviously taking the situation very seriously and continues to respect the process and is looking forward to exploring all options available in an effort to reach a resolution that is amicable to all parties.”

Brickman said an upcoming court appearance in the criminal case that had been set for this Friday has been put off to a later date with the consent of the Fulton solicitor’s office.

Although impeachment by Congress is virtually the only way to permanently remove a federal district judge from the bench, federal law allows the federal judiciary to police its members through lesser sanctions, such as a private or public reprimand. That discipline process can be initiated either by an individual filing a complaint with the appropriate circuit Court of Appeals or by the circuit’s chief judge identifying a matter to be addressed.

Ragsdale, who said he is a friend of Fuller, said that the latter procedure had been followed in Fuller’s case, although the complaint served on Fuller was signed by Eleventh Circuit Judge Gerald Tjoflat as “acting chief judge.” Like Fuller, the Eleventh Circuit chief judge, Edward Carnes, maintains his chambers in Montgomery, Ala. Tjoflat, who served as the court’s chief judge from 1989 to 1996, is the most senior active judge on the court.

The Eleventh Circuit announced last week that Fuller was being relieved of his case load until further notice; Ragsdale said that move was not made with Fuller’s consent.

Ragsdale said Fuller would respond to the complaint within the time allotted. “Judge Fuller is embarrassed about this episode, and he is very sorry for all of the people who have gotten caught up in this,” said Ragsdale. “Obviously, Judge Fuller intends to fully cooperate with the investigation by the Eleventh Circuit and provide whatever information they request.”

Ragsdale also declined to discuss in detail the issues raised by the police report. “They are serious potential allegations,” he said. “There is a time and place for Judge Fuller to address those issues, but frankly it’s not, with all due respect, in the press.”