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A well-known Atlanta criminal defense lawyer says that two Fulton County, Ga., judges are punishing him for criticizing their conduct. Dwight L. Thomas claims that two letters he wrote-one private, the other public-so infuriated Fulton County Superior Court judges Marvin S. Arrington Sr. and T. Jackson Bedford Jr. that the judges retaliated by refusing to appoint him to a death penalty case, despite his established relationship with the defendant and the family’s request that he represent the man. Thomas has directed most of his fire at Arrington, who is currently assigned to the case. Arrington, Thomas wrote in a complaint to the court’s chief judge, “has picked a fight with the wrong lawyer because, like him, I am a fighter and I will fight him with all legal means available, including any bid for re-election.” Thomas’ letter criticizing Bedford was published in the Fulton County Daily Report, a sister publication of The National Law Journal, more than three years ago. It concerned Bedford’s complaint that judges attending a murdered Fulton County deputy’s funeral hadn’t been recognized at the service. Thomas’ letter to Arrington was sent privately to the judge just two months ago and took issue with a courtroom rebuke Arrington allegedly delivered to Thomas. Both judges, Thomas contends, are still angry with him for speaking his mind. Thomas claims that is why first Bedford, and then Arrington, refused to appoint him to represent Kenneth Gerald Reese, accused of the April 22, 2003, murder of Fulton County police officer Aaron J. Blount. In court papers filed last week, Thomas, an experienced death penalty lawyer, argues that he should be on Reese’s defense team. He demands that Arrington, the judge now assigned to the case, recuse himself. Last week, Arrington issued an order on the motion to recuse, yielding the matter for another judge to decide. Arrington said the motion was filed in a timely fashion and accompanied by affidavits, although he added that Thomas’ affidavit was “rife with hearsay.” According to Thomas, the trouble between Arrington and himself began when Arrington berated him in court for seeking a leave of absence at the conclusion of a lengthy death penalty case that Thomas had tried in DeKalb County, Ga. Thomas claims that he followed the rules in asking for leave for health reasons, and Arrington granted the leave. But Arrington, Thomas claims, also told him that if he had trouble handling the stresses of the profession, he should get a job at the Board of Education. Complaints against judges are usually directed to the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Bedford, who handled the Reese case before it was reassigned to Arrington, said in a prepared statement that he had expected to have the case only briefly before it would be reassigned and knew that another judge then could appoint Thomas if he or she wanted. His decision not to appoint Thomas during the time he had the case, Bedford said, “was prompted by what I believed to be unfounded and unprofessional derogatory comments that he made about me in the Daily Report several years ago.” The judge said he was worried that Thomas’ attitude toward him might affect the lawyer’s conduct in Bedford’s courtroom.

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