“Three years ago, I erred, and I took responsibility for it,” Chief Judge of the Superior Court for the Western Judicial Circuit Eric Norris said Monday at the Athens-Clarke County Courthouse just before he faced an official reprimand.
Norris was referring to an incident in July 2019 in which he privately scolded Liberty Bonding owner Nathan Owens for comments Owens made on Facebook about a rape case and the defendant of that case.
Judge James G. Blanchard, Jr. of the Columbia County Judicial Circuit presided over the public reprimand proceedings Monday at 4:30 p.m.
Providing a narrative of the incident, Blanchard noted that Norris spent about half an hour chastising Owens while an armed deputy was standing at the doorway. In his legal complaint, Owens wrote that he felt like he was not free to leave the meeting due to the armed deputy and because Norris said, “No, you’re going to sit down and listen to what I have to say.”
Blanchard explained that the Supreme Court of Georgia, which ordered the public reprimand, found that Norris had violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, in which judges “should be patient, dignified, respectful and courteous” to those whom they deal with in an official capacity.
In its June 22 ruling, the Supreme Court of Georgia found that Norris’s violations were “based on non-habitual conduct, with no evidence that he used vulgar language or engaged in any sort of physical altercation on the occasion in question.”