Update: Judge Fuller declared on June 20, 2011 that he will retire from the bench, rather than continue working under strict supervision until the mandatory retirement age of 70. The state Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that Judge Fuller had to retire unless he agreed to undergo a six-month suspension followed by strict probation for misconduct that included mistreating lawyers, court personnel and others. Fuller claimed he could not afford the cost of the suspension and probation, which he estimated to be $174,000. He says he will start working as an attorney in July. PGB
April 28, 2011 – The South Dakota Supreme Court is considering whether to return suspended 7th Circuit Judge A.P. “Pete” Fuller to the bench after complaints that amount to bullying.
In a plea to keep his job, Fuller, 68, said “I am ashamed … My conduct and actions have affected people I love and respect.”
According to the Rapid City Journal, Fuller’s tearful demeanor was a sharp contrast to the irreverent, caustic description painted by the findings of Judicial Qualifications Commission that has asked the state’s top court to remove or retire an elected judge for the first time in its 121-year history.
The Journal says that an investigation and transcripts of two closed-door hearings of the commission record the testimony of several people who described Fuller’s behavior as verbally abusive, sometimes profane and often biased, both in formal court setting and at other times.
Court documents state Fuller gave one attorney the ” bird” and publicly referred to juvenile court as “little prick day.”
During the hearings, Fuller acknowledged that some of his conduct was inappropriate but denied other allegations, including his alleged use of profanity in front of clerks of court.
Fuller said he had enrolled in anger-management classes and now understood that others perceived his irritation and annoyance with situations as “anger and rudeness and abrasiveness, and I believe somebody even said bullying.”
“It never dawned on him that he was mistreating people,” said one of two lawyers representing Fuller.
Much of the inappropriate conduct that Fuller is accused of was never dealt with during his 10 years on the bench, and he received no feedback suggesting that his conduct was inappropriate, Fuller’s other lawyer said.
In response, Attorney Michael Schaffer, who represented the commission said:
“He got feedback when deputy clerks ran out of the courtroom in tears.”
“This inquiry … comes down to Judge Fuller’s conduct. The conduct of Judge Fuller basically concerns his treatment of people in his court and his treatment of people as a judge,” Schaffer said.
Fuller’s lawyers are attempting to portray the matter as having political undertones, while stressing the importance of an independent judiciary. Fuller allegedly referred to law enforcement officers as a “bunch of racists” during a juvenile hearing, prompting complaints from law enforcement and prosecutors.
– PGB (firstname.lastname@example.org)
See The Rapid City Journal story: http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/article_d6f3ac0e-71c7-11e0-883c-001cc4c002e0.html.