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Judge Investigated for Denying Attorney Bathroom Break
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Courtney Johnson

Summary: A DeKalb County Judge is accused of refusing to allow a defense attorney a bathroom break after multiple requests, resulting in the attorney peeing her pants.

An Atlanta-area judge is under scrutiny for denying a bathroom break for an attorney during a court hearing. The attorney claims she ended up peeing her pants before being able to leave the courtroom to use the restroom.

  
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Georgia’s judicial watchdog agency is looking into Chief Judge Courtney Johnson of DeKalb County Superior Court and the allegations against her. A defense attorney claims she ended up urinating in her chair because Johnson would not let her take a bathroom break after asking for the break multiple times.

The alleged incident occurred on June 21. Johnson says she conducted her own investigation during the lunch break of the chair public defender Jan Hankins was sitting in but found no evidence of an accident around it or the floor. Hankins says there was no evidence of her accident because she had cleaned things up already.

Johnson called the incident “very suspicious” and was simply a miscommunication between her and Hankins, who has filed a motion for Johnson to remove herself from the case. She argues that Johnson’s integrity, impartiality, and competence is impaired in the case. Simply put, a high standard of conduct in civilized societies requires that a court grant urgent requests to use the restroom.”

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On the third day of a murder trial involving R’shon Blake and deceased Amontrae Hawkins in 2015, Hankins states she raised her hand to catch Johnson’s attention, mouthing the word “bathroom” to her. Johnson gave no response so Hankins waited for ten minutes before scribbling “bathroom” on a piece of paper for the deputy to give to Johnson, who read it. By this time, Hankins was having a hard time maintaining her composure. Twenty more minutes went by until Johnson excused the jury from the courtroom while the prosecution dealt with a technical problem trying to play an audiotape. Johnson then turned to Hankins to inform her she could now use the restroom but she had already urinated where she as sitting at the defense table.

In her affidavit, Hankins made it very clear that it was not a minor accident. She claimed the entire lining of her dress was soaked in urine. She ran off to the restroom to try and clean herself up and bring back paper towels to clean up her chair. She explained, “As I recall, she didn’t express any regret for my predicament, nor inquire whether I needed additional time to obtain fresh clothing. She seemed more interested in viewing the state of the chair seat.”



A sheriff’s deputy present during the hearing backs up Hankins version of the event. DeKalb Sheriff’s Deputy A. Owens wrote in the incident report that he saw Hankins impatiently moving about in her chair. He said Hankins raised a finger to get the judge’s attention, appearing to say she needed a bathroom break but “Judge Johnson shook her head from left to right as if she was saying, not at this time.”

Owens said minutes passed before Hankins held up a legal pad with “bathroom” written on it. “Feeling uncomfortable being placed in an awkward situation, I wrote Judge Johnson a note explaining Mrs. Hankins would like to use the restroom,” Owens wrote. “Judge Johnson responded by writing to me that she could wait.”

Johnson disagrees with this version of the story. She said in an interview, “It was a miscommunication between myself and Mrs. Hankins. I at no time told her she couldn’t go to the bathroom.” She said she noticed Hankins trying to talk to her, “but I couldn’t hear her.” The note the deputy handed her was from Hankins asking to use the restroom. Johnson says she sent a note back asking if she could wait until the audiotape played but “I never got a reply back.”

The case ended in a mistrial. Hankins noted in her motion that her boss, Maurice Kenner, had filed a complaint with the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Kenner had also offered Johnson “an informal opportunity” to recuse herself but she refused. Johnson ended up withdrawing from the case on the same day that Hankins filed her motion.

Johnson’s attorney Lester Tate said, “Judge Johnson has always attempted to treat any litigant, juror or lawyer who appears before her with the utmost dignity. Here you have a lawyer and judge trying to communicate passing notes through a courtroom deputy about a bathroom break during the course of a murder trial, and at the very moment that a key witness’s statement is being played. It’s certainly not shocking that there was a miscommunication.”

Do you think some judge’s get power happy? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more about judge’s criticized for how they run their courtroom, read these articles:

Photo: myajc.com



 

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