Probate Judge Christina Peterson should be removed, Georgia Supreme Court rules

The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that Judge Christina Peterson should be removed from the bench. Additionally, she will not be eligible to be elected or appointed to any judicial office in Georgia for the next 7 years. 

The first-time judge for Douglas County has been the subject of several FOX 5 I-Team investigations since she took office in late 2020.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) decided in April that Peterson was guilty of "systemic incompetence" because she ignored courthouse rules, abused courthouse personnel, made inappropriate posts on social media and, in repeated cases, failed to do her job.

Their decision was made after four separate hearings on 30 ethics charges where Peterson had a chance to testify and confront her accusers.

A hearing panel recommends Douglas County Probate Court Judge Christina Peterson be removed from office.

Reaction to decision over Judge Christina Peterson

Judge Peterson released the following statement on Tuesday:

"As a trial lawyer, you never like to lose a case. I will let my client speak to the substance of the charges because it is and has been her case. Procedurally, I’m pleased that we were able to provide her with a vigorous defense in court, getting numerous counts dismissed and fighting off two motions for interim suspension, even though today we lost the ultimate battle." 

Douglas County Administrator Dr. David Corbin also released a statement: 

"Today, the Georgia Supreme Court issued an opinion ordering the removal of Douglas County Probate Court Judge Christina Peterson from office, effective immediately.  

"We understand this action raises concerns about Douglas County Probate Court operations. While those services fall under the purview of the Chief Judge of Superior Court until such time as a new Judge is appointed, Douglas County Government Administration stands ready to assist our Judiciary with any administrative or operational support necessary during this transition.  

"We respect the Supreme Court’s decision and remain committed to our mission of providing superior public service." 

Judge jailed bride over name change

The one that troubled the JQC panel the most involved Peterson's decision to jail a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Thailand for trying to amend her marriage certificate to include the real name of her recently discovered father.

On Aug. 2, 2021, the woman filed a petition in Douglas County to amend her marriage-license application from 2016. She wanted to correct her father's name on the application and provided a translated birth certificate as supporting evidence. The document indicated it was "not recommended as a legal document." Judge Peterson scheduled a hearing for Aug. 24, 2021, but did not mention any charges of contempt or inform the petitioner of her right to have legal counsel present. 

During the hearing, Judge Peterson concluded that the translated birth certificate was "fictitious," "fraudulent," and "forged." The petitioner explained she had initially listed her uncle’s name instead of her father’s because her uncle had raised her. Despite this explanation, Judge Peterson determined that the petitioner was attempting to defraud the court and held her in contempt. She was sentenced to 20 days in jail but could be released after two days if she paid a $500 fine. The petitioner served two days in jail, paid the fine, and was released.

The hearing panel found that Peterson did not have a solid or proper basis for holding the petitioner in contempt and imposing the maximum sentence. The petitioner was trying to correct an innocent mistake rather than committing fraud.

The hearing panel also found that Judge Peterson's testimony that she concluded the petitioner committed fraud during the hearing and not before the hearing was false, as her contempt order focused on the alleged fraudulent marriage-license application, not the birth certificate.

Additionally, Judge Peterson failed to provide the petitioner with essential due process protections, such as advising her of the contempt charges, giving her a reasonable opportunity to respond, and allowing her to have legal counsel and call witnesses. The hearing panel determined that Judge Peterson knew the difference between direct and indirect contempt but deliberately issued the hearing notice without informing the petitioner that a criminal contempt charge would be adjudicated. This ambushed the petitioner, leaving her unprepared to defend herself.

The Georgia Supreme Court agreed with the JQC's findings related to the matter. 

Peterson is currently in her last year on the bench. She recently lost her bid for re-election.

Peterson arrested in Buckhead

She was also arrested last week in connection to an incident outside a restaurant and lounge in Buckhead. She is accused of striking an Atlanta police officer and refusing to provide her name during the arrest process.

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Former Douglas County Probate Court Judge Christina Peterson is seen on Atlanta police body camera video being arrested.  (Supplied)


According to Peterson's lawyer and Fulton County commissioner, Marvin Arrignton Jr., the judge was trying to help a woman who was being attacked outside the nightclub when the incident with the police officer occurred. She is currently out of jail on bond.