What did judges know about guardian ad litem issues? - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

What did judges know about guardian ad litem issues?

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AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) -

We're following up on complaints against guardians ad litem in the Augusta Judicial Circuit, including those made against former magistrate judge Doug Nelson and longtime guardian Janet Weinberger.

We now know the Judicial Qualifications Committee is investigating what superior court judge Daniel Craig may have know about complaints against Nelson. The JQC annual report said in 2013, 75% of complaints against Georgia judges were rejected. But a letter from the JQC shows they are looking into these cases.

After hearing the JQC was getting involved – we wanted to know what the superior court judges who appoint and control these guardians know about the complaints?

Judge Daniel Craig presided over multiple cases in which mothers revealed to WFXG accusations that Doug Nelson was inappropriate with them while working on their cases.

Nelson has denied all allegations of wrong-doing.

But in a court hearing this past June, Judge Craig said he didn't have knowledge of complaints on one particular case we have been following. This case involves a mother, who during a WFXG investigation in April, accused Nelson of being inappropriate with her during her custody case.

"The judge didn't know, you knew," Judge Craig said to the mother during the hearing.

Evans attorneys Andy Tisdale and Lisa Clarke said in emails obtained by WFXG that they brought an audio tape to Craig's chambers nearly four years ago of a guardian speaking to a mother during a visit to her home about another woman's breasts. She and Tisdale said the man on the tape is Doug Nelson.

“The one thing I did notice was – she had four kids already," Nelson said on the tape. "I don't know, but she had to have 38DD [breasts].”

Tisdale previously confirmed the authenticity of his email and tape; Clarke couldn't be reached for comment.

In an email to me this week, Judge Craig said he received a complaint nearly four years ago about an unnamed guardian - whose identity he didn't confirm - making inappropriate comments to a female litigant, and that he removed him from the case and alerted his colleagues – details which match the meeting involving Tisdale and Clarke.

Judge Craig said he stopped appointing the unnamed guardian after receiving the complaint, but court records show he relied on a previously appointed Nelson's recommendation in August 2011 to remove custody from a mother.

Court records also show within the past four years, Judges David Roper and Wade Padgett appointed Nelson on cases, which litigants tell me Nelson was inappropriate with them or a witness on their case.

Judge Roper was sent a complaint by Tisdale in August 2013 about inappropriate behavior by Nelson on a case, but Judge Roper told me in May that he didn't report Nelson because 'sexual harassment isn't a crime in Georgia.'

Parent Robbie Roberson said Judge Michael Annis received his complaint in court about Janet Weinberger's billing practices.

“Judge Annis' comment was, since Janet Weinberger made an effort to call me, I was responsible for paying it," said Roberson.

Roberson said he has received numerous phone calls since our report about Weinberger aired, and is working to put together a class action lawsuit.

When we asked Judge Annis about complaints against guardians he may have received, he says it would be "improper for a judge to comment on any aspect of a case that he has presided over."

Judges Sheryl Jolly, David Roper, and Wade Padgett did not respond to requests for comment for this story. Jolly previously told me during a September meeting that she had received no complaints about guardians ad litem.

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