U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller will resign
MAY 29, 2015 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: FEB 2, 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller announced Friday he will resign Aug. 1, almost one year since he was arrested and charged with battery of his wife.
By resigning, Fuller, 56, gives up what had been a lifetime appointment. The departure creates another vacancy on the federal bench in Alabama, which is already depleted.
Fuller relayed his plans to President Barack Obama and the chief judges of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. district court in Alabama’s Middle District, according to Fuller’s attorney, Barry Ragsdale.
“Judge Fuller has expressed to the president his honor and privilege in having served as a United States district judge, a job that he truly loved,” Ragsdale said. “Judge Fuller regrets resigning, but he recognizes that it is best for his family and the judicial system that he do so at this time.”
Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, said she welcomed the announcement from Fuller and is relieved that Congress can avoid going through an impeachment process.
“Justice was not served. We sent the wrong message to victims of domestic violence by allowing a federal judge to collect a paycheck — without managing a caseload — and ultimately having his record expunged,” Sewell said. “Judge Fuller failed to uphold the values we hold dear.”
Fuller’s caseload was reassigned to other judges after his arrest but he continued to collect his salary. Ragsdale said he will not resume hearing cases between now and Aug. 1.
Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, (who’s father, Judge Joel F. Dubina, is a Circuit Judge on the Eleventh Circuit) said Fuller made the right decision to resign.
“I hope this situation has brought more attention to the issue of domestic violence, both locally and nationally. Domestic violence is an all too common problem in our society. Violent acts against loved ones cannot not be tolerated, and we have to ensure victims are empowered to seek help,” Roby said.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, agreed Fuller had made the right decision.
“The American people expect those who have the distinct honor of sitting on the bench to be held to the highest ethical standard,” he said.
Most members of Alabama’s congressional delegation had publicly urged him to step down within weeks of his arrest, but Fuller resisted while his criminal case worked its way through the courts.
He was arrested Aug. 10 after his then-wife called 911 during a fight at an Atlanta hotel. She had cuts to her mouth and forehead and told police Fuller had thrown her to the ground, pulled her hair and kicked her after she confronted him over an alleged affair with a law clerk, according to a police report.
Fuller completed a pretrial diversion program involving counseling for domestic violence, and the misdemeanor battery charge was dropped in April.
But his fellow federal judges have been investigating Fuller themselves to decide whether further disciplinary action was warranted. Their report, if it is complete, has not been released. Ragsdale declined to comment on the status of that investigation.
The resignation ends nine months of debate over whether a federal judge who spent the night in jail and agreed to counseling to avoid a trial should be allowed to keep his job sitting in judgment of others.
Members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, had begun preparing possible impeachment proceedings. And women’s advocacy organizations had launched campaigns for his removal.
Fuller was appointed to Alabama’s Middle District in 2002 by then-President George W. Bush. Alabama GOP Sens. Shelby and Jeff Sessions, who voted to confirm Fuller, were among those calling for his resignation last year.
Many members of Congress said federal judges should be held to a higher standard of conduct that Fuller hadn’t met. They also expressed concern that Fuller’s case damaged the integrity of the judicial system and that he had violated the public’s trust in that system.
National focus on the domestic violence case against professional football player Ray Rice also was a factor in Fuller’s downfall.
“If an NFL player can lose his job because of domestic violence, then a federal judge should definitely not be allowed to keep his lifetime appointment to the federal bench,” Sewell said at the time.
Fuller was a long way from being eligible to retire as a federal judge, which would have protected his lifetime salary as a judge on senior status. Federal judges are not eligible for senior status until they are 65 years old with 15 years of service.
Fuller’s resignation depletes the federal bench in Alabama even further. Three judges in Montgomery, Birmingham and Huntsville are on senior status, and there is an Alabama vacancy on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
Federal judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The White House has been in consultation for months with Sewell, other Alabama Democrats and both Republican senators about possible nominees for the empty slots. Fuller’s seat is now added to that mix.
“It is his hope that the president will move swiftly to fill the vacancy created by his resignation and he looks forward to the next chapter in his life,” Ragsdale said.
U.S. District Court judges are paid $201,100.
Fuller has an extensive financial portfolio, according to records he files with the court system. He reported 2012 income between $100,000 and $1 million from his stake in Doss of Alabama Inc. and Aureus Aviation Inc. He also reported hundreds of other investments and stock transactions whose value was listed only in wide ranges.