According to an official complaint filed by the Georgia Commission on Judicial Qualifications, state trial Judge J. William Bass, Sr. is a disaster of a judge. The eleven count complaint accuses Judge Bass of routinely singling out Hispanic defendants for private conversations “without a court reporter or the prosecutor present.” Judge Bass allegedly appointed his own son to serve as a county judge in his absence. He is accused of telling “the audience that [he] had been falsely accused of having a sexual relationship with a member of [his] staff” during open court. He allegedly once made an “inappropriate reference based upon [his] perceived sexual orientation” of a male defendant during a sentencing proceeding. And then, there is this accusation:
In court, you were verbally hostile to an attorney after he made a financial contribution to your opponent in the election. You made a loud and threatening statement in court to the attorney: “l know you gave money to my opponent. Don’t come back[.]”
The fact that Judge Bass is the subject of an official complaint suggests that he may actually suffer consequences if the allegations against him prove true. Nevertheless, judges who engage in inappropriate conduct regarding their donors often suffer few, if any, consequences. Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen took thousands of dollars worth of campaign contributions from Enron and then wrote a key opinion reducing Enron’s taxes by $15 million. Several years later, President George W. Bush gave her a lifetime appointment to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Similarly, when a West Virginia coal baron spent $3 million to place a sympathetic justice on the state supreme court, and that justice then went on to overturn a $50 million verdict against the coal baron’s company, four of the current Supreme Court justices joined a dissent finding no constitutional problem with this judge-for-sale arrangement.