Federal judge Mark E. Fuller tendered his resignation on Friday, almost a year after he was arrested at an Atlanta Ritz-Carlton on domestic violence charges. Fuller had been staying at the hotel with his then-wife Kelli Fuller, who called the police and said he assaulted her after they engaged in an argument about an alleged affair her husband was having with a law clerk. “He’s beating on me,” she said on the 911 call that later surfaced, and she said he allegedly “threw her to the ground and dragged her, kicked her and struck her several times in the face.”
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve,” Fuller said in his two-sentence resignation to President Barack Obama. He will end his federal judgeship on Aug. 1.
Fuller agreed to complete a domestic violence intervention program and alcohol and substance abuse assessment in response to the domestic violence misdemeanor, though he did not plead guilt to the charge. Kelli was Fuller’s second wife, and many have pointed to indications that Fuller also allegedly abused his first wife Lisa. After completion of the program, the charges will be dropped and the arrest expunged. But that didn’t stop Alabama senators Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, both Republicans, from calling for his resignation over the allegations of abuse. Sen. Claire McCatskill (D-MO) also called for his resignation.
It’s not the first time Fuller has attracted controversy. A George W. Bush-appointed justice, he presided over the trial of former Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat who faced charges of bribery and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The charges stemmed from health care executive Richard Scrushy’s contribution to create a state lottery designed to fund education, a cause that Siegelman championed. Though the initiative lost on the ballot, the case alleged that Siegelman’s appointment of Scrushy to an unpaid health care oversight board, a position that the executive had served under three separate governors, was the result of Scrushy’s support of the lottery campaign.
Siegelman was convicted and Fuller sentenced him to seven years in federal prison and a $50,000 fine in 2006. Many objected to Fuller’s role in the case, arguing that as a Republican strategist and active opponent of Siegelman, he couldn’t not be impartial in the case. Despite objections, Fuller refused to recuse himself.
About 100 attorneys general signed on to an amicus brief, arguing that the original charges against Siegelman was a demonstration of the politicization of the justice system. His daughter is publicizing a petition to free him as he serves out his sentence.
Many have called on Obama to pardon Siegelman, including New Yorker writer Jeff Toobin, who cited the Citizens United case and wrote that Seigelman was merely “conducting the seedy, but routine, business of contemporary American politics.”