(Note: This diary was updated at roughly 6:30 p.m. CDT on 5/17/12 to make clear that certain comments near the end were from Harper's legal-affairs contributor Scott Horton, not Montgomery Independent editor Bob Martin.)
Mark Fuller, a federal judge in the Middle District of Alabama, has seemed virtually untouchable since presiding over the prosecution of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman in 2006.
Many progressives, and quite a few legal experts across the political spectrum, have contended that Fuller oversaw a blatant selective prosecution. Counsel for Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy have filed appeals stating that Fuller had multiple conflicts of interests and made numerous improper rulings of law--only to see at least some of the convictions upheld.
Now it looks like Fuller's wife might be able to accomplish what numerous lawyers and commentators could not--show that the judge in the Siegelman was seriously compromised in a variety of ways.
A divorce complaint against Fuller hints at extramarital affairs, illicit drug use, domestic abuse, driving under the influence, and other misconduct. Per the Alabama-based Legal Schnauzer blog:
Lisa Boyd Fuller filed for divorce on May 10, 2012, and court filings since then point to serious allegations against her husband. . . . Will the divorce case raise questions about Mark Fuller's fitness to be a U.S. district judge? Will it provide an avenue for Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy to have their convictions overturned?The Montgomery Independent, broke the Fuller divorce story, and Editor Bob Martin provides these details:
It's too early to know the answers to those questions. But Bob Martin, editor of the Montgomery Independent, shows in an article published yesterday that the divorce case might raise significant trouble for Fuller, a George W. Bush appointee who oversaw what has been described as the most notorious political prosecution in American history.
Divorce can be triggered by many reasons but it is usually initiated, not by a single event, but a long-term abuse of trust. The long term abuse of trust by Judge Fuller, described to me from sources inside the United States Courthouse in Montgomery and others continues today, and has lasted at least four-to-five years. It involves a former female courtroom deputy in her late thirties with children ages 9 and 14. Her husband obtained a divorce several months ago. Fuller and his wife separated last August. They have two grown children and one teenager.In a companion piece to his column, Martin identifies Fuller's mistress as a former court deputy clerk and bailiff named Kelli Gregg:
During most of the time this “not-so-secret affair" was going on, Fuller was the presiding judge of the U. S. District Court based in Montgomery. He rotated into that position the third year after he was appointed by President George W. Bush, and completed his seven-year term a year-and-a-half ago. He presided in the trial of former Gov. Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy.
Those in a position to know, report that the affair by Judge Fuller, conducted with his former Courtroom Deputy Clerk and bailiff, Kelli Gregg, has been ongoing for four or five years and is basically an “open secret” in the building. Ms. Gregg, who has two children, was divorced by her husband about six months ago.Legal Schnauzer provides key documents from the divorce file, including Lisa Boyd Fuller's complaint and interrogatories. I've placed links to those documents at the end of this diary.
Sources in a position to know tell the newspaper that Fuller and Gregg have traveled together extensively, including trips to Dothan, New York, Tallahassee and perhaps Las Vegas.
Scott Horton, legal affairs contributor at Harper's, tells the Independent that the Fuller case could raise serious issues about Fuller's ethics and fitness to serve:
“When a judge uses his position to extract sexual favors from a court officer under his authority, such conduct could easily be viewed as predatory and possibly even criminal but it doesn’t necessarily follow that because a sexual liaison has arisen that the person in a senior position used his office to advantage. The facts would have to be studied more carefully. But even if the relationship were purely innocent, one would have to be worried about the unwholesome appearance of a federal judge engaging in a sexual tryst with his court officer."
Issues in the divorce complaint go well beyond infidelity:
In her complaint Lisa Fuller asks for the following admissions by her husband. They include these topics: extramarital affairs, parenting, driving under the influence of alcohol, withholding documents, payment of expenses for persons with whom he was having sex, spousal abuse, receipt of psychological care or counseling, and addiction to prescription drugs. To my knowledge the answers to those questions had not been filed at the time this column was written.The Independent goes on to address possible implications from filings in the Fuller divorce case. States Scott Horton, via Bob Martin:
The current allegations of abuse of office and subpoenas for prescription drugs at numerous pharmacies could possibly bring into question every judgment he has issued and every trial over which he has presided. Keep in mind, of course, that these are yet only allegations which may not ultimately bear out.Fuller has held an ownership interest in Doss Aviation, a Colorado-based company that has received lucrative federal contracts. Siegelman and Scrushy have stated that Fuller should have recused himself from a case where the United States was a party and the judge made significant income from the government. Court filings indicate that Lisa Fuller seeks to have Doss Aviation holdings equitably divided as marital assets.
Another issue would be whether others close to the court knew of his indiscretions and used them to extort favorable court decisions. There are several prior cases, including one still under investigation involving a federal judge in Florida, in which a judge had a secret liaison with a court officer and other parties, which was apparently used to extort favorable rulings. In the Fuller matter it would be hard to see how the U. S. Attorney’s office would not know about the affair. If the U. S. Attorney knew and did nothing, holding this as a sort of a sword over the judge’s head, such would undermine the legitimacy of all the criminal matters and some civil matters involving government interests that came before Fuller.
It all paints an ugly picture of a federal judge, and Scott Horton sums it up:
These ethics issues surrounding a single judge, Mark Everett Fuller, are to my knowledge, without any equal on the federal bench.Mark Fuller Divorce: Complaint