Panel says Coomer should be removed from bench
The state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission issued a report Monday recommending that Georgia Appeals Court Judge Christian Coomer be removed from office.
He is accused of a number of ethics violations stemming from allegations that he defrauded an elderly client while working as a private attorney in Cartersville.
Jim Fihart, 80, claimed he loaned $159,000 to Coomer’s holding company in March of 2018 with the promise that the money would be paid back in a year, according to published reports. However, the promissory note stated the debt would be paid off in 30 years, when Fihart would be well into his 100s.
In all, the charges state that Coomer borrowed more than $360,000 from his client with terms favorable to himself, and violated campaign finance rules by transferring money between his campaign and accounts within his law firm. Prosecutors allege that Coomer used those funds for overseas vacations for him and his family.
Coomer, a Republican, represented
Floyd and Bartow counties in the Georgia House of Representatives for eight years, until he was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2018.
The 50-page report and recommendation states there is “clear and convincing evidence” to support the charges leveled against Coomer
“(His) long-term pattern of violating attorney ethics rules and campaign finance laws to his own financial benefit, his lack of remorse, and his payment of restitution only after his wrongdoing came to light outweigh mitigating factors and demand removal from office,” the report stated.
During a hearing in 2022 regarding the accusations, Coomer took the stand and admitted to what he categorized as mistakes. He testified that he repaid the money with interest; however, that began after Filhart filed a lawsuit against him.
During that testimony, Coomer said that, in hindsight, he would have done things differently but he didn’t think those mistakes should disqualify him from serving as a judge.
According to the testimony presented in the hearing, Coomer didn’t just take out loans, he also named himself the executor, trustee and beneficiary of Filhart’s estate, according to the Atlanta JournalConstitution. After he left the legislature to take on a role at the Georgia Court of Appeals in 2018, Coomer made his wife the trustee and executor of Filhart’s estate and gave her power of attorney.
This is not the only ethics hearing Coomer has faced. He earlier paid a $25,000 state ethics fine over the campaign fund transfers and faces a state bar investigation.
The recommendation will go before the Supreme Court of Georgia, which will make a ruling on the case.