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Case Update: Judge Sues Investigator Bowen for Defamation, Conspiracy

Fox 28 reports on the case:

Savannah, Ga. (WTGS FOX 28) — Attorney Mark Tate is representing Chatham County Recorder’s Court Chief Judge Tammy Stokes in a defamation lawsuit filed Wednesday…….

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WSAV reports on the case:

An independent investigator determined Recorder’s Court Chief Judge Tammy Stokes was accused of racism, favoritism and drinking on the job……

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Savannah Now reports on the case:

Tammy Stokes

Chatham County Recorder’s Court Chief Judge Tammy Stokes has sued a Savannah attorney who she contends defamed her character and reputation in a report on alleged misconduct in the court.

The suit, filed in Chatham County State Court, alleges that attorney Maury Bowen, in her report to city of Savannah officials, falsely accused Stokes of working while under the influence of alcohol, of being a racist and engaging in favoritism and other allegations of professional incompetence.

It also alleges that Bowen, an attorney in private practice, despite calling herself a “neutral investigator,” conspired with Stokes’ fellow judge, Claire Cornwell Williams, by being “in communication prior to and throughout the course of the investigation.” Stokes’ attorney, Mark Tate, alleges Bowen was negligent in performing a neutral investigation.

The result of Bowen’s alleged “improper actions and conclusions,” Stokes contends, has caused her “character and credibility to be destroyed in the eyes of the Savannah community” as well as injuries and other damages to “her trade, office, and profession.”

Stokes and her lawyer are seeking a jury trial and award of damages.

Stokes’ “knowledge that her reputation and professional credibility in the community has been smeared and corrupted coupled with constant media demands is enough to psychologically damage (a) reasonable person,” the suit said.

In addition to Bowen, her Atlanta-based law firm of Hall, Arbery, Gilligan, Roberts, and Shanlever were named defendants.

The litigation stems from an independent investigation, hired by the city in March 2016, that looked into two complaints to the city’s human resources department. The suit alleges the investigation was “organized and instituted by” Williams.

Bowen “knowingly, recklessly and in bad faith mischaracterized certain information from the investigative report while intentionally omitting and downplaying other relevant information that was inconsistent with and non-supportive of her pre-determined result,” Tate said in the suit.

Her findings were contained in a 133-page report in August 2016 based on interviews with 47 individuals. The report found ongoing friction between the court’s two judges.

In response, Stokes charged that the report was “insufficient and incomplete.”

Chatham County’s six Superior Court judges, acting on a petition by the city attorney and others, issued a writ of prohibition on Sept. 8, effectively terminating Stokes administrative duties.

The judges found the court was in “ a state of dysfunction … such that it is unable to operate in a manner consistent with its duty to uphold justice and its responsibilities to the public. “The report describes what can only be considered as an internecine war between two judges” in the court,” adding that Stokes “has grossly abused her authority.”

That writ was ultimately stayed by the state Supreme Court.

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