PIERRE, SD -
A South Dakota judge who was scrutinized and suspended for questionable actions inside and out of the courtroom will be forced to retire or take several steps to change his ways if he wants to return to the bench.
The South Dakota Supreme Court handed down the historical decision Thursday.
[ Supreme Court's Full Opinion ]
The investigation into Rapid City area Circuit Court Judge A.P. Fuller started in May 2010 when local officials filed a formal complaint.
The Judicial Qualifications Commission investigated and discovered more issues. The commission eventually said Fuller should be forced to retire or removed from the bench for years of using racial and sexist jokes, using abusive language and mistreating court employees to the point they'd leave the courtroom in tears.
Fuller appealed, telling the South Dakota Supreme Court he's ashamed for what he's done. However, the court's now ruled that Fuller has showed a pattern of misconduct the entire time he's been on the bench.
The high court says Fuller must retire. Or if he wants to stay on as a judge, he'll be suspended for six months. In that time, he must take a course on judicial ethics and complete behavioral therapy. Fuller will also be on indefinite probation.
In writing the opinion, Chief Justice David Gilbertson said, “Judge Fuller has not only damaged his judicial office but those of every judge in this state."
Gilbertson concluded the unanimous opinion saying, "This is the first time in its 121 year history that this Court has been called upon to render judicial discipline of this severity upon one of the judges of this State. We hope this Court's words do not go unheeded and will result in a judicial future free of this type of misconduct."
There's no word yet from Fuller about his future.
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