Gary Jackson
Atlanta Municipal Judge

Mess up in Buckhead and it will get you banished, a local judge says.

Atlanta Municipal Judge Gary Jackson said bar patrons who are “excessively obnoxious” usually get banned from Buckhead. The banishment can last for as little as 30 days or as long as 178 days in extreme cases.

The banishment doesn’t keep people from living in or driving through the community, he said. His orders stipulate the sentence will apply during certain times of the day, keeping troublemakers away during peak troublemaking hours.

For example, a copy of an order he signed in November shows he banned a defendant from Buckhead for 60 days between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Jackson said the following falls into the excessively obnoxious category: “Arrested for disorderly conduct. You’re so drunk you start picking a fight with bouncers, throwing liquor bottles … standing on street corners being high.”

But what if the excessively obnoxious defendant also lives in Buckhead?

“I say, ‘Well, you’re grounded. You’re causing too much trouble,’” Jackson said.

Jackson said since 2003 he’s banished 103 people from Buckhead on various offenses. Dodging a fare at MARTA? Jackson said that’ll get someone banished, too.

Banishments aren’t new in Georgia and Jackson said the practice is legal. In 2005, the Atlanta City Council passed a resolution encouraging judges to use the sentence as a condition of probation for the second conviction of the same offense within the city limits.

The state constitution prohibits banishing someone from Georgia completely. Some judges ban particularly troublesome criminals from every county except Echols, a remote southern county known for its swamps. Jackson said he uses a targeted — and less swampy form — of banishment to drive mischief makers from Buckhead.

Casting out the rowdier bar patrons makes Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell smile. In 2011 Massell, a former Atlanta mayor, summoned club owners to a meeting. He warned them that noise, traffic and trash from their businesses in West Atlanta Village were unsettling the neighbors. Massell said the owners listened and things are quieter. Massell said additional clubs have opened, and the new businesses increase the potential for problems. He said Jackson’s use of his gavel will help keep things in check.

Jackson said he’s happy to oblige. On Feb. 4 he banished a customer of the Rose Bar on Piedmont Road. “He got into a fight,” Jackson said.

He sends copies of the banishments over to the Coalition.

Jackson said banishments work. He said he hasn’t caught anyone violating his orders.

“It works one of two ways,” Jackson said. “Either they’re obeying the banishment and they’re not coming back, or they’re coming back, but they’re careful to behave themselves.”

He said the sentences are in the best interests of the club owners who want other customers to enjoy themselves.

“That’s a pretty good guide in life: Don’t be excessively obnoxious,” Jackson said. “Have a good time, let off some steam, have an adult beverage, have a nice dinner, but your right to swing your fist ends about a foot in front of someone else’s face.”