The Sandy Springs City Council reappointed four of the sitting Municipal Court judges at its Aug. 7 meeting, opting to not replace Sharon Dickson, a judge who asked not be reappointed to the court following a bias controversy.
The other four judges who have sat on the bench were recommended by Paul and reappointed for another four years unanimously by the City Council. They are Candiss L. Howard, Donald Schaefer, Joseph F. Burford and Marcia M. Ernst.
A new judge is not currently planned to be reappointed to replace Dickson.
Dickson was accused by a Muslim civil rights organization of making “bigoted” comments to an Iranian-American man, Fazial Azizan. The sentence she set for Azizan was later reduced in a deal between the city and Azizan’s attorney.
Dickson sent a letter to Mayor Rusty Paul and City Attorney Dan Lee July 25 asking not to be reappointed, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said.
“At this juncture, I ask that you not consider me for an appointment for the next four-year term. I request that I be taken off the calendar for the remainder of the year,” Dickson wrote. “Again, thanks for the opportunity to serve.”
Dickson also serves on Dunwoody’s court. Dunwoody spokesperson Bob Mullen said that she has performed “admirably” on its court and the city is not preparing any review of her cases or employment. She has not resigned from Dunwoody’s court, Mullen said in an email.
All five judges were overdue for reappointment, with their original appointment letters in 2014 calling for them to be reappointed by the first June city council meeting.
Paul said in a previous interview that he does not let “arbitrary” deadlines stop him from having the appropriate amount of time to make appointment decisions. Paul was absent from the Aug. 7 meeting due to a family death, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said.
City Manager John McDonough said the four judges have said they believe they can handle the case load among themselves. Paul can later recommend an additional judge if it is needed, McDonough said.
The city has said that municipal judges serve until they are replaced or reappointed, even if the reappointment date has passed. Councilmember Andy Bauman asked if Dickson should resign due to that.
“I thought that someone served until they are either replaced or until they resign. Do you think it would not be more appropriate for this person to resign?” Bauman asked.
McDonough assured Bauman that passing the resolutions that reappointed each judge would reduce the number of judges to four without retaining Dickson.
The resolutions say that each judge would each need to be reappointed by the first regular council meeting in August 2022.