A DeKalb County judge has been recused and defendants have filed for a gag order in a civil case that involves a 2017 hate crime.
Judge Yolanda Parker-Smith has granted plaintiffs’ motion to recuse Judge Tangela Barrie in DeKalb Superior Court case Jane Smith Et al v. Bell Fund V Perimeter LLC Et al. The plaintiffs are the family of Mary Smith (a pseudonym), an African American girl who was the victim of a hate crime in 2017, according to court documents.
The plaintiffs filed a motion to recuse Barrie on Aug. 9, accusing the judge of faking official correspondence in the case. The order granting the motion, filed on Oct. 18, mentions allegations, but places more emphasis on possible bias Barrie may have had for the plaintiffs’ counsel, Michael Simmons.
After Simmons sent letters to court staff in July asking they not delete, destroy, or lose any communication with relevant information to the case, Barrie voluntarily recused herself and said she considered Simmons’ letters to be “harassing and unprofessional.” In later communication, it was revealed Barrie had not made a decision on whether to recuse and held a hearing on Aug. 11 to discuss Simmons’ pro hac vice status, which allows him to practice outside of his license state.
“While comments merely indicating irritation with a party does not indicate the type of personal bias necessitating a recusal, a judge’s statement that it finds counsel ‘harassing’ and that the judge intends to report the activity to the bar regarding current pro hac status might cause a fair-minded and impartial person to reasonably question whether the judge remains unbiased and impartial toward that party’s lawyer or party,” reads to the motion to grant the recusal. “The presiding judge’s two emails stating a recusal was forthcoming and thereafter a third email stating a recusal was still being considered shows that the presiding judge was still striving to determine whether a recusal was warranted.”
The defendants in this case also filed a motion for a gag order on Oct. 18. A gag order would prevent any party involved in the case from discussing the matter with the media or public. The motion makes specific reference to an Oct. 13 article from Reporter Newspapers about the motion to recuse Barrie, which includes a general comment from Simmons about the case.
“In this case, not only do Plaintiffs’ counsel’s communications with the media prejudice the adjudicative process, they are directly contrary to Plaintiffs’ counsel’s prior stated intent to protect the privacy and identity of Mary Smith,” reads the motion. “Therefore, when Plaintiff, Plaintiff’s counsel, or any Party discusses this case with the media, this increases the chance that Mary Smith’s identity is disclosed or Defendants are impacted by the allegations made against them.”
This is an ongoing case that will be followed by Reporter Newspapers.