In the Matter of Former Abbeville County Magistrate George T. Ferguson, Respondent Appellate Case No. 2014-001385.
Submitted July 9, 2014
Lesley M. Coggiola, Disciplinary Counsel, and Joseph P. Turner, Jr., Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, both of Columbia, for Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Billy J. Garrett, Jr., Esquire, of The Garrett Law Firm, PC, of Greenwood, for Respondent.
TOAL, C.J., PLEICONES, BEATTY, KITTREDGE and HEARN, JJ., concur.
[409 S.C. 262] PER CURIAM:
In this judicial disciplinary matter, respondent and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel have entered into an Agreement for Discipline by Consent (Agreement) pursuant to Rule 21 of the Rules for Judicial Disciplinary Enforcement (RJDE) contained in Rule 502 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR). In the Agreement, respondent admits misconduct and consents to the imposition of a public reprimand [409 S.C. 263] and agrees never to seek nor accept a judicial office in South Carolina without the express written permission of this Court after written notice to ODC. We accept the Agreement and publicly reprimand respondent, the most severe sanction we are able to impose under these circumstances. The facts, as set forth in the Agreement, are as follows.
Respondent was indicted on two counts of Misconduct in Office. The first indictment alleged respondent offered and gave Jane Doe #1 money and/or other benefits for the handling and disposition of legal matters involving Jane Doe #1 before him in his official capacity as Magistrate in return for Jane Doe #1 allowing respondent to have sexual contact with her from 1996 to 2009. The second indictment alleged respondent offered and gave Jane Doe #2 money and/or other benefits for the handling and disposition of legal matters involving Jane Doe #2 before him in his official capacity as Magistrate in return for Jane Doe #2 allowing respondent to have sexual contact with her from 2001 to 2011.
On May 16, 2014, respondent entered a guilty plea to Misconduct in Office on the first indictment. He was sentenced to one (1) year imprisonment provided that, upon service of ninety (90) days, the balance would be suspended with probation for a period of five (5) years. On the same day, respondent entered a guilty plea to Misconduct in Office on the second indictment. He was sentenced to one (1) year imprisonment, suspended with probation for a period of five (5) years.
Respondent admits that by his conduct he has violated the following provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Rule 501, SCACR: Canon 1 (judge shall uphold integrity and independence of judiciary); Canon 1(A) (judge should participate in establishing, maintaining and enforcing high standards of conduct, and shall personally observe those standards so that integrity and independence of judiciary will be preserved); [409 S.C. 264] Canon 2 (judge shall avoid impropriety and appearance of impropriety in all of judge's activities); Canon 2(A) (judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in manner that promotes public confidence in integrity and impartiality of judiciary); Canon 2(B) (judge shall not allow social or other relationships to influence judge's judicial conduct or judgment; judge shall not lend prestige of judicial office to advance private interests of judge or others; judge shall not convey or permit others to convey impression that they are in special position to influence judge); Canon 3 (judge shall perform duties of judicial office impartially and diligently); Canon 3(B)(2) (judge shall be faithful to law); Canon 3(B)(7) (judge shall accord to every person who has legal interest in proceeding, or that person's lawyer, right to be heard according to law; judge shall not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications, or consider other communications made to judge outside the presence of the parties concerning pending or impending proceeding); Canon 3(E)(1) (judge shall disqualify himself in proceeding in which judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned); Canon 4(A)(1) (judge shall conduct his extra-judicial activities so as to minimize risk with judicial obligations); Canon 4(A)(2) (judge shall conduct all of his extra-judicial activities so that they do not demean judicial office); and Canon 4(A)(3) (judge shall conduct all of his extra-judicial activities so that they do not interfere with proper performance of judicial duties).
Respondent also admits he has violated the following Rules for Judicial Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 502, SCACR: Rule 7(a)(1) (it shall ...