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Roby: ‘Domestic abuse can’t be tolerated,’ calls out Alabama federal judge

Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2)
Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2)

WASHINGTON — The plague of domestic violence incidents in American society has captured national attention in recent weeks after the story — and subsequent video — of star NFL running back Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancé became public.

The NFL’s botched handling of the incident has led to growing calls for current NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to be fired, and fueled rumors that Alabama native Condoleezza Rice could be his replacement.

Closer to home, U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, of Montgomery, was recently arrested and charged with battery after an altercation with his wife. While the judiciary’s disciplinary process has not yet concluded, Fuller’s caseload has been reassigned as he enters a counseling program.

On Tuesday, Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District representative Martha Roby spoke out on the issue of domestic violence, saying that tolerating abuse indirectly condones the crime and inhibits victims’ willingness to seek help.

“As a society, we cannot tolerate domestic violence. When abusers are not held accountable, it serves to indirectly condone the crime and has a chilling effect on victims,” Roby said.

“Almost one in every three women has experienced physical violence at the hands of their partner, according to The Centers for Disease Control. The same report concluded that domestic violence is a ‘public health burden’ in America today.”

With specific regard to Judge Fuller’s case, Roby said the disciplinary process must first be allowed to work, but added that society demands a higher standard of behavior from positions of such influence and authority.

“This is a very serious matter. Congress enacted a statutory process by which the federal judiciary investigates instances of misconduct that could warrant disciplinary action, including removal from office,” Roby explained. “It is important to allow that process to move forward, ensure all involved are afforded due process and then evaluate what recommendations are made. I will be monitoring those proceedings closely. Ultimately, the Constitution empowers Congress to impeach members of the Judicial Branch for misconduct.

“Domestic abuse cannot be tolerated, explained away or swept under the rug. It must be confronted head on, and abusers must be held accountable. Our sons and daughters are paying attention, and how our society handles this moment matters a great deal.”

By law, each circuit has a judicial council charged with investigating allegations of wrongdoing for federal judges. Disciplinary actions available to judicial councils include suspension of cases, requesting that a judge retire or public reprimand.

Although a circuit-level judicial council cannot itself remove a district or circuit judge, it can certify its determination that a judge has engaged in conduct constituting grounds for impeachment. Such certification would be sent to the Judicial Conference of the United States, a national committee of top judges charged with administration of the courts. It is this national Judicial Conference that can recommend impeachment to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Roby is the second member of Alabama’s delegation to take on the issue of domestic violence in recent weeks. Rep. Terri Sewell has called for Judge Fuller to resign.

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