Ga. Supreme Court accepts JQC decision about Monroe County probate judge

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that it approved the decision of the Judicial Qualifications Commission to accept the retirement of Monroe County Probate Judge Karen Pitman.

Pitman, 50, sent a letter to Gov. Nathan Deal’s office last week announcing her decision to retire, which Deal accepted in a later dated Thursday, according to documents posted on the JQC’s website.

The JQC was investigating Pitman for allegations “of irregularities in the process of Uniform Traffic Citations” in Probate Court.

The investigation ended when Pitman announced her retirement, set for Dec. 15.

However, Pitman told The Telegraph last week that she changed her mind about retiring and was going to start the process of reversing that decision.

But Judge Ronnie Joe Lane, director of the JQC, said Tuesday that his office has never been contacted about Pitman changing her mind.

“The only thing the JQC received was her (retirement letter),” he said. “Nobody received anything else from her. ... (Changing her mind) was never communicated to the JQC.”

Attempts to reach Pitman on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Lane said he hopes the matter is closed.

“We’re working on other cases right now, and I don’t want to have to direct people on maybes,” he said.

Pitman told The Telegraph last week that her decision to retire was based on family issues, not the JQC investigation.

In a letter she sent to the JQC last week that the commission published on its website Tuesday, Pitman wrote that she “will not direct nor handle any criminal matters as a judicial officer in the Probate Court of Monroe County, Georgia, nor as a judicial officer in any other court at any time” from the date of the letter through Dec. 15.

Pitman still handles probate matters, such as wills, and also serves as elections supervisor for Monroe County.

Pitman also serves as a Municipal Court judge in Forsyth, though City Attorney Bobby Melton said Tuesday that “for all practical purposes” she wouldn’t be able to continue in that role because the majority of cases that go through that court are criminal.

Melton said he hasn’t yet spoken with city officials about the matter.

Monroe County Commission Chairman Mike Bilderback said Tuesday that Pitman has performed well in her role since she was first elected in 1999.

“You won’t find a better department head,” he said. “I consider her a good friend.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.