Attorney Tiffani Johnson, a challenger against Fulton County Judge McAfee, was ruled disqualified from the judicial race

 April 26, 2024

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is presiding over former President Donald Trump's 2020 election racketeering criminal case in Georgia, is up for re-election next month, and two candidates filed paperwork earlier this year to challenge him for his seat.

One of those challengers, local attorney Tiffani Johnson, has now been disqualified from the Fulton County judicial race, leaving just one opponent for McAfee to face in the May 21 election, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Johnson, who until just recently was a resident of neighboring DeKalb County, initially saw her candidacy challenged in court over the residency issue but was ultimately disqualified in large part over her failure to appear for an April 2 hearing on the matter before an administrative judge.

Challenger disqualified from judicial race

On April 9, WSB-TV reported that Fulton County judicial candidate Johnson vowed to pursue an appeal after she was disqualified from the race when she failed to appear for an administrative hearing on the residency challenge a week earlier.

She claimed at the time that she had never received proper notice of the scheduled hearing, and told the outlet, "We will be filing an appeal, and I will make sure that I will be present at any other future hearings that are moving forward."

Unfortunately for Johnson, however, DeKalb Superior Court Judge Stacey Hydrick upheld her earlier disqualification by Administrative Law Judge Ronit Walker after a four-hour hearing on Thursday.

The initial questions about her residency remained unsettled, though, as Hydrick determined that Johnson was ineligible to run because she'd been given adequate notice of the administrative hearing in light of the discovery that a hearing notice had been sent to her and ended up in a "spam" email folder, which she was obligated to monitor.

Johnson told AJC that she is now considering pursuing an appeal of Hydrick's ruling, and said, "This is still very fresh but I have the intention to continue in my fight."

Remaining challenger to McAfee has displayed "personal bias" against Trump

Meanwhile, with Johnson technically out of the judicial race now, Judge McAfee still faces a challenge from local civil rights attorney Robert Patillo -- though his election could potentially present an assortment of new problems, at least concerning the ongoing criminal case involving former President Trump that McAfee is presiding over.

The Washington Examiner reported in March that Patillo, a registered Democrat who is also a local talk radio host, had been called out over multiple examples of his sharp criticism of Trump on his show and on social media, not to mention his critiques of McAfee's handling of the proceedings thus far that Patillo derided as a "soap opera."

He insisted that he holds no ill will toward McAfee and simply believes he would do a better job handling this and other cases, and dismissed the concerns about his history of anti-Trump remarks as merely being the product of his role as a talk radio host and political commentator.

Yet, Atlanta attorney Phil Holloway told the Examiner that if Patillo was elected to replace McAfee, he "absolutely would have to recuse himself" from the Trump case, given that he's "expressed personal bias against a defendant in a pending case. It’s just that simple."

McAfee's loss in May election would likely result in "administrative hassle" as case gets reassigned

A report last week from the Atlanta Civic Circle pondered what might happen to former President Trump's racketeering case if Judge McAfee were to lose the election in May and be replaced, likely after his current term expires at the end of the year.

Most likely, the new judge would just take over that and other currently ongoing cases, though it could be reassigned to another Fulton County judge if objections are raised -- such as Patillo's apparent personal bias against Trump -- which would result in an "administrative hassle" and further delay the proceedings.

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