Walker County State Court Judge Accused Of Illegally Charging Court Costs

Walker County State Court Judge Billy Mullinax, in a report by the Chattanooga Times Free Press before Christmas, has been accused charging illegal court costs, a practice that is forbidden by the state constitution:

Judge Billy Mullinax has dismissed at least 47 cases after either the victim or the defendant paid the court costs, a practice that is illegal in Georgia. The specific amount of money paid changed from case to case, court records show, but usually Mullinax charged $138. In the 47 cases pulled from court files, defendants and victims paid the court $8,597.

But, according to Article 1, Section 1, Paragraph 14 of the Georgia Constitution, nobody can be forced to pay money in a criminal case unless that person has been convicted. And, according to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated 15-13-35, a prosecutor cannot charge costs in a case if the court did not find the defendant guilty.

“Under Georgia law, courts cannot demand court costs of criminal defendants whose cases are nolle prossed [not prosecuted],” Sarah Geraghty, a senior attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights, told the Times Free Press in September when the paper revealed similar tactics in the Chattooga County State Court. “The Georgia Constitution and Georgia Code expressly prohibit courts from collecting costs from a criminal defendant in the absence of the defendant’s conviction.”

Mullinax did not respond to a request for comment after a reporter visited his office and spoke with his assistant Friday. Bill Rhyne Jr., who has served as a temporary solicitor, or state court prosecutor this year while Pat Clements recovered from an illness, also declined to comment.

A similar practice was uncovered in Chattooga County by the same newspaper in September, and the illegal practice in Chattooga County looks to have gone back to 2007.  No word on any additional developments from this story of if Judge Mullinax will appear before the Judicial Qualifications Commission on this matter.  Judge Mullinax defeated the then-incumbent Bruce Roberts for state court judge in the July 2012 non-partisan general election.  Roberts was appointed by Governor Nathan Deal in 2011 following the retirement of long-time judge Donnie Peppers.


  1. saltycracker says:

    Perhaps we need to take a well beaten path and rename it…a processing fee.
    So someone calls 911, the police come, EMC comes, someone has another arrested and processed, probably a public defender involved, then decides to forget about it and the judge charges $138.00 “court costs” ?

    I’m no attorney but I read Stefan’s posts. The people (not the judge) are entitled to some restitution perhaps based on who brought the charges.

    • DavidTC says:

      This isn’t about charging people who ‘get other people arrested’ (1), this is about charging the *defendant* a fee to not go through the court system.

      Aka, it’s the defendant, having a committed a crime that the state thinks it can prove via the legal system, instead paying their way out of their legal troubles, you twit.

      And it’s barred by the constitution for the rather obvious reason that people are not allowed to pay their way out of responsibility for their actions. Now, in the end, they might be just be *fined* by the court, and there is a problem when the rich can just shrug of fines the poor can’t pay, but at least even the rich who commit crimes have to *sit through court and judgment*.

      1) Which I must point out is also stupid. The people who ‘get other people arrested’ are *public employees*. Either the police decided to do that because they felt certain the DA would charge the person, or the DA *did* charge the person and set the police after them. (Or a grand jury indicted them, or a judge swore out a bench warrant, or whatever obscure ways people can get arrested, all of which require ‘the government’ as a participant.)

      The idea that anyone else is in charge of that rather shows a complete lack of knowledge about how the criminal justice system works. What I *think* you’re talking about is if someone says they will ‘press charges’ and then decides not to do that, but that’s actually complete nonsense.

      In actuality, all ‘pressing charges’ does is say the victim is willing to give a statement to police now, and later testify about a crime…but the police can arrest the person regardless, and the courts can even force the victim to testify even if they don’t ‘press charges’. Or the police can chose *not* to arrest the person even if someone does ‘press charges’. The whole idea of that is *forcing* victims to testify is not something we, as society, generally want to do, and, no, that doesn’t magically change if the victim first thinks they’re willing to testify and then later decides not to, and the idea of *charging money* for that is absurd.

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