Strip club files federal appeal of ex-judge Camp's decision

The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — When Jack Camp resigned from the federal bench after pleading guilty to drug-related charges, a round of appeals from criminal defendants he sentenced was expected.

On Friday, though, a different sort of challenge involving the former judge, a resident of Coweta County, landed in federal appeals court.

Lawyers for Curves Bar & Grill, a now shuttered strip club, told the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Camp should have recused himself from a challenge it brought against Spalding County. The reason? They say Camp was too close to the debate because of his personal experience.

Camp rejected the club’s challenge about two months before he was arrested in a sting in October 2010 when authorities say he and a stripper who was working as a confidential informant made an illegal drug buy from an undercover officer. He pleaded guilty to drug-related crimes and resigned from the bench.

“Judge Camp had a heightened interest in the subject matter,” said Cary Wiggins, the club’s lawyer. Wiggins asked the three-judge panel to vacate the order and send it back to a new judge, arguing that Camp wanted to avoid the trial that would have been held if he had let the lawsuit go forward.

Spalding County’s attorneys contend Curves is trying to exploit Camp’s situation to get a more favorable decision. They said in court briefs that the club cannot show that Camp acted with any bias, and argue that it makes no difference that this case involves a strip club.

“The criminal conviction was based on drug offenses and theft of government property, not his patronage of strip clubs, an entirely legal activity,” the county said in briefs.

Camp was sentenced to 30 days in prison and 400 hours of community service after pleading guilty to charges of using drugs with the stripper and giving her an $825 government laptop.

The former judge apologized at the March 2011 sentencing, saying he wanted to pay the debt he owed to society and rebuild his reputation.

The case on Friday was the second appeal involving the judge’s arrest that’s pending in the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit.

Rolando Martinez is challenging his drug trafficking conviction on grounds that prosecutors shouldn’t have allowed his case to be tried before Camp because they knew he was using illegal drugs. Camp declared a mistrial in Martinez’s case a day before his arrest because of a hung jury, and the defendant was later convicted in a trial before another judge.

The appeals court hasn’t issued a decision in either case. But Circuit Judge J.L. Edmondson acknowledged on Friday the court is in a tricky spot.

“We have an unusual circumstance and we are very concerned,” said Edmondson. “But we haven’t just canceled out what Judge Camp has done for months and months nor do we see a reason to do so.”

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