In the lawsuit, the now disbarred Peters claims that his then boss Donald R. “Sonny” Caldwell tried to hurt his chances of seeking the Catoosa chief magistrate position by attempting to demote him and subsequently having him arrested at the courthouse by sheriff’s deputies.
Peters is seeking $10 million in general damages for violation of his civil rights, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and loss of his freedom, as well as an additional $10 million for punitive damages.
He is also looking to be reimbursed for the attorney’s fees he has accrued, and have a trial by jury, the lawsuit states.
On Sept. 6, 2011, the Supreme Court of Georgia ordered Peters’ permanent removal from office, which not only barred him from the bench, but restricted him from ever holding or seeking any elected or appointed judicial office in the state of Georgia.
That decision came after a blow-up at the Catoosa County Courthouse 15 months earlier.
On June 16, 2010, Peters was arrested following a confrontation with then chief magistrate Caldwell, who had attempted to change Peters’ working hours to an “on-call shift” of 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
When Peters refused to work the newly designate hours, Caldwell informed him that he was being placed on administrative leave, and that he was to leave the courthouse.
Peters also refused those orders, at which time the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office was notified and he was placed under arrest.
From June 16, 2010, until his official removal from office on Sept. 6, 2011, Peters was considered to be on administrative leave and was paid his full salary.
Evidence and testimony heard during the two-day hearing with the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission (GJQC) cited Peters’ weekly use of marijuana during a two-month period in 2010, an incident in which he kicked in the doors at the house of his sister-in-law’s estranged husband, and another incident that involved him pointing a gun at himself and telling another judge that he was “not afraid to die.”
The commission also screened footage of his appearance in 2010 on a local cable television show in which he called the chief magistrate judge “spineless” and revealed the identity of a confidential informant of the Catoosa County Sheriff’s office.
In the eight months since his removal from office, Peters had flown relatively under the radar until June 15, when he filed the lawsuit.
The 14-page lawsuit primarily focuses on Caldwell and Catoosa County sheriff Phil Summers, calling them the main “conspirators” who attempted to squash his aspirations of becoming Caldwell’s successor.
In the lawsuit, Peters also claims that he was under surveillance by the sheriff’s office after he made it known that he would seek the office of chief magistrate.
“He saw patrol cars by his apartment several times a day,” the lawsuit reads. “Detective cars were ‘staked out’ near his apartment.”
The lawsuit also mentions a meeting two days before Peters’ arrest on June 16, 2010, in which a secret surveillance camera was set up by Caldwell to gauge Peters’ reaction to the news that his shift would be changing.
“When the plaintiff’s (Peters) reaction was non-violent and the video showed defendant Caldwell as being belligerent and confrontational, this video was ‘disappeared’,” the lawsuit states.
According to Peters’ new attorney, James A. Satcher Jr. of Rome, Ga., the suit has been served with a court date pending.
“It’s been filed, and now we just have to wait to hear back,” Satcher said. “We allege that there was a conspiracy going on to remove him from office. He (Peters) has believed that from the very beginning, and he hopes that we are able to prove that in this lawsuit.”