Based on an agreement between the judge and the Judicial Inquiry Commission, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary suspended a judge for 6 months without pay for beginning a Facebook relationship with a woman whom he had met in his official capacity and exchanging sexually explicit messages and photos with her, often during office hours and from the offices of the probate court. In the Matter of Archer, Final judgment (Alabama Court of the Judiciary August 8, 2016). On an agreed list of mitigating factors, the parties noted that the judge now understands the dangers of Facebook communications and the public nature of even “private” messages on social media, has deleted his Facebook page, and no longer participates in social media.
The judge first met Ms. J.T. in April 2013, when he performed her wedding ceremony to Mr. W.T. He noted at the time that she was 34 years old and Mr. W.T. was 68. Approximately 1 week later, Ms. J.T. called the judge’s office and stated she wanted the marriage annulled. The judge told her she would have to go to the circuit court.
In December 2013, Mr. W.T.’s daughter filed a petition to establish a conservatorship and to be appointed as guardian to protect his assets. Ms. J.T. called the judge to ask that she, as the wife, be appointed guardian. The judge informed Ms. J.T. that she needed to get an attorney. Ms. J.T. did not appear at the hearing, and W.T.’s daughter was made guardian of his estate.
The marriage between Mr. W.T. and Ms. J.T. was annulled by the circuit court on June 11, 2014, pursuant to the agreement of the parties.
During or prior to July 2015, the judge established a Facebook account under the profile name “Judge Leon Archer.” His Facebook profile used a picture of himself in his judicial robe and identified him as the probate judge of Tallapoosa County, Alabama.
During the summer of 2015, the judge sent Ms. J.T. a Facebook “friend” request, which she confirmed. In January 2016, the judge initiated a Facebook messaging conversation with Ms. J.T. that lasted approximately 3 weeks. Each message he sent to Ms. J.T. identified the sender as “Judge Leon Archer.” Their messaging included sexually explicit content, comments, invitations or propositions, and pictures of the judge’s genitals and a female’s breasts, buttocks, and genitalia.
In late January 2016, Ms. J.T. provided a copy of the messages to a reporter. The judge met with the reporter and admitted that the messaging occurred, including the transmittal of the nude pictures. During the Commission investigation, the judge confirmed that a photo of a man nude below the waist sent to Ms. J.T. was a picture he had taken of himself in the courthouse and sent to Ms. J.T.