(ATLANTA, GA, 8/5/18) – The Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Georgia) today welcomed Judge Sharon Dickson’s decision to step down from the Municipal Court of Sandy Springs. Her decision comes days after the City agreed to vacate the jail sentence she imposed on an Iranian-American nursing student after attacking his heritage from the bench.
CAIR-Georgia also called on the City of Sandy Springs to consider severing its relationship with Riley McLendon LLC, the law firm that the City employs to prosecute municipal cases.
In a statement, CAIR-Georgia Executive Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said:
“We welcome Judge Dickson’s move to step down from the Municipal Court of Sandy Springs. Anyone who enters a courtroom in Georgia must be able to trust that he or she will be treated fairly and equally, regardless of national origin. That could no longer happen in Judge Dickson’s courtroom.
“Judge Dickson’s departure is a welcome step, but it is not enough. The City of Sandy Springs should also consider severing its contract with Riley McLendon LLC, the law firm the city employs to prosecute municipal violations.
“When Judge Dickson targeted Mr. Azizan’s heritage from the bench, prosecuting attorney Bill Riley did not intervene. In fact, Mr. Riley made problematic statements of his own during the proceeding. He also asked the judge to impose even more jail time than she ultimately did, saying that ‘there is only a punitive function that is – that will affect him about understanding the responsibilities of living in this society.’
“Furthermore, a different attorney with Riley McLendon resigned last year after being accused of making anti-Muslim and anti-women remarks on Facebook. Judge Dickson also once worked for Riley McLendon.”
After overseeing a 2017 bench trial in which Mr. Azizan’s Iranian heritage was mentioned at least six times, mostly by the prosecuting attorney, Municipal Court Judge Sharon Dickson found him guilty of Disorderly Conduct and sentenced him to five months imprisonment.
While issuing her ruling, Judge Dickson made numerous overly hostile, biased and bigoted remarks, including:
- “You’re not talking now. You don’t get to talk. It’s my turn. Okay? But I know where you come from, women don’t mean anything. Okay? But that’s not how it works here. Okay? You can look up or you don’t have to. It’s up to you. I mean, I’m just a woman. I’m only a woman who is wearing a robe today. Doesn’t really matter. I get this. This is who you are.”
- “So when you live in a free society, you have a responsibility. You don’t just have freedom.”
- “You need to go to jail. You are despicable to me.”
- “This is shameful. You are a small person on the inside, Mr. Azizan. You have no regard for anyone else.”
Mr. Azizan represented himself during his bench trial. The McLendon Law Firm (which unrelated to Riley McLendon, the city’s prosecuting firm) handled his appeal. In a ruling last month, the Fulton County Superior Court described Judge Dickson’s anti-Iranian remarks as “objectionable” and “wholly inappropriate,” but upheld her ruling because she made the remarks during sentencing, as opposed to during the trial.
The McLendon Law Firm responded by asking the Court of Appeals to permit an appeal of the Fulton County Superior Court ruling. CAIR Georgia also filed an amicus brief with the Georgia Court of Appeals in support of Mr. Azizan’s appeal.
The City of Sandy Springs reversed course on Friday, July 27th, agreeing to vacate the jail sentence and impose a new sentence of probation on Mr. Azizan.
CONTACT: Edward Ahmed Mitchell, 404-285-9530, email@example.com; Jason McLendon, 678-988-1199, firstname.lastname@example.org