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Deal taps Hyde to serve on judicial watchdog agency

For the second time, Gov. Nathan Deal has tapped hard-nosed investigator Richard Hyde to serve on the state's judicial watchdog agency.

Until the appointment, made Tuesday, Hyde conducted

investigations for the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Now he will be one of the agency's seven commissioners. The agency oversees and regulates judicial conduct.

Hyde will succeed Maggie Rickman, a school teacher and former probation officer, who resigned as a JQC commissioner. On Tuesday, Deal swore in her husband, Brian Rickman, a former district attorney, to be one of three new judges on the state Court of Appeals.

When reached Wednesday, Hyde declined to comment on his appointment. In 2013, Deal appointed Hyde to serve as a JQC commissioner, but Hyde eventually stepped down and returned to his role as an investigator.

Since 2007, Hyde, a former Atlanta Police officer, has tormented wayward judges. His past investigations led to the resignations of more than six dozen members of the judiciary, including some that made national news. This included a judge having an affair with a public defender who had cases before him; a judge who brandished a gun in open court before an alleged assault victim; and a judge charged with indefinitely locking up drug court defendants in isolation.

Hyde also serves as an investigator for the law firm Balch & Bingham. He served, along with former Attorney General Mike Bowers and former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson, as a special investigator who uncovered widespread test-cheating in the Atlanta Public Schools system.

JQC Chairman Lester Tate said Deal's appointment took him by surprise.

"The governor's office didn't check with me nor should they," Tate said. "They have every prerogative to appoint whoever they want to serve on the commission."

As for Hyde, Tate said, "Richard has had a long history with the commission. We're glad to work with him again in his role as commissioner."

Tate said he expects the commission to decide at its next meeting how to find a new investigator.



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Bill Rankin covers criminal justice for the Enterprise team.