Lesson 3

The Honorable Rufe E. McCombs

“res ispa loquitor”

Judge Number 9

The Honorable Rufe E. McCombs is a Senior Judge in the State of Georgia and serves wherever needed as a Superior Court judge. She is from Muscogee County, in the 3rd Judicial District. Her office number, as listed on the 3rd Judicial District website is 706-561-7489.Benched: The Memoirs of Judge Rufe McCombs, co-authored by Karen Spears Zacharias was published in December of 1997. To order, click here. For a review of the book, click here.  The book is highly recommended, for an in-depth understanding of this remarkable woman. If her memoirs are true, she yields to a higher power and fiercely believes in the Law. However, reading both her biography and the record of this case reveal a serious dichotomy, one that rises to the level of judicial misconduct and participation in racketeering and fraud.

Judge McCombs very evidently participated in the cover-up of multiple VOID orders, through the issuance of additional VOID orders, all for the purpose of defrauding the litigant in this case. Why? It is the plaintiff’s belief that, like nearly all the other judges, she unwittingly got caught in the case by responding to “appearance.” Judge McCombs’ disabilities and frailties placed her in a position of vulnerability to persuasions of the Cobb County Superior Court judges, making her a victim. The telling factor is, did she appropriately respond when given adequate notice and choice? Did she report her actions and the actions of the other judges to the Judicial Qualifications Commission? The record will show that she chose to become a participant in the furtherance of the racketeering and fraud. All actions have consequences, and even she must bear the burden of those consequences, for they are the result of her own personal choices.

The Honorable Rufe E. McCombs entered this litigation as the result of a request from five of the eight Cobb County Superior Court judges. Court rules direct that a majority of a circuit’s judges may petition (with a Certificate/Order) to the Administrative Judge for temporary help from a Senior Judge. On the surface, the Certificate/Order initiated by the Cobb County Superior Court judges appears to be a straightforward plea for help from a majority of the Cobb circuit judges, for the straightforward reason that the circuit’s case load was temporarily overwhelming. This is a logical and justifiable reason for requesting services of a Senior judge in the State of Georgia. It appears to be honorable. In truth, it is not.

Let’s take a close look at the Certificate/Order Appendix B.00.06.05

Five judges of the Cobb County Superior Court initiated this Certificate/Order, and their names and signatures appear at the bottom. Because they authored the text of the Certificate/Order, prior to submitting it to the Administrative Judge, it is evident that the Honorable Rufe E McCombs was their specific choice. This is clearly “judge-shopping.” And, Judge McCombs apparently agreed to take jurisdiction of the case, for her signature appears on the Order. It is unknown if she signed the petition prior to that of the issuing judge, the Honorable William T. Boyette, or after his signature of June 5, 2000. (See Lesson 5)

The Certificate/Order was submitted to the 7th District Administrative Judge, the Honorable William T. Boyette. It was then his responsibility to respond with either a denial or an assignment of a senior judge. It is logical that Judge Boyette would respond by granting such a request. 

However, he was not bound to follow the request for any specific judge. There is nothing in the Certificate/Order to indicate a need for a non-Cobb judge. Even the identification of the case, “the matter of Portman v. Kreeger, et al., Civil Action File No. 99-1-7941-35″ fails to identify Kreeger as a judge within the Cobb circuit. Consequently, a reasonable person would EXPECT Judge Boyette to assign this case to a Cobb senior judge. It would have been far more expeditious, efficient, and less costly for Georgia taxpayers if he had assigned a senior judge from the same circuit. Cobb County Superior Court had several senior judges readily available: the Honorable Watson L. Bullard, the Honorable Robert E. Flournoy, Jr., the Honorable Watson L. White, and the Honorable G. Conley Ingram. (Granted, one of the four is the original tortfeaser and another of the four is father to one of the defendants. However, Judge Bullard or Judge White have remained relatively obscure to the case.) The Certificate/Order makes no mention or acknowledgement as to why these Cobb County senior judges were ignored. Sometimes, the information that is omitted is more important than the information contained within a document. In this case, we can see that the omitted information was crucial to Judge Boyett’s decision. In turn, it makes it evident that Judge Boyett acted under duress, direction, or eager participation; but definitely not by error or mistake. 

In truth, and by Law, NO Cobb County judge, senior or otherwise, could take jurisdiction of this case. Ruling 220 of the Judicial Qualifications Commission specifically bars ANY  judge, Superior or otherwise, from jurisdiction of a case in which another judge in the same circuit is one of the litigating parties. EVERY judge in the state of Georgia knows, or should reasonably be expected to know, that JQC Ruling. 

Opinion 220 of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, Docket No. 97-78, [in response] to a question from a sitting Superior Court Judge in a multi-judge circuit with clear direction to this specific situation. After citing Canons 1, 2, & 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and citing specific case law, the Commission has concluded with the following paragraph:

“Simply stated, the public must believe in the absolute integrity and impartiality of its judges, and it is the obligation of this Commission to support and encourage such belief. Consequently, even without a showing of actual bias, prejudice or unfairness, and regardless of the merits or timeliness of a Motion to Recuse, this Commission concludes that it is inappropriate for any trial court judge to preside in any action wherein one of the parties holds a judicial office on the same or any other court which sits in the same circuit. Accordingly, the question posed is answered in the negative. –This 25th day of April, 1997, Judicial Qualifications Commission, by: John E. James, Chair”

However, the Cobb County Superior Court judges could not expose Ruling 220 to the pro-se litigant, for they had previously and purposefully violated the ruling against this same pro-se litigant.  The Cobb County Superior Court judges had a serious dilemma. They couldn’t risk having a Cobb County judge assigned to the case, but they couldn’t ask for a non-Cobb County judge without justifying their request in the Certificate/Order. So, they had to prepare the Certificate/Order in a manner that guaranteed the assignment of a non-Cobb judicial officer. It was clearly the intent of the Cobb County Superior Court judicial officers to defraud this pro-se litigant into “believing” she had received justice according to the Law in the previous case. (See Lesson 14 – The Honorable S. Lark Ingram)

The Certificate/Order meets the legal requirements of fraud. 

But there is even more error in the Certificate/Order:

Note that three of the five judges making the request are Defendants in the identified litigation. Defendants choosing the judge? Who, besides judges, would get this opportunity? In addition, two of the five judges had previously recused themselves from the matter, and according to Uniform Rules of Superior Court, are barred from participating in any subsequent assignment of the case. The Honorable Rufe E. McCombs should have reasonably seen these as blatant violations of judicial procedure and ethical practice.

Note that the reason, as cited in the Certificate/Order, for the services of a senior judge is stated as:

“because of the volume of court business to be transacted and because the active Superior Court Judges of the Cobb Judicial Circuit are engaged in jury trials and/or their other regular Circuit duties, or are absent from the Circuit, and in order to provide for the speedy and efficient disposition of court business in the Circuit.”

The wording gives no indication that anything other than timely attention to the case was necessary. No indication of bias, prejudice, or conflict. No mention of JQC Ruling 220. No mention of the previous Orders by the Honorable Kenneth O. Nix. The appearance was, again, fraudulent. Two of the Cobb County judges who signed the Certificate/Order had already recused themselves from this very case: Judge Stoddard and Judge Nix. (See Lessons 4, 9 & 16) The civil action was first assigned to the Honorable Michael Stoddard, but since he was a defendant in the case, it is a no-brainer that he would necessarily remove himself immediately from the position as trier. He passed it to the Honorable Kenneth O. Nix, who was NOT a defendant in the action. By passing it to Judge Nix, Judge Stoddard failed in his duty to the Law, for the Uniform Rules of Superior Court specify that he should immediately direct the case to the 7th District Administrative Judge for re-assignment. It was Judge Stoddard’s responsibility to cite the need for a non-Cobb County judge. Instead, Judge Stoddard simply moved it over to the Honorable Kenneth O. Nix, an action which placed the case in direct violation of JQC Ruling 220. Although Judge Stoddard’s recusal should have prompted the Cobb County Court Administrator, Skip Cheshire, to take the correct procedural steps to direct the case appropriately, it is ultimately Judge Stoddard’s responsibility. 

The Honorable Kenneth O. Nix then seriously compounded the evidence of fraud by holding the case and barring legal discovery for the entire 6 month period. Even though the Motion for his Disqualification was timely filed October 18, 2000, and, even though he was duty bound by Uniform Superior Court rules to respond immediately (October 2000), he failed to do so until May 2001. Not with just one recusal Order, but with TWO recusal orders, dated May 4 Appendix B.00.05.04 and May 10, 2000 Appendix B.00.05.10! He clearly stated, both times, that, “Said assignment to another judge of the same circuit may create the appearance of a bias, prejudice, or conflict.” 

However, Judge Nix then superceded his own recusal orders by participating in the fraudulent Certificate/Order, and therein changed the cause.   

Any reasonable person would conclude that the Honorable Rufe E. McCombs was aware of the previous recusal order of the Honorable Michael Stoddard and the duplicative recusal Orders by the Honorable Kenneth O. Nix. Why? Because it is a judge’s legal duty to validate jurisdiction before taking action in any case. If she had reviewed the previous Orders, she would have concluded that even Judge Nix never had proper jurisdiction of the case. Judge Nix’s “holding” of the case constituted a violation of Plaintiff’s right to due process and was an abuse of process

It is even more interesting to note that the Order signed by the Honorable William T. Boyett is, itself, VOID. It is statutory Law in Georgia (O.C.G.A. 9-11-58) that: “The filing with the clerk of a judgment, signed by the judge, constitutes the entry of the judgment, and, unless the court otherwise directs, no judgment shall be effective for any purpose until the entry of the same, as provided in this subsection.” Although Judge Boyett signed the Certificate/Order on June 5, 2000, he failed to file it until July 6, 2000. As of July 1, 2000, Judge Boyett no longer had authority to file ANYTHING as the Administrative Judge. Again, any reasonable person would conclude that the Honorable Rufe E. McCombs knew this very basic statutory law and could discern that Judge Boyett acted without proper authority.

Then, in an attempt to cloak the illegal Certificate/Order in secrecy, it was not mailed to Plaintiff. Plaintiff had no knowledge of the filed Certificate/Order until she vigorously pursued Judge Nix for his recusal, and then Judge James for an Order, resulting in the following correspondence: (See also Lessons 4 and 6)

Correspondence with Judge James and his office:  

  • Plaintiff’s September 5, 2000 letter to Judge James Appendix B.00.09.05 
  • Letter from Ms. Jody Overcash in response to Plaintiff’s September 5, 2000 letter. (Note that Ms. Overcash is VERY aware that Judge Boyett had NO authority after July 1, 2000, and she is aware that Judge Boyett  filed the Certificate/Order AFTER July 1, 2000.) Appendix B.00.09.12

This was the first time Plaintiff had seen the Certificate/Order, so she attempted to verify the accuracy of it by checking the Clerk’s records.

Instead of filing a copy of the Certificate Order in Civil Action File No. 99-1-7941-24, the Clerk’s office filed it in a “special file.” Is it just coincidence that the Clerk is also a defendant in the litigation? The Certificate/Order had been effectively buried in the Clerk’s files in Cobb County Superior Court. When the Plaintiff asked questions in the Clerk’s office about why the Certificate/Order was not made a part of the Record, as identified in the text of the Certificate/Order, the response from the Clerk’s agent was, “Oh, we don’t do anything with that case, the judges are handling that case upstairs.”

On September 18, 2000, Plaintiff responded with:

So far, these are just the facts surrounding how the Honorable Rufe E. McCombs got involved in the case

Continued secrecy and confusion over the assignment of Trier:

In October 2000, Plaintiff received two telephone calls from an elderly woman who identified herself as Judge Rufe McCombs. The first was on Plaintiff’s home recorder and the second was through Plaintiff’s co-worker. Plaintiff did not return either call, but sent and received the following letters:  

When no response was forthcoming, Plaintiff again wrote to:

  • Letter to the Honorable Robert J. James, December 1, 2000  Appendix B.00.12.01 Attached: Exhibit A: Printout of Cobb County Superior Court web site, Case Number 99107941-99, showing Judge as UNASSIGNED and only pleading for June or July to be June 5, Affidavit (printed November 30, 2000 9:36 pm)

Again, with no response forthcoming, Plaintiff pursued with a Motion and letter:

Even more telling are Judge McCombs’ own actions in the case.
Even though the record in the Clerk’s office at Cobb County Superior Court still showed that the case was not assigned to any judge, the Honorable Rufe E. McCombs, Senior Judge in the State of Georgia presided over five hearings. The first hearing was January 16, at which time, she declared that although Plaintiff’s Motion to Disqualify was timely, it was not legally sufficient. She told Plaintiff in that January 16 hearing that Plaintiff should be happy to get her (McCombs) since all the other senior judges didn’t want this case. Judge McCombs then chose to schedule hearings to consider defendants’ Motions to Dismiss.  The representative (Kathryn L. Allen) for the Attorney General’s office (representing the six judges) failed to appear for the January 16 hearing. However, the Attorney General, himself, was in the Cobb County Superior Court building during the hearing and walked past the courtroom entrance several times. His presence in the Cobb circuit was puzzling, since most of the judges were scheduled at a judicial conference and were supposedly not present in the building on January 16, 2001.  
The original Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, with Answers from defendants. Appendix B.99.10.07
Declaratory Judgment Law in Georgia. Appendix A.6
Between the January 16 hearing and the subsequent dismissal hearings:

    • Letter from Kathryn L. Allen to Judge Rufe E. McCombs, January 17, 2001  Appendix B.01.01.17
  • Letter from Kari Mercer Dalton to Judge Rufe E. McCombs, January 17, 2001  Appendix B.01.01.17a
  • Rule Nisi, signed by Judge Rufe E. McCombs, January 16, 2001 with Certificate of Service signed by Christine C. Daniel, January 16, 2001  Appendix B.01.01.16
  • Notice of Substitution of Counsel, submitted by ARNALL, GOLDEN & GREGORY  Appendix B.01.01.19
  • Letter from Kathryn L. Allen to Judge Rufe E. McCombs, January 19, 2001  Appendix B.01.01.19a
  • RULE NISI for hearing, February 20, 2001, at 9:30 a.m., prepared by Kathryn L. Allen and submitted with letter to Judge Rufe E. McCombs  Appendix B.01.01.19
  • Notice of Withdrawal of Counsel and Substitution of Counsel, submitted by County Attorney’s Office, filed January 26, 2001  Appendix B.01.01.26
  • Plaintiff’s First Amendment to Complaint…..filed February 5, 2001  Appendix B.01.02.05a
  • Plaintiff’s Affidavit…..filed February 5, 2001  Appendix B.01.02.05b
  • Plaintiff’s Second Amendment to Complaint…..filed February 20, 2001, 9:31 a.m.  Appendix B.01.02.20c

During the first dismissal hearing, February 15, it became apparent that the Honorable Rufe E. McCombs was intent on dismissing each and every defendant. Consequently, Plaintiff requested permission to appeal each ruling at the end of each hearing. Dismissal of all defendant parties results in the “effect” of summary judgment and denies plaintiff the right to open discovery or to present evidence. Because the motions hearings were just that, motions hearings, no evidence could be presented without turning it into a hearing for summary judgment. Plaintiff clearly stated that she was intentionally avoiding summary judgment until such time that she could present ALL evidence; and that could only happen after open discovery was complete, pursuant to the Civil Practice Act. 

  • Transcript of February 15, 2001 hearing: (yet to be prepared for the web) Jay C. Stephenson, defendant – Defendant Jay C. Stephenson did not attend any of the hearings.
  • Transcript of February 16, 2001 hearing: (yet to be prepared for the web) Daryl L., Kidd, defendant – Mr. Kidd was present for this hearing.
  • Transcript of February 20, 2001 (a.m.) hearing: Appendix B.01.02.20a Superior Court Judges, defendants – Be prepared for woefully inadequate and misleading statements by Kathryn L. Allen. None of the defendant judges attended any of the hearings.
  • Transcript of February 20, 2001 (p.m.) hearing: Appendix B.01.02.20b Larry W. Yarbrough, Gregory R. Portman, R. Wynette Kennedy-Portman, defendants – This hearing was originally scheduled by the defendant attorney ONLY for dismissal of Larry W. Yarbrough. However, with less then 5 days of notice to Plaintiff, this hearing was expanded to include Gregory R. Portman and R. Wynette Kennedy-Portman. Neither Gregory R. Portman nor R. Wynette Kennedy-Portman attended any of the hearings. The extension of the hearing to include the final two defendants was evidence that the Honorable Rufe E. McCombs intended to dismiss all parties and leave no avenue of litigation. 

Note: The outcome of the hearings was obviously pre-determined, yet Judge McCombs chose to go through very lengthy hearings. Why? Because appeals REQUIRE the transcripts of the hearings, as well as all pertinent pleadings and documents from the Record. Each PAGE that is transferred to an appellate court is $1.50, cost incurred by the appeal-seeking litigant and proceeds of which go to the Clerk of the Cobb County Superior Court. It stands to reason that if the cost becomes prohibitive, a litigant will simply “give up.” More pleadings and longer transcripts simply increase the cost to the appeal-seeking litigant. 

Because Plaintiff requested a Certificate of Immediate Review after each hearing, and because Judge McCombs granted each request, the following “combined” Certificate was signed by Judge McCombs and filed with the Court Clerk. It is a very “telling” document. 

Note that by Uniform Rules of Superior Court, a judge may not act on a case during the pendency of his/her disqualification motion. Therefore, Judge McCombs did not have jurisdiction of the case until AFTER she filed her Order to deny the Disqualification. Yet, she convened all four dismissal hearings PRIOR to filing her Disqualification denial. Her dismissal Orders were consequently VOID. 

Plaintiff thought the proper method of appeal was as an interlocutory appeal, particularly since Judge McCombs indicated it to be the expected method. However, Plaintiff eventually sought appeal through all three methods, as available in Georgia. See Lessons 24 and 25 (Appellate Courts) The two appellate courts gave conflicting results.

Conclusion:In truth, each and every Order issued by the Honorable Rufe E. McCombs is VOID as a matter of Law. Even after Plaintiff went to extensive lengths to protect and shield the Honorable Rufe E. McCombs, Judge McCombs continued to trust the judges of the Cobb Circuit and the Defendants’ attorneys MORE than she trusted her own knowledge of the Law. This was her downfall, for she convened hearings and dismissed parties, by Order, PRIOR to having proper jurisdiction. 
May 2002:

As a result of the filing of a lien by Attorney Daryl L. Kidd (claimed by DLK to be in excess of $40,000 as of May, 2002) on M. Portman’s home in Georgia, she has written to the Honorable Rufe McCombsAppendix B.02.05.24b See also:  Lesson 21 – Attorney Daryl L. Kidd, wherein the fraud and racketeering begin to unravel.