Fulton County Superior Court Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane denied that her ruling to give multiple Grammy-winning singer Usher Raymond custody of his sons was influenced by his high-profile attorney John Mayoue. When questioned recently by CBS Atlanta News, Lane described their relationship as a typical attorney-lawyer relationship.
But Lane has not been forthcoming about what role Mayoue actually played, if any, on her 2008 election campaign committee.
According to campaign finance records, Mayoue's firm donated $1,000 and hosted her only fundraiser that year, raising 83 percent of the funds in Lane's campaign coffers.
Attorney Lisa West said that's "significant." West represents Tameka Raymond, Usher's ex-wife.
West said she learned of Mayoue's contributions shortly after Lane's ruling and quickly asked Lane for a new trial and for her to recuse herself from it.
Lane eventually recused herself from the Raymond case in December after repeatedly refusing to do so earlier in the year.
Clark Cunningham, professor at Georgia State University College of Law, said, "Even if Judge Lane sincerely believes that Mayoue's involvement in her campaign did not affect her decision making, she still had an obligation under judicial code to put that information on the record."
Cunningham said he's troubled by some of Lane's orders, specifically those in which she refuses to step down from the case after being asked by West.
In one order, Lane wrote that West didn't provide enough "evidence" that Mayoue served on her reelection committee.
Cunningham said Lane should know whether Mayoue was or wasn't on her campaign committee and be forthcoming with that information.
He said Lane's orders do not help instill confidence in the judicial system.
When Lane recused herself from the Raymond case, she did so less than 24 hours after West filed a motion to "preserve" computers allegedly used in Lane's 2008 campaign.
The computers were owned by Lane's recently deceased sister.
West said Lane's sudden decision tells her that Lane doesn't want what's in those computers made public.
When questioned about those computers by CBS Atlanta News, Lane said they are her "personal privacy."
In her recusal order, Lane reasoned that she cannot fairly hear cases involving West.
Since then West has taken on several new clients who want their divorces or custody cases removed from Lane's courtroom. West has had Lane successfully recused from 9 cases.
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