Chief Justice Tiffany Sellers shot to fame last year when news broke that she and seven other black women make up the entire leadership of the criminal justice system of South Fulton, Georgia. Sellers, who was the first person to be hired as the city’s first chief jurist, is now without a job after the South Fulton City Council fired the judge on Tuesday.
The decision came on the back of claims that Sellers had bullied workers and given approval towards the filming of a reality TV show in her courtroom without permission from city authorities, local station 11 Alive reported.
Sellers made headlines last year when a photo of her court appeared in The Atlanta Voice and was widely shared online under the description – BlackGirlMagic – an international hashtag that became a rallying cry for black women.
South Fulton was hailed for being the first city in the United States to have its criminal justice system led entirely by black women. Sellers was hired alongside interim police chief, Sheila Rogers; public defender, Viveca Famber Powell; solicitor, LaDawn ‘LBJ’ Jones, and court administrator, Lakesiya Cofield. The others were chief court clerk Ramona Howard, and court clerks Tiffany Kinslow and Kerry Stephens.
Local media reports that now, only half of the women in the famous picture are still at post. Two of the women – a court administrator and a clerk of the court – said they resigned because of Sellers.
The two had refused to sign a release allowing them to be filmed for a short HBO/Vice TV film about the court.
An internal investigation found that the “filming of the court’s operation has exacerbated disagreements, personnel issues, and increased confusion regarding the Court’s administrative execution.”
It was subsequently discovered that Sellers and two court employees had begun developing a reality show with the production company, Good Caper Content.
Councilwoman Carmalitha Gumbs said she proposed that the City Council fire Sellers because she had begun taping a reality show about the City of South Fulton’s Municipal Court without permission from the city.
Gumbs said she was concerned about the show because the city, which was incorporated in 2017, had not yet “had an opportunity to establish our image and brand.”
Sellers said she and two other court employees signed an exclusivity deal for the “development of an idea of a show” but not a full contract, AJC reported.
“We had no idea that the council was against the show,” Sellers said. She said once they realized that the council was against the show, they terminated their deal with the production company.
Sellers was fired on Tuesday after a public hearing that was attended by about 80 residents. Council members voted 6-1 to remove her from the post, with only Catherine Rowell voting to keep the chief judge at her post.
Those who voted to have her sacked were Mark Baker, Naeema Gilyard, Carmelitha Gumbs, Khalid Kamau and Willis.
Her two accusers – court staffers who came forward to accuse her of bullying and mistreatment – did not attend Tuesday’s hearing. No one from the public spoke out against her, according to local media reports.
Sellers denied the allegations during the hearing and complained of being treated unfairly as she was not allowed to call witnesses, enter evidence in her defence or face her accusers.
“The petition is simply a listing of inadmissible hearsay statements aimed at creating a false narrative to attack my character and undermine my leadership.”
“With regard to the accusations of a disgruntled former employee, let me be clear: I am not a bully. And any claims to the contrary are slanderous and false,” she said.