A chief judge in the Atlanta suburb of South Fulton who gained Internet fame thanks to a viral photo and the hashtag #BlackGirlMagic is now out of a job.
On Tuesday, the City Council of South Fulton voted to remove Judge Tiffany Sellers from her post after two court staffers came forward to accuse her of bullying and mistreatment, local station 11 Alive reported. The judge is also said to have approved filming for a reality TV show in her court without permission from the city.
Sellers, who denied the allegations, became the first Chief Judge of the Municipal Court of South Fulton in November 2017.
“The petition is simply a listing of inadmissible hearsay statements aimed at creating a false narrative to attack my character and undermine my leadership,” the former judge said at a hearing before council members voted to terminate her. “Witth regards to the accusations of a disgruntled former employee, let me be clear: I’m not a bully. And any claims to the contrary are slanderous and false.”
Sellers gained national attention last year after posing for a photo with seven other African-American women who were part of the leadership of the newly formed City of South Fulton. It wasn’t long before the photo, published by newspaper The Atlanta Voice, went viral for showcasing a law enforcement and court system led exclusively by Black women in a brand new municipality, according to 11Alive.
The claims against Sellers have been an ongoing issue however, causing infighting among her supporters and critics. Council member Helen Willis told the station she used to be one of Sellers’ supporters, that is, until she learned of the accusations against her.
Council members voted 6-1 to give Sellers the boot, with lone member Catherine Rowell voting to keep the chief judge at her post. The ones who voted in favor of Seller’s firing were Mark Baker, Naeema Gilyard, Carmelitha Gumbs, Khalid Kamau and Willis.
Sellers’ accusers didn’t attend Tuesday’s hearing. Her supporters showed up in full force, however, and urged the Council not to let her go.
After a 30-minute meeting to discuss the matter in private, Council members returned to open session to cast their ballots against Sellers. The now-ousted magistrate told 11Alive she expected the Council to vote against her and has since begun the process of filing an appeal. Sellers objected to the fact that she wasn’t given a formal hearing with witnesses under oath and said she felt Council members had already made up their minds.
“Every day people come into my courtroom with a wide variety of charges … and guess what they’re all provided? … Due process,” she said at Tuesday’s hearing. “Why am I not afforded that same opportunity?”
According to the station, Sellers was not a South Fulton employee but was under contract to serve as Chief Municipal Court Judge through 2021 at a salary of $135,000 a year. During her tenure, she established the South Fulton court within 40 days and processed almost 2,000 citations since January 2018.
As for the reality show claims, Seller acknowledged that she and two other court workers signed an exclusivity deal for the “development of an idea” for a television show but not a full contract, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. A spokeswoman for the production company of the failed “Women In Black” show told the newspaper that filming had been suspended before any of these current issues came to light.
Sellers maintained that she and the other staffers canceled their contracts with the show after learning the Council was against it.
With the former chief justice’s ouster, the AJC reports that only half of the women from the viral picture remain. Two of the departed justice workers — a clerk of the court and South Fulton court administrator — cited Sellers as the reason for their resignations.
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