U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller allegedly attacked his wife in a domestic fight
LZ Granderson: Congress has the power to remove a federal judge who has done wrong
But members of Congress are busy criticizing the NFL on domestic violence issues
Granderson: If Congress sets high bar for NFL, it should set high bar for public officials
Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson is a CNN contributor, a senior writer for ESPN and a lecturer at Northwestern University. He is a former Hechinger Institute fellow and his commentary has been recognized by the Online News Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
The 911 tape is frightening.
“Help me, please. Please, help me. He’s beating on me,” a woman tells the dispatcher, followed by “I hate you. I hate you.”
“I hate you, too,” a man’s voice can be heard in response.
“She says that she’s in a domestic fight, and I can hear him hitting her now,” the initial dispatcher tells the ambulance dispatcher.
This is not an exchange involving a pro football player and his girlfriend. The woman on the call is Kelli Fuller. The male attacker is her husband, Mark Fuller, a U.S. district judge for the Middle District of Alabama. On a Saturday night at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta, Kelli Fuller called the police for help from a hotel room.
The Fullers both admit to an altercation while blaming each other for the incident, according to a police report.
If the NFL’s pathetic handling of the domestic violence charges involving Ray Rice and Greg Hardy makes you angry, then you’re going to blow a fuse over Fuller. He is poised not only to have this horrific scene expunged from his record but to return to the bench. The only body that can remove him is Congress, and no significant steps in that direction have been taken.
Instead, a bipartisan group of 16 female senators sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that read in part, “if you violently assault a woman, you shouldn’t get a second chance to play football in the NFL.”
Wait, it gets better.
Twelve House Democrats who sit on the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Goodell that marked the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act and included this gem:
“Given the important role the NFL and the other major professional sports leagues can play in shaping public perceptions concerning domestic violence, it would appear to be in the public interest to have the highest level of transparency associated with reviews of potential misconduct.”
So while members of Congress insist that an organization it has no authority over should permanently remove perpetrators of domestic violence, they have not taken a similar public stance regarding the domestic violence perpetrator whom they actually can do something about.
In addition to writing letters to a pro sports team, the House has the power to impeach a federal judge who has done wrong. The Senate can try such cases. I guess jumping on a public outrage bandwagon is easier. No wonder more than 60% of the country believes this is the worst Congress ever.
For the public to be fixated on the NFL’s problem is justifiable considering the popularity of the league and the graphic video depicting Rice punching his then-fiancee in a casino elevator.
Stories involving federal judges are not that popular. But lawmakers are not supposed to jump on the bandwagon; they are supposed to take the lead. Sending strongly worded letters to the NFL is not taking up a strong stance against domestic violence; it’s a lazy publicity grab.
If the 113th Congress – particularly those members so concerned about the “War on Women” – truly wanted to lead on this issue, it would roll up its sleeves and remove the man who allegedly pulled his wife’s hair, threw her on the ground, dragged her, kicked her and struck her multiple times in the face.
Police said that when Kelli Fuller opened the door, she had cuts on her mouth and forehead. When they entered the room, they found broken glass and hair on the floor, blood in the bathroom. It reeked of alcohol.
The man involved is not a big-time NFL player, but does he have to be?
The night of the attack is not accompanied with a TMZ video, but do we really need one?
The public may not even notice his removal, but does that really matter? In sending two letters to the NFL regarding domestic violence, Congress has stated it expects a high bar to be set for professional athletes. Why should Congress’ bar be lower for public officials whose job is to defend the law of the land? In other words, if Ray Rice should be banned from the NFL for life, then why not Mark Fuller from the U.S. District Court?
Now, granted, removing a federal judge is not easy. Since 1803, only 15 have been impeached, and acquittals were granted in four of those cases. Three others resigned. It is a daunting task. But so is seriously addressing the cancer that is domestic violence.
Anyone who looks at the Rice video can point a finger at him and the league. That’s easy. And those members of Congress who signed those letters and have not had a conversation about Fuller’s removal should be ashamed of themselves. Though, judging from polling numbers, that’s one of many things this Congress should be ashamed of.