Updated: Sep 8
By Joe Johnson
A federal judge with local roots on Friday rejected former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ bid to move his Georgia criminal case to federal court, a significant setback for Meadows and a potential troubling sign for former President Donald Trump.
The ruling was handed down by Judge Steve C. Jones, an Athens native and Cedar Shoals High School graduate. After earning his law degree at the University of Georgia in 1987, he became an assistant district attorney for the Western Judicial Circuit that includes Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties.
Jones, 66, served as a municipal court judge in Athens-Clarke from 1993 to 1995, the year when Gov. Zel Miller appointed him to be a Superior Court judge for the Western Circuit.
In April 2009, Jones was one of three candidates recommended by Democratic members of the Georgia house delegation to replace judge Hugh Lawson on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
Jones did not receive the nomination, which went to Macon attorney Marc Treadwell in February 2010.
After Jones was passed over for the Middle District of Georgia, which serves Athens, he received consideration for a judgeship on the Atlanta-based District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
On July 14, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Jones to replace Orinda D. Evans
on the Northern District federal bench. His nomination was confirmed by the Senate on Feb. 28, 2011 by a 90–0 vote, and received his commission March 3, 2011.
The ruling by Jones against Meadows has significant implications for the former president and 17 co-defendants in the Fulton County district attorney’s racketeering case. Meadows was the first of five defendants who filed motions to move the case to federal court, a move which Trump is expected to follow.
Meadows unsuccessfully argued that his case should be moved from the Georgia state court in Fulton County because the allegations in the indictment were connected to his official duties as White House chief of staff.
His lawyers wanted the case in federal court so they could try to get it dismissed altogether by invoking federal immunity.
Jones's decision could now set the tone for the other defendants also trying to move their cases, hoping to invoke the same federal immunity protections.
CNN contributed to this story.