Man Refuses Judge's Apology Over Service Dog Comments
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 27, 2006
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA--A South Carolina man said last Wednesday that he does not accept a judge's apology over comments he made earlier this month about the man's service dog.
Bob Godfrey came into a North Charleston municipal courtroom on February 8 with his golden retriever, Jasmine, to help a Spanish-speaking man whom he is teaching English.
Audio tape of the court session recorded Judge George Epps asking Godfrey, "What is that dog in here for?"
Godfrey explained that Jasmine is a medical service dog that helps him to get up if he falls.
"It helps you get up if you fall?" Epps asked.
"How does it do that? It takes its little hands and helps pick you up?"
"What does that dog do besides not supposed to be in this building?" he continued. "You ought to know better than to bring a dog into a courtroom. That just really upsets me."
That same day, Epps wrote a memo to bailiffs and security officers ordering them keep all animals out of his courtroom unless if their owners get his prior approval.
"He's superseding federal law," Godfrey told the Post and Courier, noting that 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act allows service animals into public places, including courtrooms, except when the animal poses a direct threat to others or is disruptive.
Mayor Keith Summey has said that his office would send the audiotape of the exchange to the state's Office on Judicial Conduct, once Godfrey files a formal complaint.
Last Wednesday, Epps apologized for offending Godfrey.
"I don't accept his apology," Godfrey responded. "Absolutely not. His attitude was way out of line."
"That was uncalled for. I don't expect everyone to understand medical service animals, but I don't expect to be talked to like dirt."
"Judge apologizes for comments about dog in court" (Associated Press via Myrtle Beach Sun)
"Dander still up over dog" (Post and Courier)
Audio of Judge George Epps' exchange with Bob Godfrey (Post and Courier)