Cobb County Superior Court judicial candidates

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The judicial candidates for Cobb County Superior Court spoke at a forum organized by the Mableton Improvement Coalition and the Austell Community Taskforce on May 5.  The superior court is a general jurisdiction trial court.  It handles felony cases, divorce, and cases related to real estate.  Judges are elected countywide, and serve four-year terms.

The first candidate to speak was Cindie Alter.  She said,

“I’ve been a trial lawyer since 1978.  Trial lawyers can’t say their names in 90 seconds, let alone tell you everything we need to tell you. But I’ve got to tell you, coming here tonight feels like it’s coming home.  I moved to Atlanta in 1975, attended Emory, graduated in ’78. When I was looking at the job board at Emory, somebody said a man named Ray Gary, Sr. in Mableton is looking for a female associate.  I said I don’t want to move, and I had no clue that Mableton was metropolitan Atlanta. Our office was literally right across the street between the Old Hickory Barbeque and the Exxon gas station.  I spent twelve great years with Ray Gary Sr.  We were country lawyers.  We took everything that walked in the door, regardless of peoples ability to pay.  It was about helping people. It was never about making money.  Loved being here.  Loved Mableton.  Took some time off, raised my kids, came back to the practice of law.  Was a staff attorney for Ken Nix in the superior court, may he rest in peace.  I was there for eight, nine years.  Now I’ve got my own law firm in Marietta.  Like I tell my clients, other than as a criminal defendant, there’s no place in the courtroom I haven’t sat, so I get it.  I know what it’s like to be in front of a judge.  You need to be treated with integrity, and respect.  You need to be heard.”

The next speaker was incumbent Judge Stephen Schuster, who is currently the chief judge of the superior court.  He said,

 “I want to thank you for electing me in ’04, ’08, ’12, and I hope you’ll elect me again in ’16.  What we do in superior court is handle your family law cases, your divorces.  We handle your felony criminal cases and we handle your cases involving real estate. We open and close, each of us, about 1700 cases a year. That’s a lot of cases. But the most important case we handle is the one in front of us, that’s in front of us at the time, and that’s your case. It’s very important that we keep the doors to the court open, and you are welcome. But with a felony case, one of the things we are now doing, and this is an evolution since ’04: hard beds for hard criminals.  We want to protect you from the rapist, the armed robbers, the sex traffickers, and those who molest your children.  But when your neighbor has a drug problem, we want them to have a treatment court.  When your veteran comes back with a war injury, we want them to have a veteran’s court.  And when the person has a mental health problem, we want them to have a mental health court.  That’s how we’ve evolved over the years. So I am glad, and I’m proud, again I’m Steve Schuster, to serve as your superior court judge.”

Joanne Elsey spoke next, and said,

“I am currently a juvenile court judge in Cobb County.  I don’t know how this happened, but my legal career now has spanned 32 year.  That sort of snuck up on me, and the number is kind of scary.  I’ll tell you about my background.  I’ve been a lawyer since 1984.  I started out in private practice when I opened my own law firm and focused on criminal and domestic litigation.  In 2002 the superior court judges in Cobb County decided that I was the most qualified candidate out of about 40 lawyers who applied for the job as a juvenile court judge, which I’ve been doing since 2002.  I also am a what we call an assisting superior court judge.  Part of my duties as a juvenile court judge is to hear cases in the superior court, which I have done routinely since 2002. So I’ve already done the job.  Our race is unique, because for the first time voters will have the opportunity since 2004 when my opponent, the incumbent, was elected, to have a meaningful experience in the voting booth because he never had opposition  before.  Now he’s got two people running against him, and we’ll see what the voters say.   I hope they say it’s a time for change in Cobb County.”

Next up was Chuck Bachman, who said,

“I’m running for an open seat … an incumbent judge, Judge Adele Grubbs is retiring. I’ve spent 17 years practicing law.  I live up in the City of Marietta with my wife and two kids.  I’m a product of the Cobb County school system. And I’ll say very openly I do not have a prosecutorial background.  If you want someone who’s been a career prosecutor, I’m not the person.  If you agree with me that the bench needs to be a little more balanced, and have people with prosecutorial backgrounds and people with civil backgrounds, then I’d ask you to consider me. And here’s why I’d ask you to consider me. I think one of the most important things for a judge is to have the heart to serve.  Somebody who’s here to serve the public.  How do you know I’ve got a heart to serve? When I came out of law school, I worked for a big firm downtown.  I made partner the first year I was eligible. Y’all probably know big firms aren’t in the business of making people partners who don’t have the legal acumen and work ethic to do it.  But right after I made partner I left and entered a firm in Cobb County where my family lived, because even though that position was financially comfortable, it wasn’t morally fulfilling to me.  I wanted to be closer to my family, I wanted to be involved in my kids’ lives. So I don’t have a whole lot of time to tell you all of my story tonight, but somebody who’s willing to leave the financial comfort of a big law firm and do their practice in Cobb County to be close to their family is somebody who’s going to serve you from the bench, somebody who’s going to treat you with respect, somebody who’s going to do the right thing, because that’s my commitment to you if you elect me to be your superior court judge.  I will do the right thing every time.  I will treat people with respect, and you’ll get a fair shake in front of me, regardless of race, religion, color, or anything else.”

The next candidate, Kim Childs, said,

“I’m also running for the open seat on the superior court bench, that’s created by Judge Adele Grubbs’ retirement. My legal career began a little bit differently than the typical judicial candidate.  I started out, right out of college, as a guard over at the Dekalb County jail. No one thought I was going to last, and it’s a very tough environment.  But I learned a lot about people.  I learned a lot about myself.  I learned how to handle tough situations, and how to make some tough decisions.  I then went on to work as a paralegal, and I put myself through law school at night down at Georgia State working full time during the day.  My hard work payed off.  I graduated magna cum laude, and also worked at a large law firm in downtown Atlanta.  As a practicing attorney I’ve been representing businesses in complex and commercial business litigation. In 2007, before the  recession (I might have done it a different way if I knew the recession was coming), I hung out my own shingle in Cobb County, and started representing small businesses.  Since then, after a lot of hard work, a lot of focus and determination, I’ve had a successful litigation practice.  This past year I was named as one of the top 100 Georgia super lawyers, top 50 women super lawyers , one of Georgia’ legal elites in the area of business law, and I’m president-elect of the Cobb County bar association. But more importantly, really what I’d like for you to know today, is that it’s the hard work and the commitment to the law, and the focus it took me to get those awards, to better represent who I am as a person, and as a candidate.”

Speaking for Grady Moore, David Willingham said,

“Good evening.  I am not Grady Moore.  My name is David Willingham, and Mr. Grady Moore sends his regrets.  He’s actually trying to get here right now from another event, and he’s stuck in some traffic. Mr. Grady Moore is, and has been, a servant of your community for the past 18 years, in Cobb County as an assistant DA.  He’s now in private practice, but before that, he was a servant in our community, prosecuting the most serious violent felons affecting our community.  By the way, he gave me a script, but I’m going to speak from the heart a little bit because I know Grady.  When you turn on the news every night, what do you see on channel 2.  You see stories about crime. That’s what you see on the news. You’ve seen Grady Moore on TV if you watch the news. He has been instrumental in fighting crime in this community for the last decade or so. And I can tell you from knowing him he has a servant’s heart. He is now in private practice as a defense lawyer, and he is using his experience as a prosecutor to be fair not only to his clients, but to all those he comes across in the justice system.  He’s the only person in this race that’s ever tried a criminal case here in Cobb County … the only person.  Criminal cases are about 65% of the docket in superior court.  So when you go to the ballot … remember that Grady Moore … has more … criminal experience than anybody else in the race.  He’s a Vanderbilt law graduate, he’s a smart guy, and he’s the one you should vote for.”

A spokesman for Judge Reuben Green said,

“I am not Judge Green.  Judge Green was unable to come tonight, ’cause he had made a commitment that he didn’t feel he should break, previous to the circumstances that caused him to run this time.  But I just wanted to come by and take a  couple of seconds to tell you about him.  He’s a United States Marine veteran.  He runs the veterans court which is a special court in Cobb County, that they try to take care of the veterans in a special way.  He’s been on the bench here for six year, was appointed by the governor, and then ran after two years and was elected.  He is a Rotarian, a chamber member, and he’s a youth sports coach. He’s asking for your vote, to continue to serve Cobb County, and he would like you to look at his website, which is reubengreen.com, and it’ll tell you all about his achievements.  And thank you very much.”

The next superior court candidate,  Nathan Wade, said,

“I am a municipal court judge in the City of Marietta.  I’d like to take this time to sort of give you a snapshot of who I am, as opposed to spouting out all the qualifications I have, because I can do that, but I’d like to distinguish myself from my candidate.  Now all the other races that you’ve heard, it’s hard to separate them, I know that, but there’s only one other person that I’m running against, and that’s Reuben Green.  If you do your research, as other candidates have already suggested to you, you’ll find that we have an ethical challenge here.  And that is why I’m running against this particular judge.  If you go home, and watch the news, his face will appear, because of ethical challenges.  So I’m running against Reuben Green for ethical reasons.  Now of course I’m qualified.  I’m a former prosecutor as well.  But I’m also a former defense attorney.  So I’ve argued both sides of the beat.  And I think it’s very important to have experience from both sides of every argument, because then you have no stake in it.  You have no dog in the fight. I want to bring to this particular seat, ethics, I want to bring fair treatment to the community, and I want to bring justice for all.  And that’s very important to me, that our court, the superior court in Cobb County, not only reflects justice for all, but we’re doing that.”

Listen to the audio of the presentations by the Cobb County Superior Court candidates:


 

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About the Author

Larry Felton Johnson
Larry Felton Johnson is the "World's Oldest Journalism Undergraduate". He retired after too many years as a software systems engineer, and he's now a senior in the journalism department at Georgia State University. He's the editor and publisher of River Edges.