2016 candidate forum for south Cobb — state court judges

A candidate forum was held at the South Cobb Community Center on May 5 to help residents of Mableton and Austell make informed decisions for the May 24 elections. The forum featured candidates for the state legislature, county commission chair, school board, state and superior court judges, and sheriff.

This is the second article in the series, and includes the candidates for state court judge, posts 3 and 4. The state court handles misdemeanors, some civil cases, and search and arrest warrants. Each of these posts are voted on countywide.

First the candidates for Post 3 took the microphone.

Kellie Hill said,

“I have 25 years of legal experience that I would love to bring to the bench here in Cobb County.  I mention my 25 years of experience because I want you to know I am not a stranger to the courtroom.  I have civil experience and criminal experience, both of which would be the types of cases that would come before me as a judge on state court.  I have taught younger attorneys as well as law enforcement throughout our state, to practice law as well as participate in our judicial system.  I am committed and dedicated to the integrity of our system.  I’ve been in the trenches.  I’ve been tapped to prosecute as the lead attorney some of the highest profile cases in our state, including the Fulton County courthouse shooter Brian Nichols. I was the lead prosecutor on that case. I want to bring my experience here to Cobb County.  I want to absolutely make sure that we have a judicial system where there is justice for all.  I want to make sure that there is integrity in that system. I want to make sure that everyone is treated with respect.  I want to run a courtroom that is full of personal and professional integrity.”

Kristen Lantta, the wife of candidate Luke Lantta, took the microphone next. She said that her husband could not be at the forum because of a longstanding commitment to a volunteer community project.  She said,

“Luke’s an accomplished business attorney, that has handled some of the most complex issues of our time.  He’s a dedicated community volunteer.  And I know that many of you have worked with him as a community volunteer.  His loyalty is what’s going to set him apart. You know you can trust Luke to protect the constitution, the families, and our finances.  And these are the things that he talks about, but he also does. He’s also been doing these long before he’s asked for your vote.”

The next candidate was Chandler Vreeland, who said,

“I think Mr. Davis summed it up, that we’re here to improve the community, and that’s what I want to do. My family has lived in Cobb County for generations, and I’ve been here since 1959.  I live over here in Powder Springs with my wife. I’m a former assistant district attorney.  I served as a Cobb state court law clerk for judge Harris Adams.  I worked for King and Spalding law firm in Atlanta before I went to law school, and while in law school I worked as a law clerk for a Houston, Texas trial lawyer, Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, who was at that time named one of the top six trial lawyers in the country.  I’ve also practice law for 27 years, almost, this month, and I’ve done a lot of civil litigation, so I’ve had the experience as a prosecutor, prosecuting misdemeanor and felony cases as well as doing civil litigation.  And I would like to use my experience to serve you the people as the the next Cobb state court judge … I believe judges should listen to the people, listen to the lawyers, should be fair, have integrity, and have responsibility.”

Next up was Leah Zammit.  She said,

“There are four judges retiring this year which is why there are so many of us on the ballot … why you see so many signs. It is a wonderful opportunity for Cobb County to have a little bit of say … a lot of say … in the next generation of judges that are going to be serving this community.  We have a different community now than we did in 1959, 1960.  I’m an outsider, I’m not from the South.  I was born in Detroit, I went to kindergarten in London, graduated high school in Tampa, did undergraduate in Washington D.C., and went to law school in a place called Stetson in St. Pete Florida.  I’ve been in Cobb County since 2000. I have practiced civil litigation for 17 years, was a magistrate judge for four years.  I am a single mom. I have worked my way through every step of the way.  I want to work for you. I am dedicated to the integrity of the bench. I have concerns with the growth of Cobb County, that we are not prepared to effectively manage the level of misdemeanor cases coming to the court, and the level of civil litigation that the state court will handle, and I am strong, decisive, effective.”

The next set of judicial candidates were campaigning for the Post 4 seat in state court.

Jane Manning was the first to speak.  She said,

“As Leah said, there are four open seats, that’s four judges that are retiring, with over 80 years of experience … walking off the bench in Cobb County on January 1. I bring 30 years of experience.  I’ve been an attorney for 30 years,  having gone to Emory undergraduate, then law school.  I’ve been a prosecutor in state court. That’s where we do misdemeanors.  I’ve been doing that for 15 years. It’s my passion.  I love what I do, and I want to continue my service as a state court judge. Sixty-five thousand criminal filings a year in state court.  That’s 90 percent of the case load. There’ll be very little of the criminal end that will surprise me, because I have such experience there, and I’m there every single day, prosecuting misdemeanor crimes.  But I’m also the only one in the race who’s tried civil cases and criminal cases in state court.  I’ve also taught police officers, prosecutors, and other attorneys in various areas of the law. And I also have extensive appellate experience arguing cases all the way up to the Georgia Supreme Court. So this is my passion, this is what I love to do, and I’d love to continue serving you, as a state court judge.”

The next post 4 candidate was Brendan Murphy, who said,

“My name is Brendan Murphy I currently serve you as a senior assistant district attorney where I prosecute felony cases, tough cases like armed robberies and drug dealers. I’m also proud to work with our accountability courts, giving those with mental health issues and substance abuse issues a second chance at life.  Before going to superior court I was a prosecutor in state court, the court I’m running for.  I ran a domestic violence court, helping women and children who had been abused in the home every day.  I was also a lawyer in private practice.  Let me tell you what kind of judge I’m going to be. I’m going to follow the law in every case.  Judges need to follow the law. That starts on the bench. Second, I’m going to be a hard working judge.  The spot we’re running for has 300 criminal cases ready to be tried. Some of those people are waiting in jail. You can’t have people waiting in jail on misdemeanors without trying them.  You need a judge that has a high level of criminal experience to get the job done.  Finally I’m going to be a tough but fair judge. A tough but fair judge is one that saves jail space for those that endanger the community, those that shoot up the community, and spread poison to our children.  It gives people a second chance, that are struggling with substance abuse.  That’s the kind of judge I’m going to be.”

Aaron Strimban was the next Post 4 candidate.  He said,

“I’m proud to say that I’ve always called Cobb County home.  I went to elementary school, middle school, high school, here in Cobb.  I went away to college. I went to the University of Virginia, where I played on a tennis scholarship up there.  After graduating from UVA, I wanted to come back home for law school, and I went to Georgia State.  At Georgia State, that’s where I met my wife, and when we graduated we wanted to come back to Cobb County and start our careers and raise our family.  That’s what we did.  I started working at a local law firm in Marietta, where I was doing civil litigation.  I gained valuable experience, trying and practicing in state courts.  But after three years, I had an opportunity to go out and start my own business, and that’s what I did.  I started my own law firm, and for the past eleven-and-a-half years I have been helping people.  I understand the challenges that a small business faces.  My business has been helping people.  I’m proud to say over the last eleven-and-a-half years I’ve made a difference in people’s lives.  I am passionate about helping people, and solving complex problems.  That’s what I want to bring to the state court bench, and that’s what makes me uniquely qualified to be your next Cobb County state court judge.”