Q & A with James Luttrell, candidate for Cobb County Superior Court judge

photo of Cobb Superior Court building from the front with a blue sky with clouds in the backgroundCobb County Superior Court (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

By Arielle Robinson

Attorney James Luttrell spoke with the Courier over the phone Friday afternoon about his campaign for the open Cobb Superior Court judge seat.

Luttrell is one of five candidates who seek to fill the seat of current Judge Robert Flournoy III, who announced his retirement after 2022.

For anyone who wonders what the Superior Court does and why it matters, please refer to Georgia’s Superior Courts website, which says:

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“The Superior Courts of Georgia is a court of general jurisdiction handling both civil and criminal law actions. Superior Court Judges preside over cases involving misdemeanors, contract disputes, premises liability, and various other actions. In addition, the Superior Court has exclusive equity jurisdiction over all cases of divorce, title to land, and felonies involving jury trials, including death penalty cases.”

To check out other candidates the Courier has interviewed about this nonpartisan race, please click here.

Talk about your background. Who are you?

Luttrell: “My name is James Luttrell. I am married to my wife, Stephany, and we have one daughter, Julie. We’ve lived in Smyrna for the last 13 years. I grew up here in Cobb County as well, I’ve lived in Cobb County for over 45 years. I moved here with my parents when I was about four years old.

“I graduated from North Cobb High School and went on to college at Kennesaw State. I then went to Mercer Law School and I returned back to Cobb County, where I worked for a year under Randal Akers in Kennesaw and then I went to work for Greg Hicks for 10 years as an attorney. I came back and worked as my own attorney for the last 14 years.”

Your campaign platform seems to be bringing equality, fairness, and justice to Cobb families. Can you elaborate on what this tangibly looks like?

“When I talk about bringing equality for all families, it’s for everyone that comes before me when I’m judge. When they come into my court, everyone knows that they are going to get a fair shake, and have the opportunity to have a fair hearing before myself. The decisions are going to be based on what the evidence is and what the law states. It’s not going to be based on any other factors.

“When I talk about that, that means that the law is truly going to be decided on what is the evidence in the case and what law applies to that case, and not any external factors such as race, age, financial situation. Those are not going to be factors that I’m going to use in making and deciding cases.”

Your website says you want to restore trust and confidence in the court system. What makes you say that people have lost trust in the system?

“In the last few years, there has been this extremely partisan environment. There is some, I will say, a lack of trust in our government. I don’t know if it’s necessarily so much in the Cobb County court system, in general, but there is a lacking where some people don’t have as much confidence in what the government says or does.

“When I say restore trust, I think it’s important that we decide cases in a neutral manner, decide it based on the evidence and facts, and be open and transparent in making our decisions, so people will know that these cases are being decided based on the evidence, based on the law, and they’ll see what has happened. We just got to be open about it. People need to be able to have trust that when we’re making decisions in the court that those are right and just decisions.”

In general, do you think the court system as it stands right now is fair and compassionate to folks, especially to folks from working-class backgrounds and people of color? Why or why not? If you don’t think it’s fair, how do you work to improve things?

“What I’ve seen as an attorney who’s represented indigent clients for 26 years, is that lack of income has an impact on the outcome of cases. Indigent criminal defendants should have the same access to investigators and expert witnesses, where necessary, that the state has. For those who are in civil cases, a lack of income can impact their ability to get a lawyer because a lawyer is not appointed to represent someone in a civil case.

“So a court has a responsibility to make sure that the parties are able to secure representation. That may require granting a brief continuance, but we don’t want to unreasonably delay the case. I think the biggest impact in the judicial system is a lack of income. I think we’ve got to try to do what we can to make sure that is not such a factor for parties when they’re coming into court.”

You say you want to promote diversion programs and accountability courts so that first-time non-violent offenders and drug-use related offenders get a second chance and a clean record. Can you expand on why you believe in this?

“For those who say that drug cases are a victimless crime — there is no victimless crime. The goal is for a healthy and whole community. So whether it’s society who bears the brunt of that crime or it’s the perpetrator’s family that suffers, for individuals who are directly harmed, all crimes have impact and have victims.

“But that does not mean we treat all crime the same. When we incarcerate someone for drugs, there is an indirect punishment on the person’s family and their lives are impacted when that individual is incarcerated for drugs. So when dealing with drug crimes, that’s why I say we need to promote rehabilitation and promote diversion programs for the first time nonviolent offenders — to increase their chances of success and get them out of the cycle of crime.”

In your time as an attorney, have you noticed that some of the same people cycle in and out of the justice system? If so, what do you think may be the root causes of why people may continually end up in the system?

“Unfortunately, I’ve seen through the 26 years a lot of times the same individuals come back through our system. And it’s oftentimes because they didn’t get significant help on the front end. What diversion programs do is it requires offenders to do community service, requires them to get an evaluation and follow the recommended treatment in order to gain an exoneration where the crime is not on their record. And so having someone do more on the front end — through rehabilitation and going through diversion — will set them up better so they’re not coming back into the system.

“Unfortunately, sometimes what I’ve seen as a criminal defense lawyer, when someone gets a plea to a three year probation and they’re having to report on probation, that is easier for them than having to go through a rehab program, or go through a program where they have to earn a case being removed from their record because they have to do community service and have to go through an evaluation and treatment.

“And so sometimes, I think when it’s too easy, and as they get more offenses, it’s only when they get more offenses that they’re going to look and see for rehabilitation at that point. However, it is a lot harder for them because they have more time that they’ve been abusing drugs.”

You say you want to focus judicial time on violent crime so the community feels safe. What does this actually look like?

“A lot of the Superior Court criminal docket has a lot of first time nonviolent offenses, as well as drug offenses on the calendar. If we’re in a position where we provide the resources for rehabilitation and diversion programs for those cases, those cases will come off the docket and that will lead to more serious cases on the docket, such as the armed robbery, the gang cases. Those cases are ones that the court can focus on, because for the previous cases, those cases will be moved because we diverted them earlier through diversion programs and through rehabilitation and treatment.”

There is a lot of emphasis in the world of criminal justice reform on rehab for nonviolent offenders. Do you think there is any chance for violent offenders to be rehabilitated also so that they do not go out and commit more violent crimes? What could that look like, if so?

“Well, the violent offenses, we’re having someone who’s been directly harmed and a family has been directly harmed by an individual’s actions. When you have someone who has been a victim of a violent offense, or offenses, that is the kind of crime that would at that point call for incarceration and punishment.

“There is a theory [in criminal justice] of trying to rehabilitate where possible, but there is a punishment aspect as well. And some offenses — while there may be things to be done to rehabilitate one, sometimes a crime is so serious that the call is for incarceration. You’re just going to have to take things on a case by case basis. But generally, those are the types of crimes that would call for incarceration and punishment.”

You say you’ve represented people from all walks of life. Can you elaborate on that and how it has informed your career and your campaign beliefs?

“Most of [my clients] have been indigent clients, low-income clients, and it’s been more difficult for them in the judicial system, because they’re not in a position to hire experts. They’re not in a position to pay for all the things that are necessary to adequately present their case.

“Having known that, and knowing what these individuals experienced and the challenges they face, that makes me more understanding of all parties involved because I’ve been there with them. I’ve represented them through the years. I know what they have faced, and having that experience and having that compassion and that knowledge allows me to better empathize with them, and understand what they are going through.”

You’ve had experience working with victims of domestic violence pro bono. Work from anti-DV organizations shows that some victims may be afraid to report their abusers because those in the criminal justice system may not take them seriously. How do you think that you as a judge can work to make victims of DV feel safer and supported so that they may feel more emboldened to take legal action against their abuser?

“Having represented them and understanding the cycle of violence and those factors that go into it, it’s not uncommon for [victims] not to report initially, the first time violence occurred. They would have someone who understands that, that’s serving on the bench who understands what those facts are, I can do that.

“Now, I also had the experience where I represented defendants who were charged with that as well. The main thing is for a judge to decide the cases that are brought before them. But I have experience representing both sides of that issue, [so I will be] able to fairly and justly decide those cases.

“Having had that experience, I know the social science behind that, why they don’t [report]. The main thing that we can do as judge is to treat everyone with dignity and respect. When [victims] know that they can be treated with dignity and respect, they’re more likely to come forward in court to report that.”

You say you want to work to expand technology so the court system can be more accessible. What does this look like to you?

“What that looks like to me would be to partner with other county agencies. I think the best would be the Cobb County Library, where you can go to the library and be able to log on and appear in court remotely. I would like to see remote technology continue to be used with the court. I think there’s a lot of things the pandemic has taught us that we can use remote technology for. We can use remote technology for pleas, there’s certain civil cases that can be heard.

“Not everyone has the same level of technology and it’s not as easy for them to log on to either Zoom or WebEx or whatever system the court queues. In Cobb County it’s been Zoom, but not everyone has the same access to the internet or the same access to the level of internet, the level of Wi-Fi speeds. So I would like to see that.

“That will require partnering with other county agencies where people can go and instead of coming to the courthouse because transportation is an issue with them — a lot of times transportation is an issue — they can go and report there and be able to have the access to that technology. That’s what I would like to see. If I was on the court, I would work with other agencies of government so we can set that system up so people can report in other locations and appear for court.”

Q & A with James Luttrell, Superior Court judge candidate

By Arielle Robinson

Attorney James Luttrell spoke with the Courier over the phone Friday afternoon about his campaign for the open Cobb Superior Court judge seat.

Luttrell is one of five candidates who seek to fill the seat of current Judge Robert Flournoy III, who announced his retirement after 2022.

For anyone who wonders what the Superior Court does and why it matters, please refer to Georgia’s Superior Courts website, which says:

“The Superior Courts of Georgia is a court of general jurisdiction handling both civil and criminal law actions. Superior Court Judges preside over cases involving misdemeanors, contract disputes, premises liability, and various other actions. In addition, the Superior Court has exclusive equity jurisdiction over all cases of divorce, title to land, and felonies involving jury trials, including death penalty cases.”

To check out other candidates the Courier has interviewed about this nonpartisan race, please click here.

Talk about your background. Who are you?

Luttrell: “My name is James Luttrell. I am married to my wife, Stephany, and we have one daughter, Julie. We’ve lived in Smyrna for the last 13 years. I grew up here in Cobb County as well, I’ve lived in Cobb County for over 45 years. I moved here with my parents when I was about four years old.

“I graduated from North Cobb High School and went on to college at Kennesaw State. I then went to Mercer Law School and I returned back to Cobb County, where I worked for a year under Randal Akers in Kennesaw and then I went to work for Greg Hicks for 10 years as an attorney. I came back and worked as my own attorney for the last 14 years.”

Your campaign platform seems to be bringing equality, fairness, and justice to Cobb families. Can you elaborate on what this tangibly looks like?

“When I talk about bringing equality for all families, it’s for everyone that comes before me when I’m judge. When they come into my court, everyone knows that they are going to get a fair shake, and have the opportunity to have a fair hearing before myself. The decisions are going to be based on what the evidence is and what the law states. It’s not going to be based on any other factors.

“When I talk about that, that means that the law is truly going to be decided on what is the evidence in the case and what law applies to that case, and not any external factors such as race, age, financial situation. Those are not going to be factors that I’m going to use in making and deciding cases.”

Your website says you want to restore trust and confidence in the court system. What makes you say that people have lost trust in the system?

“In the last few years, there has been this extremely partisan environment. There is some, I will say, a lack of trust in our government. I don’t know if it’s necessarily so much in the Cobb County court system, in general, but there is a lacking where some people don’t have as much confidence in what the government says or does.

“When I say restore trust, I think it’s important that we decide cases in a neutral manner, decide it based on the evidence and facts, and be open and transparent in making our decisions, so people will know that these cases are being decided based on the evidence, based on the law, and they’ll see what has happened. We just got to be open about it. People need to be able to have trust that when we’re making decisions in the court that those are right and just decisions.”

In general, do you think the court system as it stands right now is fair and compassionate to folks, especially to folks from working-class backgrounds and people of color? Why or why not? If you don’t think it’s fair, how do you work to improve things?

“What I’ve seen as an attorney who’s represented indigent clients for 26 years, is that lack of income has an impact on the outcome of cases. Indigent criminal defendants should have the same access to investigators and expert witnesses, where necessary, that the state has. For those who are in civil cases, a lack of income can impact their ability to get a lawyer because a lawyer is not appointed to represent someone in a civil case.

“So a court has a responsibility to make sure that the parties are able to secure representation. That may require granting a brief continuance, but we don’t want to unreasonably delay the case. I think the biggest impact in the judicial system is a lack of income. I think we’ve got to try to do what we can to make sure that is not such a factor for parties when they’re coming into court.”

You say you want to promote diversion programs and accountability courts so that first-time non-violent offenders and drug-use related offenders get a second chance and a clean record. Can you expand on why you believe in this?

“For those who say that drug cases are a victimless crime — there is no victimless crime. The goal is for a healthy and whole community. So whether it’s society who bears the brunt of that crime or it’s the perpetrator’s family that suffers, for individuals who are directly harmed, all crimes have impact and have victims.

“But that does not mean we treat all crime the same. When we incarcerate someone for drugs, there is an indirect punishment on the person’s family and their lives are impacted when that individual is incarcerated for drugs. So when dealing with drug crimes, that’s why I say we need to promote rehabilitation and promote diversion programs for the first time nonviolent offenders — to increase their chances of success and get them out of the cycle of crime.”

In your time as an attorney, have you noticed that some of the same people cycle in and out of the justice system? If so, what do you think may be the root causes of why people may continually end up in the system?

“Unfortunately, I’ve seen through the 26 years a lot of times the same individuals come back through our system. And it’s oftentimes because they didn’t get significant help on the front end. What diversion programs do is it requires offenders to do community service, requires them to get an evaluation and follow the recommended treatment in order to gain an exoneration where the crime is not on their record. And so having someone do more on the front end — through rehabilitation and going through diversion — will set them up better so they’re not coming back into the system.

“Unfortunately, sometimes what I’ve seen as a criminal defense lawyer, when someone gets a plea to a three year probation and they’re having to report on probation, that is easier for them than having to go through a rehab program, or go through a program where they have to earn a case being removed from their record because they have to do community service and have to go through an evaluation and treatment.

“And so sometimes, I think when it’s too easy, and as they get more offenses, it’s only when they get more offenses that they’re going to look and see for rehabilitation at that point. However, it is a lot harder for them because they have more time that they’ve been abusing drugs.”

You say you want to focus judicial time on violent crime so the community feels safe. What does this actually look like?

“A lot of the Superior Court criminal docket has a lot of first time nonviolent offenses, as well as drug offenses on the calendar. If we’re in a position where we provide the resources for rehabilitation and diversion programs for those cases, those cases will come off the docket and that will lead to more serious cases on the docket, such as the armed robbery, the gang cases. Those cases are ones that the court can focus on, because for the previous cases, those cases will be moved because we diverted them earlier through diversion programs and through rehabilitation and treatment.”

There is a lot of emphasis in the world of criminal justice reform on rehab for nonviolent offenders. Do you think there is any chance for violent offenders to be rehabilitated also so that they do not go out and commit more violent crimes? What could that look like, if so?

“Well, the violent offenses, we’re having someone who’s been directly harmed and a family has been directly harmed by an individual’s actions. When you have someone who has been a victim of a violent offense, or offenses, that is the kind of crime that would at that point call for incarceration and punishment.

“There is a theory [in criminal justice] of trying to rehabilitate where possible, but there is a punishment aspect as well. And some offenses — while there may be things to be done to rehabilitate one, sometimes a crime is so serious that the call is for incarceration. You’re just going to have to take things on a case by case basis. But generally, those are the types of crimes that would call for incarceration and punishment.”

You say you’ve represented people from all walks of life. Can you elaborate on that and how it has informed your career and your campaign beliefs?

“Most of [my clients] have been indigent clients, low-income clients, and it’s been more difficult for them in the judicial system, because they’re not in a position to hire experts. They’re not in a position to pay for all the things that are necessary to adequately present their case.

“Having known that, and knowing what these individuals experienced and the challenges they face, that makes me more understanding of all parties involved because I’ve been there with them. I’ve represented them through the years. I know what they have faced, and having that experience and having that compassion and that knowledge allows me to better empathize with them, and understand what they are going through.”

You’ve had experience working with victims of domestic violence pro bono. Work from anti-DV organizations shows that some victims may be afraid to report their abusers because those in the criminal justice system may not take them seriously. How do you think that you as a judge can work to make victims of DV feel safer and supported so that they may feel more emboldened to take legal action against their abuser?

“Having represented them and understanding the cycle of violence and those factors that go into it, it’s not uncommon for [victims] not to report initially, the first time violence occurred. They would have someone who understands that, that’s serving on the bench who understands what those facts are, I can do that.

“Now, I also had the experience where I represented defendants who were charged with that as well. The main thing is for a judge to decide the cases that are brought before them. But I have experience representing both sides of that issue, [so I will be] able to fairly and justly decide those cases.

“Having had that experience, I know the social science behind that, why they don’t [report]. The main thing that we can do as judge is to treat everyone with dignity and respect. When [victims] know that they can be treated with dignity and respect, they’re more likely to come forward in court to report that.”

You say you want to work to expand technology so the court system can be more accessible. What does this look like to you?

“What that looks like to me would be to partner with other county agencies. I think the best would be the Cobb County Library, where you can go to the library and be able to log on and appear in court remotely. I would like to see remote technology continue to be used with the court. I think there’s a lot of things the pandemic has taught us that we can use remote technology for. We can use remote technology for pleas, there’s certain civil cases that can be heard.

“Not everyone has the same level of technology and it’s not as easy for them to log on to either Zoom or WebEx or whatever system the court queues. In Cobb County it’s been Zoom, but not everyone has the same access to the internet or the same access to the level of internet, the level of Wi-Fi speeds. So I would like to see that.

“That will require partnering with other county agencies where people can go and instead of coming to the courthouse because transportation is an issue with them — a lot of times transportation is an issue — they can go and report there and be able to have the access to that technology. That’s what I would like to see. If I was on the court, I would work with other agencies of government so we can set that system up so people can report in other locations and appear for court.”

How do you think your background has prepared you to become a Superior Court judge?

“In 26 years, I’ve seen every case, I’ve handled every type of case. The majority of the cases that come before the Superior Court are criminal cases, and the majority of cases that come before the court are domestic cases. I’ve handled those cases. I’ve handled multiple trials in the Superior Court, I’ve handled multiple appeals from the Superior Court.

“I’ve practiced in a number of counties throughout the metro Atlanta and a number of counties throughout Georgia. I’ve seen practices that work and I’ve seen practices that don’t work. I think this broad base of experience, and knowing what works with trials and what doesn’t work with trials has prepared me to take this next step to be our judge for Cobb County Superior Court.”

Anything else not mentioned here you would like for voters to know about you and/or your campaign?

“I would like voters to know that I’m running to be our Superior Court judge because I have a deep love of Cobb County. This is where I was raised and this is now where I raise my family.

“When I say I’m focused on Cobb families, that’s because my family is the most important thing to me. Everyone’s family is most important to them, and I want to make sure that I do everything I can to help them thrive and help them have a fair shot. I want everyone to know that they’re going to be treated fairly, they’re going to be treated with dignity before the court, and I will do what I can to protect their families as Cobb County Superior Court judge.”

To learn more about Luttrell, visit his website.

How do you think your background has prepared you to become a Superior Court judge?

“In 26 years, I’ve seen every case, I’ve handled every type of case. The majority of the cases that come before the Superior Court are criminal cases, and the majority of cases that come before the court are domestic cases. I’ve handled those cases. I’ve handled multiple trials in the Superior Court, I’ve handled multiple appeals from the Superior Court.

“I’ve practiced in a number of counties throughout the metro Atlanta and a number of counties throughout Georgia. I’ve seen practices that work and I’ve seen practices that don’t work. I think this broad base of experience, and knowing what works with trials and what doesn’t work with trials has prepared me to take this next step to be our judge for Cobb County Superior Court.”

Anything else not mentioned here you would like for voters to know about you and/or your campaign?

“I would like voters to know that I’m running to be our Superior Court judge because I have a deep love of Cobb County. This is where I was raised and this is now where I raise my family.

“When I say I’m focused on Cobb families, that’s because my family is the most important thing to me. Everyone’s family is most important to them, and I want to make sure that I do everything I can to help them thrive and help them have a fair shot. I want everyone to know that they’re going to be treated fairly, they’re going to be treated with dignity before the court, and I will do what I can to protect their families as Cobb County Superior Court judge.”

To learn more about Luttrell, visit his website.

s, contract disputes, premises liability, and various other actions. In addition, the Superior Court has exclusive equity jurisdiction over all cases of divorce, title to land, and felonies involving jury trials, including death penalty cases.”

To check out other candidates the Courier has interviewed about this nonpartisan race, please click here.

Talk about your background. Who are you?

Luttrell: “My name is James Luttrell. I am married to my wife, Stephany, and we have one daughter, Julie. We’ve lived in Smyrna for the last 13 years. I grew up here in Cobb County as well, I’ve lived in Cobb County for over 45 years. I moved here with my parents when I was about four years old.

“I graduated from North Cobb High School and went on to college at Kennesaw State. I then went to Mercer Law School and I returned back to Cobb County, where I worked for a year under Randal Akers in Kennesaw and then I went to work for Greg Hicks for 10 years as an attorney. I came back and worked as my own attorney for the last 14 years.”

Your campaign platform seems to be bringing equality, fairness, and justice to Cobb families. Can you elaborate on what this tangibly looks like?

“When I talk about bringing equality for all families, it’s for everyone that comes before me when I’m judge. When they come into my court, everyone knows that they are going to get a fair shake, and have the opportunity to have a fair hearing before myself. The decisions are going to be based on what the evidence is and what the law states. It’s not going to be based on any other factors.

“When I talk about that, that means that the law is truly going to be decided on what is the evidence in the case and what law applies to that case, and not any external factors such as race, age, financial situation. Those are not going to be factors that I’m going to use in making and deciding cases.”

Your website says you want to restore trust and confidence in the court system. What makes you say that people have lost trust in the system?

“In the last few years, there has been this extremely partisan environment. There is some, I will say, a lack of trust in our government. I don’t know if it’s necessarily so much in the Cobb County court system, in general, but there is a lacking where some people don’t have as much confidence in what the government says or does.

“When I say restore trust, I think it’s important that we decide cases in a neutral manner, decide it based on the evidence and facts, and be open and transparent in making our decisions, so people will know that these cases are being decided based on the evidence, based on the law, and they’ll see what has happened. We just got to be open about it. People need to be able to have trust that when we’re making decisions in the court that those are right and just decisions.”

In general, do you think the court system as it stands right now is fair and compassionate to folks, especially to folks from working-class backgrounds and people of color? Why or why not? If you don’t think it’s fair, how do you work to improve things?

“What I’ve seen as an attorney who’s represented indigent clients for 26 years, is that lack of income has an impact on the outcome of cases. Indigent criminal defendants should have the same access to investigators and expert witnesses, where necessary, that the state has. For those who are in civil cases, a lack of income can impact their ability to get a lawyer because a lawyer is not appointed to represent someone in a civil case.

“So a court has a responsibility to make sure that the parties are able to secure representation. That may require granting a brief continuance, but we don’t want to unreasonably delay the case. I think the biggest impact in the judicial system is a lack of income. I think we’ve got to try to do what we can to make sure that is not such a factor for parties when they’re coming into court.”

You say you want to promote diversion programs and accountability courts so that first-time non-violent offenders and drug-use related offenders get a second chance and a clean record. Can you expand on why you believe in this?

“For those who say that drug cases are a victimless crime — there is no victimless crime. The goal is for a healthy and whole community. So whether it’s society who bears the brunt of that crime or it’s the perpetrator’s family that suffers, for individuals who are directly harmed, all crimes have impact and have victims.

“But that does not mean we treat all crime the same. When we incarcerate someone for drugs, there is an indirect punishment on the person’s family and their lives are impacted when that individual is incarcerated for drugs. So when dealing with drug crimes, that’s why I say we need to promote rehabilitation and promote diversion programs for the first time nonviolent offenders — to increase their chances of success and get them out of the cycle of crime.”

In your time as an attorney, have you noticed that some of the same people cycle in and out of the justice system? If so, what do you think may be the root causes of why people may continually end up in the system?

“Unfortunately, I’ve seen through the 26 years a lot of times the same individuals come back through our system. And it’s oftentimes because they didn’t get significant help on the front end. What diversion programs do is it requires offenders to do community service, requires them to get an evaluation and follow the recommended treatment in order to gain an exoneration where the crime is not on their record. And so having someone do more on the front end — through rehabilitation and going through diversion — will set them up better so they’re not coming back into the system.

“Unfortunately, sometimes what I’ve seen as a criminal defense lawyer, when someone gets a plea to a three year probation and they’re having to report on probation, that is easier for them than having to go through a rehab program, or go through a program where they have to earn a case being removed from their record because they have to do community service and have to go through an evaluation and treatment.

“And so sometimes, I think when it’s too easy, and as they get more offenses, it’s only when they get more offenses that they’re going to look and see for rehabilitation at that point. However, it is a lot harder for them because they have more time that they’ve been abusing drugs.”

You say you want to focus judicial time on violent crime so the community feels safe. What does this actually look like?

“A lot of the Superior Court criminal docket has a lot of first time nonviolent offenses, as well as drug offenses on the calendar. If we’re in a position where we provide the resources for rehabilitation and diversion programs for those cases, those cases will come off the docket and that will lead to more serious cases on the docket, such as the armed robbery, the gang cases. Those cases are ones that the court can focus on, because for the previous cases, those cases will be moved because we diverted them earlier through diversion programs and through rehabilitation and treatment.”

There is a lot of emphasis in the world of criminal justice reform on rehab for nonviolent offenders. Do you think there is any chance for violent offenders to be rehabilitated also so that they do not go out and commit more violent crimes? What could that look like, if so?

“Well, the violent offenses, we’re having someone who’s been directly harmed and a family has been directly harmed by an individual’s actions. When you have someone who has been a victim of a violent offense, or offenses, that is the kind of crime that would at that point call for incarceration and punishment.

“There is a theory [in criminal justice] of trying to rehabilitate where possible, but there is a punishment aspect as well. And some offenses — while there may be things to be done to rehabilitate one, sometimes a crime is so serious that the call is for incarceration. You’re just going to have to take things on a case by case basis. But generally, those are the types of crimes that would call for incarceration and punishment.”

You say you’ve represented people from all walks of life. Can you elaborate on that and how it has informed your career and your campaign beliefs?

“Most of [my clients] have been indigent clients, low-income clients, and it’s been more difficult for them in the judicial system, because they’re not in a position to hire experts. They’re not in a position to pay for all the things that are necessary to adequately present their case.

“Having known that, and knowing what these individuals experienced and the challenges they face, that makes me more understanding of all parties involved because I’ve been there with them. I’ve represented them through the years. I know what they have faced, and having that experience and having that compassion and that knowledge allows me to better empathize with them, and understand what they are going through.”

You’ve had experience working with victims of domestic violence pro bono. Work from anti-DV organizations shows that some victims may be afraid to report their abusers because those in the criminal justice system may not take them seriously. How do you think that you as a judge can work to make victims of DV feel safer and supported so that they may feel more emboldened to take legal action against their abuser?

“Having represented them and understanding the cycle of violence and those factors that go into it, it’s not uncommon for [victims] not to report initially, the first time violence occurred. They would have someone who understands that, that’s serving on the bench who understands what those facts are, I can do that.

“Now, I also had the experience where I represented defendants who were charged with that as well. The main thing is for a judge to decide the cases that are brought before them. But I have experience representing both sides of that issue, [so I will be] able to fairly and justly decide those cases.

“Having had that experience, I know the social science behind that, why they don’t [report]. The main thing that we can do as judge is to treat everyone with dignity and respect. When [victims] know that they can be treated with dignity and respect, they’re more likely to come forward in court to report that.”

You say you want to work to expand technology so the court system can be more accessible. What does this look like to you?

“What that looks like to me would be to partner with other county agencies. I think the best would be the Cobb County Library, where you can go to the library and be able to log on and appear in court remotely. I would like to see remote technology continue to be used with the court. I think there’s a lot of things the pandemic has taught us that we can use remote technology for. We can use remote technology for pleas, there’s certain civil cases that can be heard.

“Not everyone has the same level of technology and it’s not as easy for them to log on to either Zoom or WebEx or whatever system the court queues. In Cobb County it’s been Zoom, but not everyone has the same access to the internet or the same access to the level of internet, the level of Wi-Fi speeds. So I would like to see that.

“That will require partnering with other county agencies where people can go and instead of coming to the courthouse because transportation is an issue with them — a lot of times transportation is an issue — they can go and report there and be able to have the access to that technology. That’s what I would like to see. If I was on the court, I would work with other agencies of government so we can set that system up so people can report in other locations and appear for court.”

How do you think your background has prepared you to become a Superior Court judge?

“In 26 years, I’ve seen every case, I’ve handled every type of case. The majority of the cases that come before the Superior Court are criminal cases, and the majority of cases that come before the court are domestic cases. I’ve handled those cases. I’ve handled multiple trials in the Superior Court, I’ve handled multiple appeals from the Superior Court.

“I’ve practiced in a number of counties throughout the metro Atlanta and a number of counties throughout Georgia. I’ve seen practices that work and I’ve seen practices that don’t work. I think this broad base of experience, and knowing what works with trials and what doesn’t work with trials has prepared me to take this next step to be our judge for Cobb County Superior Court.”

Anything else not mentioned here you would like for voters to know about you and/or your campaign?

“I would like voters to know that I’m running to be our Superior Court judge because I have a deep love of Cobb County. This is where I was raised and this is now where I raise my family.

“When I say I’m focused on Cobb families, that’s because my family is the most important thing to me. Everyone’s family is most important to them, and I want to make sure that I do everything I can to help them thrive and help them have a fair shot. I want everyone to know that they’re going to be treated fairly, they’re going to be treated with dignity before the court, and I will do what I can to protect their families as Cobb County Superior Court judge.”

To learn more about Luttrell, visit his website.

Arielle Robinson is a student at Kennesaw State University. She is the current president of the university’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and former editor at the KSU Sentinel.  She enjoys music, reading poetry and non-fiction books and collecting books and records. She enjoys all kinds of music and reading poetry and non-fiction books.

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1 Comment on "Q & A with James Luttrell, candidate for Cobb County Superior Court judge"

  1. I liked that each candidate answered the same questions. That allowed me to compare the candidates – to see if I agreed or disagreed with them.

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