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Voters question state court, magistrate candidates

It is not common during an election cycle for judicial candidates to be able to have their say at a community forum. But that is what happened June 14 when candidates for Fayette County Magistrate Court judge and Fayette County State Court judge met before 200 voters in Fayetteville.

The candidates included magistrate judge candidates Catherine Sanderson and Jason Thompson and state court judge candidates Stephen Ott and State Court Judge Carla McMillian.
Each of the candidates gave opening statements prior to fielding questions.
A former trial attorney, McMillian in mid-2010 was appointed as by Gov. Sonny Perdue as Fayette County State Court judge when Judge Fletcher Sams was named to serve as Superior Court judge on the Griffin Judicial Circuit. McMillian in her opening statement took the stance that she is tough on crime and sentencing.
“I value this community and I want it safe and secure for children,” McMillian said, noting one aspect of her approach.
Expanding on her stance, McMillian said she has personal experience in dealing with the after-effects of crime, noting that she had two cousins who were murdered over $40.
“I promise I’ll never forget the high price crime imposes on all of us,” she said.
Stephen Ott is an attorney who currently serves as the municipal judge in Peachtree City and has served as a prosecutor and defense attorney. That experience, Ott said, provides a more complete view of both components of the judicial system, he said. Another aspect of Ott’s judicial outlook deals with outcomes.
“Punishing crime and deterring crime should teach something along the way,” Ott said.
Ott in his opening statement said he would bring dedication to the job and noted the need to be fiscally responsible and cut the cost of court operations where possible.
Catherine Sanderson is the owner of Sanderson Law, PC. Practicing primarily in the area of family law, Sanderson said she has experience in both civil and criminal cases in Fayette County city courts and in magistrate, state and superior courts.
Sanderson in her opening remarks said she has broad experience in dealing with people.
“I can communicate and find solutions that are reasonable,” Sanderson said. “I’m reasonable and fair.”
Jason Thompson has tried cases in all courts in the Griffin Judicial District, serves as Special Appointed Prosecutor in Spalding State Court and is a certified mediator.
Thompson in his opening statement said he loves the Fayette community, adding that, “I’ve been in the trenches with law enforcement and I promise to be ready to serve on Day 1. I’ll work as hard as I can to make this community safe.”
The questioning began once opening remarks had concluded. One question went to McMillian and centered on what was referred to as the large majority of the campaign contributions she had received coming from people living outside Fayette County and specifically those contributions from attorneys outside Fayette.
McMillian said she had contributions of $24,000 from both inside and outside the county. McMillian agreed that a large number of those contributions came from attorneys, explaining that those attorneys practicing in the Atlanta area knew her from law school at the University of Georgia and from her time with an Atlanta law firm.
“They know me and my character and I’m humbled by their support,” McMillian said, adding that, “None of these folks have cases in Fayette County.”
Another question that surfaced dealt with Thompson’s wife who is Assistant Solicitor General in Fayette County and whether her job represented a conflict if he is elected as magistrate judge.
“I spoke with the Superior Court judges and with the Clerk of the Court and they all said it is not an issue,” Thompson responded.
But Sanderson had a comment on the issue, saying that speaking with the clerk and the judges does not answer the question.
“It raises a question of impropriety,” Sanderson said of the married couple representing both the prosecutorial and judicial aspects of the justice system in the same county. “I think could be a real problem for our citizens.”
Thompson then responded, saying that, as magistrate judge, his wife would not appear before him. But Sanderson disagreed, saying that the solicitor would come before the judge on issues such as bond hearings.
In a separate question Sanderson was asked how the court process could be sped up to avoid spending “all day in court.”
“Some things can wait. Some can’t. I will be at the courthouse when I’m on duty. There will be no waiting,” Sanderson said, noting that she would work with other courts to try to expedite the process. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Thompson also responded to the question, suggesting that some cases might be better served in going through a mediation program.
“I think we’ll have a mediation program so (citizens) won’t waste time in the courtroom,” he said.
Ott also weighed in, noting the advantages of diversion programs.
“Cases are different with different problems,” he said, citing examples of diversion programs used in cities such as Peachtree City. “Some people are in court for making poor choices. (Diversion) can help people make better decision in every aspect of life.”
A question answered by all the candidates asked, in terms of expenses, what items in their respective courts they would cut or change.
Ott he would address the number of hours law enforcement officers spend in court, adding that he would streamline the court bureaucracy.
McMillian said she believes the court is currently running efficiently and that law enforcement is only required to attend when the trial will be going forward.
Sanderson in her response said the magistrate court is efficient and well-run, adding that she would be there and available and would not waste the time of citizens or law enforcement.
And Thompson responded saying a mediation program would save on court costs by moving cases through in a quicker fashion.
The candidate’s forum was held at the Harvest Christian Community Center in Fayetteville and was sponsored by the Fayette County Local Issues Tea Party.


CombatCorrespondent's picture

Voters question state court, magistrate candidates. Photos from the event.


Incumbent by Appointment State Court Judge Carla Wong McMillian is in trouble with Fayette voters. McMillian admitted at the Tea Party that the majority of her donations were coming from lawyers in Atlanta and the word is getting around.

McMillian said she had received $24,000 from both inside and outside Fayette. But the disclosure records shows that $19,172 came from people who can’t vote in Fayette. She has received only $3,250 from Fayette citizens.

The $19,172 is almost as much as 4 candidates for various judgeships received. James White, Stephen Ott, Catherine Sanderson & Jason Thompson only received $23,309 combined.

Vote for the hometown Fayette man Stephen Ott .

Speaking at a public Tea Party Forum on the issue of judicial fines, Carla McMillian said that she couldn’t help huge fines for Fayette citizens of dog owners because fines were set by schedule and she had no other choice. An untruthful statement, which McMillian calls being tough on crime.

Anyone familiar with the law knows Judges have discretion on fines. Most misdemeanors such as dogs getting loose range from 0-$1000 depending on the facts and evidence.

McMillian’s opponent Stephen Ott said depending on the circumstances, he can give different fines, probation or community service without fine.

Beware all you criminal animal lovers.

NUK_1's picture

You seem to have forgotten that the DA's office can and will drop charges at times and "The Judge" can only rule on what charges are brought before him/her.

If you want to vote for a guy that Eric Maxwell thinks is awesome and supports financially, go for it. I can't see any reason to. Someone who crusades heavily against smoking while apparently spending all of his time in the buffet line at Ryan's and couldn't cut it in private practice isn't my choice for anything besides "not judge."

I could care less if Mcmillan has outside support or not. When you have a no-character person like Maxwell backing Ott to the max, that IS an issue.

Ever heard of the old saying "never trust a fat banker?" I apply that to attorneys also.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

Yep, Maxwell was voted out, but he's still pulling strings and here's how he would have you vote
and maybe Horgan
does any of that make any sense at all?

may I suggest a sane alternative
Huddleston and then Barlow in the runoff

Live free or die!

NUK_1's picture

Though I'd probably go with Huddleston over Barlow. The rest? Right on.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

I think the runoff will be Smith and Barlow and my anti-Brown finger will hover over Smith's name for a couple of seconds, but then I will do what is right for the county and vote for Barlow. Of course if by some miracle Huddleston is there in the runoff against either one of them, she will get my vote.

I have no feelings at all for Sanderson/Thompson, but I'll go for the female. Our big time male judges seem to get in lots of trouble.

And since Mr. Drake has chimed in - NO, NO, and NO on the transportation tax. I sure hope you can appreciate my opposing point of view.

Live free or die!

efdrakejr's picture

I have often said that good people will disagree on the transportation referendum and, quite frankly, I can accept that (as long as they are not relying on misinformation). But I would still be leary of a guy who seems to think God is on his side of what appear to be non-religious issues.

Gene Drake

efdrakejr's picture

As most of you know, I support the T-SPLOST and had my "Vote YES for Transportation" button on at the Rotary-sponsored Candidates' Meet & Greet. I was speaking to a lady from my neighborhood who is opposed to it when Barlow yelled at me from about 15 feet away, not once but twice, that I was going to have to answer to God for supporting the TSPLOST.

I'm not throwing my support behind anyone but I'd be awfully careful with a guy like that who can't handle conflicting points of view.

Gene Drake

NUK_1's picture

[quote=efdrakejr]As most of you know, I support the T-SPLOST and had my "Vote YES for Transportation" button on at the Rotary-sponsored Candidates' Meet & Greet. I was speaking to a lady from my neighborhood who is opposed to it when Barlow yelled at me from about 15 feet away, not once but twice, that I was going to have to answer to God for supporting the TSPLOST.

I'm not throwing my support behind anyone but I'd be awfully careful with a guy like that who can't handle conflicting points of view.[/quote]

Don't doubt what you are saying for one minute as I have observed the same in person and what he has sent to the newspaper.

No way in HELL I'm voting for someone who wants to not only impose religious litmus test to every issue or person, but also expects everyone else to feel the exact same way his limited mind thinks. PUKE.

Yelling out at you? Seriously, we can do better. Sounds like something Haddix would do.

Nuk is probably about spot on about this joker.

iRonin's picture

1.) The solicitor's office, not the DA, handles State court.

2.) They rarely drop charges.

3.) The solicitor's office never makes a recommendation on fines or fees. Those are left to judicial discretion.

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