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My opponent has overstated his qualifications and misleads the voters

In a recent letter to the editor and in several other forums, my opponent has made a number of claims that are either gross exaggerations or are completely false. I am writing to set the record straight.

My opponent states that he is ready to serve due to his “vast legal experience as a judge, prosecutor, and mediator.” I believe that it is fair for the voting public to know that my opponent has never been the elected or appointed judge anywhere.

In fact, he has previously served as the Judge, Pro Hac for Peachtree City, which means that he has sometimes been a substitute for the appointed Judge, Stephen Ott. If you ask the City or Mr. Ott, I think you will learn that my opponent has very rarely sat the bench. In fact, he has done so probably fewer than 10 times, period. This does not suit my definition of “vast.”

With regard to his experience as a mediator, I would point out that, to my knowledge, my opponent has never handled a single mediation through our local mediation office, the Griffin Alternative Dispute Resolution office. While it is possible that he has handled a private mediation on the rare occasion, again, his mediation experience does not rise to the level of “vast.”

That leaves his experience as a prosecutor. To my knowledge, my opponent has had a part-time job prosecuting traffic tickets and DUI’s in Griffin, Georgia. He has never handled a felony criminal matter. Again, he stretches the use of the term “vast.”

To the contrary, I have presented my own qualifications concisely and without exaggeration. I have been trying cases in Fayette County courts since 1999. I have had my own firm, Sanderson Law, PC since 2004. I have handled felony and misdemeanor criminal matters in our municipal, magistrate, state and superior courts, as well as hundreds of civil cases.

I have years of experience handling domestic violence cases. I have filed and tried five times as many cases as has my opponent in Fayette County courts. I have mediated dozens of cases as an advocate. I wish to be your magistrate court judge because I have the trial experience and common sense necessary to ensure that justice is served.

I have stated previously that I believe that my opponent has a conflict of interest that should preclude him from seeking this office. His wife is one of the two assistant-solicitors that prosecute misdemeanors in our county. She regularly appears in the Magistrate Court.

I strongly believe that it is incumbent upon all lawyers and judges to conduct themselves in such a way as to give the public a sense of faith and fairness in our justice system. It is important to avoid not just actual conflicts, but also the appearance of impropriety in our criminal justice system.

My opponent’s wife’s position as an assistant solicitor would create an actual conflict, that could only be resolved if she were to stop practicing in the magistrate court (which could be a cost to our county).

Furthermore, it would erode public confidence in our system if a judge is signing arrest warrants in the presence of a prosecutor, whether or not she goes on to prosecute that case.

However, my opponent would have you believe that no conflict exists at all. He has suggested that our Chief Superior Court Judge and Chief Magistrate have verified this. This assertion is in fact blatantly false.

Neither of the named judges ever said there is not a conflict. In fact, it is not the role of other public officials to decide this conflict. My opponent has engaged in deception in order to try to take voter’s attention away from a legitimate issue in this race.

My opponent goes on to state in his letter that he is the “only qualified candidate” for Magistrate Judge. That is simply a ludicrous assertion. The truth is we are both qualified candidates. I have never suggested otherwise.

I do feel that I am more qualified, due to my trial and life experiences. I am also a better candidate because I have no conflicts of interest with the prosecutor’s office. However, I would never suggest that my opponent is unqualified for office.

Do we really want to elect a Judge that twists the truth to gain votes?

Catherine Sanderson,

Candidate for Magistrate Judge



I'm not sure why we don't hear about things like this more often. This is exactly what's wrong with Government these days! Just because it's a small town election doesn't make it less important than the upcoming national election; it's arguably more important since we as Fayette County citizens have a greater chance to really make an impact! It looks like Catherine Sanderson's opponent Jason Thompson's credentials are questionable, if what's here is true. I've heard these accusations towards Jason Thompson already, and I'm disappointed that the newspaper doesn't seem to appreciate the severity of these accusations. A judge that lies during his campaign? Until Jason Thompson addresses these issues satisfactorily, I'll be voting for Catherine in the elections. I don't want a judge that feels comfortable lying, and I'm not sure the rest of Fayette County does either.

highflyer2's picture

Don't try and fight the "system". They stick together tighter than super glue! Vote for whoever you want to, the outcome will be the same.

MajorMike's picture

It can be done. I've both won and lost significant battles with the "system". Many times people inside the system will throw an obvious loser to the dogs despite that "loser"'s connections. Former county Manager Chris Venice is a prime example.

On a more realistic level, the best way to fix the major hiccups in a government is to get rid of both elected officials and employees that are in positions of power for their own gain and motives. That process really began in earnest in Fayette County about three years ago and some of the losers are still in shock that the voters would dare turn them out of office. To quote FORMER Mayer Ken Steele; "Jack and Eric communicated their positions just fine!!! It was that DAMN Steve Brown!!" (That spoken in a VERY loud voice).

It just takes time, effort, and a few good people willing to step up to the plate. The Citizen's willingness to shine a light on some of government's shenanigans has been a breath of fresh air.

The stakes are high this time around. Get out and vote!!!

Robert W. Morgan's picture

The new big 3 being Horgan, Hearn and Smith (filling in for Frady). How they could not be prepared to lose is almost unthinkable unless their egos are larger than their brains, which is certainly possible.

I am certain Ognio and Oddo win, maybe we'll get a runoff in the open seat and if one of the finalists is Barlow we can have a huge debate about whether he is a Brown toady or not. Of course the dream runoff would be Huddleston/Smith. That could actually be interesting. But all that pales in comparison to the very important task of cleansing the commission of Horgan, Hearn, Frady (done deal) and staving off a Smith comeback.

Live free or die!

MajorMike's picture

I suspect you might be right about the new big 3 (being Horgan, Hearn and Smith) being shocked tomorrow. The night that Ken Steele went down I was told that that he and his whole camp were in a state of shock - they simply could not believe that Kenny boy did not get reelected (got his BUTT KICKED). I am already getting rumblings that he's going to try again in the next cycle. After reading his "sour grapes" letter, nothing would surprise me.

I don't think that Smith and Horgan are running on ego. I would bet money and give odds that Smith has made commitments at the regional, state, and financial levels that were suddenly put in danger when he was booted out. Herb Frady picked up the banner and tried his best to fulfill those commitments. Sometime during the last year Frady became disillusioned and bailed out of the plan leaving Jack Smith stuck between a rock and a hard place. Since I'm not voting for God or Jesus or Jack Smith, I voted for Sheila Huddleston. It may indeed wind up in a run off and I bet that is what Smith's plan is. Don't EVER underestimate Jack Smith, he's been posturing for higher political office for two decades and his political life is on the line right now.

Horgan is just trying to survive and not looking too good. He did have two businesses and told me that he had to sell one. Most folks want to talk about the wacky weed and probation violation but to me it's about DUI and his part in "the Three Amigos". If he had hit a child while DUI, I personally would have considered knee capping the stupid ^%$*** with my 1911A2. If I lived on the WFB I would have done more than consider knee capping him. He's toast.

Hearn is going to hang tough but despite a considerable amount of support from fellow bible thumpers, I believe that his WFB shenanigans coupled with his Lester family trust (Addison Lester) connections, and his hypocritical bible thumping, are going to bring him down. Tsplost is going to hurt him too.

I would like to clone Oddo and put him in a few more County or City positions.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

I mean we haven't even see the guy win yet. And if he does - cloning? as in duplicating? Oddo may be a nice guy, but what if you could clone others? You want 2 Browns? 2 Steeles? 2 Haddicai?

That being said, maybe the reasons you state for Jack Smith running again are valid. I do know he likes the limelight of the state capitol, as does Brown, Frady and others. So maybe he thinks he can win, maybe he wants to show he can keep his rail promises, maybe he wants to replace Matt Ramsey or even Lynn Westmoreland. Maybe he's nuts.

Whatever his reasons, vote him down or put him in a runoff with Shelia Huddleston.

Live free or die!

As I have stated on here several times before, I consider myself a liberty loving Conservative/Libertarian blend, Conservatarian if you will, (think Reagan with a dash of Ron Paul).

I have not followed the local races very much so a little help would be appreciated.

Anyone care to list the smaller government, Constitution following, tyranny hating, liberty loving, God fearing, among this group that is up for election tomorrow?

Thanks -GP

highflyer2's picture

Only if I had the money for a GOOD lawyer Mike, I PROMISE you that I could turn Fayette County government on it's head! But then again, thats all another story for another day.

suggarfoot's picture

I so agree

suggarfoot's picture

I so agree

highflyer2, MajorMike, et al.,
I want to assure you all that I do fight the system. On many occasions I have championed the underdog, and come out ahead. If you talk to my clients or other attorneys that know my reputation in the courtroom, I think you will find that I am known for being willing to take on the hard cases. I have linked here an example of a case in which I was involved. In that case, the state had determined to take away a mother's rights to her child forever due to violence inflicted by the mother's new husband. Violence that she did not condone, nor could she have acted to stop. Because of my hard work, and that of other lawyers involved, we got that child returned to her mother. Justice does not always prevail, but I don't go down without a fight.

I wasn't the attorney who kept missing hearings. I came in at the end, and was insturmental in the final trial and appeal of the case, resulting in the child being returned to her mother.

suggarfoot's picture

I will never forget your kindness. We lost, justice wasn't done, but you fought.

If we had anyone but Judge English,(showboat) we would have won. It was a child custody case. A very damaged PDS Viet Nam vet wanted his son he had never paid the slightest attention to. A child I raised alone. He wanted him only to collect child support. Pappy's ego decided the case and in front of me and you, Judge English yelled out for him not to leave the court room without letting him shake his hand, one vet to another. Mano to Mano...ego to ego...reall justice. But you were good, we would have won with a real judge. Thabk you again Catherine

Oftentimes children will grasp for approval from that parent who most withholds it. A painful situation. I hope you and your son are doing okay! I recall that the judge knew about the vet's status before the hearing even started. Totally inappropriate ex parte contact. I hope and pray Fayette is moving forward from those days!

suggarfoot's picture

I voted for you!

suggarfoot's picture

I voted for you!

suggarfoot's picture

I voted for you!

suggarfoot's picture

I will never forget your kindness. We lost, justice wasn't done, but you fought.

If we had anyone but Judge English,(showboat) we would have won. It was a child custody case. A very damaged PDS Viet Nam vet wanted his son he had never paid the slightest attention to. A child I raised alone. He wanted him only to collect child support. Pappy's ego decided the case and in front of me and you, Judge English yelled out for him not to leave the court room without letting him shake his hand, one vet to another. Mano to Mano...ego to ego...reall justice. But you were good, we would have won with a real judge. Thabk you again Catherine

Ms. Sanderson, I'm curious as to why this matter wasn't brought to attention before now. I first received materials from Mr. Thompson more than 3 months ago; I received a mailer from him last week as well. I compared the notes, and he seems to have the same qualifications listed. I know the two of you have publicly "debated" so why didn't you mention this before? It's hard to decide who is telling the truth in a game of "he said, she said."

I did try to raise these issues in a less public way, in an effort to refrain from "negative" campaigning. My opponent did stop referring to himself as a judge for a while. My first letter raising the conflict was sent a couple weeks prior to its publication, right after the first debate However, my opponent's claims just got more volume, culminating in his untruths about the sitting judge's statements, and his letter claiming he is the only qualified candidate. At that point, and after conferring with other lawyers, I realized that it was incumbent upon me to raise these issues publicly. In retrospect, I should have raised them publicly long ago. I am not a politician, I am a courtroom lawyer, and was not as wise to the ways of political campaigns as others might be. I have tried to run a competent, dignified, diligent campaign free from mud slinging. I think the truth is not "mud" however!

here, Ms. Sanderson was at the Peachtree City Rotary Club Meet the Candidates forum. When she spoke, she did bring up her concerns about a possible conflict with the husband and wife combo. It made sense to me at the time.

I also raised a lot of these issues at both debates.

. . . . All FEDERAL magistrate judge positions require candidates to possess a law degree; HOWEVER, not all states or counties require magistrate judges to have a law degree.

Since not all magistrate judges are required to be lawyers, law practice is not a universal requirement. However, a large percentage of a judge's day may be spent presiding over trials and hearings; therefore, experience as a lawyer may facilitate the work of an aspiring magistrate judge. In areas where magistrate judges are required to be lawyers, law experience is vital. . . . .

Candidates please don't attempt to mislead the voters. Voters are seeking honest, passionate public servants to represent the citizens of our county; not polished politicians with possible conflicts of interest. . . . .
It appears Sanderson leads this race in trial and life experiences and the fact she has no conflict of interest in regards to the local judicial system.

Politicians make me sick. I already voted for Mr. Thompson this past Friday. I got his flyer in the mail last week and I voted on him based on his short bio of his experience. If Ms. Sanderson's contentions in this letter to the editor are correct I am afraid I voted for the wrong candidate. I wish I had read this letter first. I hate it that candidates can say whatever they want to get elected...and I hate it even more that someone running for judge can lie or "stretch the truth" to get elected. Now I really wish that I hadn't been so anxious to vote early.

Why would you believe EITHER ONE OF THEM?



tortugaocho's picture

Remarkable that a grubby litigator accuses her opponent of "twisting the truth". Catherine, when it comes to accusing someone of not doing the right thing, you live in a glass house. Your cheap shot about Thompson and his wife was not only fundamentally wrong but, for you, predictable. Please go away.

But I think it's a valid concern that a potential judge is married to a prosecutor. The last thing this county needs is a violent criminals prosecution to be overturned because someone from the prosecutors office was home when a warrant is signed. If this concern was brought up during a debate or whatever I am sorry I missed it. Because I definitely wouldn't have voted for him had I known that.

Do you want the same incumbents (and friends) as our leaders?
Do you want NEPOTISM to continue in several legs of our county systems?
Do you want public servants, or politicians?
I personally want honesty and new ideas, not the ways of the past. Looks like it is time to consider term limits for each office holder in order for our liberties to be restored.

NUK_1's picture

....not re-electing them over and over!

There is also nothing that stops anyone elected from serving only one/two/whatever term and then running again. Of course, many promise that and then change their minds after their belly starts getting full with all the pork of being in politics, but it always comes down to this: elect better people!

Nuk is right, but the problem is getting qualified candidates to run for even one term! When you look at how ugly this local campaign has been, it's no wonder. It's probably the worst I've seen in the 26 yrs I've lived here.

rolling stone's picture

[quote]...probably the worst I've seen in the 26 yrs I've lived here.[/quote]

Do you really think it beats the 2008 Sheriff's race? Now that was a hard act to follow.

Wasn't speaking to individual races but the campaign in toto.

Wasn't speaking to individual races but the campaign in toto.

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