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Letters from the editor: May 11, 2010

Cal Beverly's picture

THE STATE OF JUSTICE IN FAYETTE: Two judges from the same judicial circuit resign within days of each other, both because of women who are not their wives.

That’s probably unprecedented in Georgia history ... not the “not wives” part, but the near simultaneous resignations.

I called it the Thomaston Mafia, for the stranglehold that Upson County seemed to have upon the top judicial offices in the Griffin Circuit, comprising Upson, Pike, Spalding and Fayette counties.

The first trial I saw in the circuit was back in the late 1960s. Sleepy Judge McGehee was presiding over a Griffin murder case being prosecuted by part-time Solicitor-General Andrew Whalen. Within a year or so, Whalen — who lived in Spalding County, the largest in the circuit — became the sole judge and a Thomaston attorney named Ben Miller became what later would be called district attorney.

Miller became the circuit’s second superior court judge in the 1980s, beginning the ascendancy of Upson County lawyers. Johnnie Caldwell, son of the powerful state [corrected] insurance commissioner from Thomaston, became DA.

Then followed the appointment of Paschal English (Caldwell’s deputy), who incidentally promised to move from Thomaston to Fayette County, a move meant to placate the growing political power of once-tiny Fayette. He neglected to follow through on that promise.

Next to be appointed was Caldwell (why he was passed over in favor of his deputy in the late 1980s is another story and involves ye old editor).

Next, Chris Edwards of south Fayette stood on the street corners with his campaign sign and won his judgeship fair and square from the voters of the circuit without a prior gubernatorial appointment.

Then Tommy Hankinson of Thomaston was [corrected] appointed by Democrat Gov. Roy Barnes in 2003 to fill the unexpired term of Miller, who retired, and that brings us to today.

Yes, Caldwell was a legal train-wreck for the past 20 years. I’m amazed he lasted this long. I think there are few lawyers in the circuit who can truthfully swear they don’t know something that should have gotten Caldwell cashiered years ago. But, then again, there are a lot of lying lawyers, reliable informants tell me. If anything, Shakespeare was too kind.

Yes, English had to go because of multiple lapses in personal judgment that eventually compromised his judicial honor. However, I personally believe he was a reasonably fair judge.

I believe Judge Chris Edwards is the straightest of straight arrows. I believe he deserves credit for forcing the sordid affair into the spotlight.

The local judicial system has suffered a grievous public injury in recent days. There’s been a lot of willful turning away from the truth by a slew of lawyers and more than one elected official.

In my opinion, Chris Edwards is not among that discredited bunch. While he has unfairly been spattered by the mud splashed up by two unwise judges and some gutless and Monday-morning-quarterbacking anonymous lawyers, Chief Judge Edwards is likely to be a man on a mission now.

His mission will be to restore confidence in justice in the Griffin Judicial Circuit. It will not be easy or quick, but if character matters in a judge (and I believe it matters more than anything else), Chris Edwards is the right man for the job.


mbest's picture


There is, unfortunately, some incorrect information in this recital. Judge Tommy Hankinson was initially appointed by his law school classmate Governor Roy Barnes. Johnnie Caldwell, Jr., who recently resigned as superior court judge for the Griffin Judicial Circuit, is the son of a former insurance (not labor) commissioner.

Will you forgive me if I also incidentally point out that “thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife” is one of the Ten Commandments?

Cal Beverly's picture

There were two Caldwells in state government at the same time. Sam Caldwell was the state labor commissioner who went to prison for insurance fraud. Johnnie Caldwell Sr. — no relation — was the state insurance commissioner.

And Hankinson was indeed appointed by Gov. Barnes in late 2002 to begin his term Jan. 1, 2003.

What may not be widely known is that Hankinson worked on Fayette attorney John Mrosek's election campaign in 2000 in Mrosek's unsuccessful bid to unseat Judge Johnnie Caldwell, Jr.

Mrosek is seeking the appointment for one of the two open judge slots in the circuit, the choice to be made by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Cal Beverly
The Citizen
Fayetteville, Ga. 30214

Thanks Cal for writting this.
Ya know, sometimes the voters actually get it right. Sometimes we actually put a person in office who stands on the very principles that got them elected. The Honorable Judge Chris Edwards is that person and those that elected him deserve a pat on the back. This mess is indeed unfortunate, embarassing, appalling, (insert your own negative adjective here). Now someone has to clean it up. Judge Edwards actions out side of the courtroom speak volumes about his character, honor and integrity. Just ask any one of the 1000's of students or children that he has lectured or counseled over the years. He has been placed in a very difficult and trying situation because of others POOR choices (poor seems so inadequate)and I fear NOT that he will act according to the rule of law and restore integrity to the Judiciary. Good luck Judge Edwards and may God continue to guide your every step.

I have to agree with Smitty. We are indeed fortunate to have a man of the calibre of Judge Edwards on the bench.

To the Editor,

First, thank you for the opportunity to contribute my opinions and observations to The Citizen. Second, as a relative newcomer to Fayetteville, I had no idea of the incestuous history of the Griffith Circuit Court, dating back to the time I was born. Thank you for providing the history lesson.

Unfortunately, that is where my adulation ends.

The mere combination of the two facts you cited: now Chief Judge is from Fayette County and he was elected, do not and cannot be used as reasons to over look his judicial transgressions and lapses in professional judgment. This has nothing to do with how he handles his caseload. It has to do with how he handled the sordid affair that is the Circuit Court and the perceptions that he is not part of the solution as you proclaim, but part of the problem.

To use your own words, "Caldwell was a legal train-wreck for the past 20 years. I’m amazed he lasted this long." If straight arrow now Chief Edwards was aware of Caldwell's indiscretions since he joined the bench in the last Century, why didn't he fill out the form with the JQC then? I believe that it is for the same reason he failed to act against Judge English in a timely fashion. He is part of the good old boy club and they protect their own, no matter how they got admitted.

Apparently, and not to anyone's surprise, you are wearing your club pin proudly.

bringinabroom's picture

Good Ole Eric--- Who is the only lawyer who engaged in what Cal calls the "willful turning away from the truth" that had the power to vote the judges raises during a down economy ??? That would be County Commissioner Eric Maxwell.

"The whole thing stinks--- time for a Spring Cleaning."

...find it so easy to criticize others without warrant. "The good old boy club"? I read the same article as you, "Sugar Hunn" and I'm pretty sure Cal was not defending the actions of English and Caldwell. Don't sound like a "G.O.B." trait to me. People take for granted their freedom and opportunities in this country, yet seem to be quick to unfairly criticize others (all the while hiding behind their names).
Wake up, look at what's going on in this world, in our county. We need to be supporting people like Judge Edwards, not carelessly bad-mouthing.

I'm struggling to write my thoughts at this point. It irks me when people are unfairly slanderous to others, and this is a perfect opportunity to say more to you. As Auntie Em says in the Wizard of Oz- "but now, being a Christian [woman], I can't say it".

May God Bless

Robert Clough

S. Lindsey's picture

service not available..

We are unable to post any new topics.

This was placed yesterday and still not showing up.

When we try to place anything we are getting "service not available"

I tried to post this under Feedback and got the same message.

"Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel."

-Ayn Rand

Cal Beverly's picture

...and went into the moderation queue, where I just found you and "unspammed" you.

The spam catcher watches for remote links; your post had a lot of them.

Sorry, but it may happen again.

The forum is working properly.

Cal Beverly
The Citizen
Fayetteville, Ga. 30214

S. Lindsey's picture

I have been called.. But Thanks again

"Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel."

-Ayn Rand

Tried to post 4 times earlier today, and I keep getting "service unavailable". It's a shame the spamcatcher doesn't have a "white list" to allow RealAmericansâ„¢ like me to post.

Note to S. Lindsey: calm down, "white list" refers to a list of known good addresses and has nothing to do with race.

Congratulations to Honorable Chris Edwards. At least Fayette has one judge who will do the right thing. He is a decent, God fearing man and we need more judges like him.

Fayette County needs more representation in the Griffin Circuit. We need judges who will give the maximum sentence to murderers, rapists, perverts, drug pushers, thieves, abusers and the like. We need to send a message that lawless behavior will not be tolerated in Fayette County. Hang them high!

As to Caldwell and English, you will reap what you sow. The court of public opinion is now in session. If you did anything illegal, that will be dealt with by the Courts.

“Well this is just a little Peyton Place and you're all Harper Valley hypocrites.” Change the words “Harper Valley” to “Fayette County” and you’ll have a better picture of the community in which we NOW live. Speaking of “Change,” YES, change has come to the United State of America and it ain’t pretty, in any of its current forms. I moved to Fayette County over thirty years ago, when it was still pretty much a delightful place to live. Little did I know then that my ancestors had settled this county almost 200 years earlier? However, since I moved here, the community has been infiltrated by an insidious movement. I think some folks are now calling that movement “Progressivism.” Bob Dylan provided previews of coming attractions years ago in his prognostication with “The Times They Are a Changing.” We failed to properly respond to the many warnings the various mediums provided in earlier and now we have arrived at the place and time in which we find ourselves. To resolve these undesirable issues that abound, at some point, someone has to rise up and throw off the bonds of apathy and complacency. They must stomp their foot down hard and shout, “I stand on the principles our Founding Fathers provided when they created this great experiment in a government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Could Judge Edwards be such a person? Well, I don’t know the answer to that question. Only time will tell. But in the meantime, someone has stood, stomped and shouted a message for positive change and shouldn’t we at least take advantage of that rare action, rather than condemn it.

positivelysouthernbelle's picture

It is obvious that there are those in the know (who know) but don't want us
(to know)

I worked for Fayette County Water for 20 years and I and my crew found antifreeze in the water in 2006 and Tony Parrot refused to do anything about it " we might make the papers" he ssaid I sure hope no one got sick or still getting sick from the incopmance of Tony Parrot. I have tried to talk to a lot of people about this and I can prove this. The water in fayette county is not protected properly. I was fired for blowing the wistle about it. I need help I would hate to know there nis a child in the hospital sick because he drink the water in Fayette or PTC call me @ 678-897-9987 Adam Reid

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