Deal picks new judges in Cobb, Gwinnett and McIntosh
4:56 pm, November 7th, 2012
Governor Nathan Deal appointed three new judges today in Cobb, Gwinnett and McIntosh counties.
Cobb State Court Judge Robert Leonard II, who was first appointed to the bench in December 2010, will replace retired Cobb Superior Court Judge George Kreeger. Leonard earned his law degree from the University of Kentucky.
The other candidates suggested by Deal’s Judicial Nominating Committee for the Cobb post were State Court Judge Maria Golick, Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman and Troutman Sanders partner Mark VanderBroek.
Gwinnett County Chief Magistrate Judge George Hutchinson III will fill the Gwinnett Superior Court vacancy created by Judge William “Billy” Ray II’s appointment to the state Court of Appeals this summer. Hutchinson earned his law degree from Emory University.
The JNC’s other short listed candidates for the Gwinnett post were DeKalb County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney John Melvin, State Court Judge Randy Rich and Magistrate Robert Walker Jr.
Atlantic Circuit Juvenile Court Judge C. Jean Bolin will replace retiring Judge Dale Jenkins in McIntosh County State Court. Bolin was appointed to the juvenile court in 2006 and is also a partner at Bolin & West-Webster. She earned her law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law.
The other candidate recommended by the JNC for the McIntosh post was solo practitioner Adam Poppell III.
Charter school suit tossed
4:46 pm, October 25th, 2012
Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge K. Dawson Jackson today dismissed a lawsuit brought by charter school amendment supporters against the Gwinnett County school system, superintendent and Georgia School Boards Association, accusing them of illegally campaigning against the November ballot referendum.
The referendum, known as Amendment One, would re-establish a state charter school commission that could approve charter schools if local districts reject them.
The suit, filed earlier this month, sought injunctive relief to stop school officials and the school board association from campaigning against the amendment and to remove advocacy material from their websites.
In his order issued today, Jackson stated that the defendants’ advocacy actions involved their constitutional rights of freedom of speech, thus the state’s anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation statute (O.C.G.A. § 9-11-11.1) applied.
“Each defendant was speaking about a matter soon to be submitted to the electorate for a vote regarding public education funding,” Jackson wrote.
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Gwinnett schools face two suits over charter school amendment opposition
8:16 pm, October 10th, 2012
Gwinnett County courts are dealing with two suits against the local school district over its opposition to the Nov. 6 charter school referendum.
A suit claiming that the Gwinnett County school district, Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks and the Georgia School Boards Association used taxpayer money to fund a campaign against the ballot initiative was filed in Gwinnett Superior Court on Oct. 8—the same date Atlanta attorney Glenn Delk filed in Fulton County a class action against the Fulton and Gwinnett school systems individually and as a class representing all local school districts in Georgia.
The amendment would reestablish a state commission that could approve charter schools even if the local districts reject them.
On Wednesday, Judge Wendy Shoob in Fulton County Superior Court transferred the suit against the Gwinnett school system to Gwinnett County.
Both suits charge that the school district and superintendent illegally used their offices to publicly oppose the amendment, disseminate anti-amendment material, and facilitate school board training on how to campaign against the amendment. But the suit filed initially in Gwinnett further argues that the enumerated powers assigned to local school districts in the state Constitution do not allow them to participate in political campaigns.
“There is nothing that authorizes a school district to pass a resolution urging voters to vote one way or another,” said plaintiffs’ lawyer Josh Belinfante. “Their enumerated powers focus on educating students.”
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Sentences handed down in Gwinnett corruption cases
5:22 pm, September 18th, 2012
The son of a former Gwinnett County commissioner and a Hall County businessman “sold the office of a Gwinnett County commissioner to individuals whom they believed to be drug traffickers and tried to become drug traffickers themselves,” U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said today.
Yates made her remarks after John Fanning, 34, of Dacula – the son of former Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Lasseter – and Hall County businessman Carl “Skip” Cain, 65, were sentenced in U.S. District Court in Atlanta to four years, nine months in federal prison for public corruption and drug trafficking offenses.
The two men pleaded guilty earlier this year to participating in a t scheme to sell Lasseter’s vote on a proposed real estate project that required zoning approval by the county commission and for conspiring to traffic in cocaine.
Today’s sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell, who sentenced Lasseter on Sept. 5 to serve 33 months in prison for her role in the bribery scheme, federal prosecutors said.
Yates said that the defendants “showed a shocking indifference to prior law enforcement efforts to root out corruption in Gwinnett County and the dangers to the community posed by the illegal drug trade.
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High court nominees mum on their candidacies
2:46 pm, May 22nd, 2012
Two judges nominated for the upcoming Georgia Supreme Court vacancy played coy on Tuesday on whether they will actively seek the seat.
State Court of Appeals Judge Anne Barnes and DeKalb Superior Court Judge Cynthia Becker, whose names are among dozens the Judicial Nominating Commission says it has received for the vacancy, each attended the Federalist Society’s lunch on Tuesday at Alston & Bird.
Becker would neither confirm nor deny her intent to seek retiring Justice George Carley’s seat.
“I’d like to defer until May 25,” she said, which is the last day that the JNC is accepting applications.
Barnes said she didn’t know that she was a nominee. She said five or six people had mentioned the open seat to her, including former State Court of Appeals Judge Alan Blackburn.
Meanwhile, the Gwinnett County Bar Association is mounting a grassroots campaign in support of nominated Superior Court Judge William “Billy” Ray. During a meeting on Friday, bar president Matt Reeves asked county lawyers to sign a petition to send to the JNC.
Reeves said the county deserves to have a representative within the appellate courts.
“One in 10 Georgians live in Gwinnett County,” he said.
Gwinnett judge to trade drug court for council work
1:37 pm, March 7th, 2012
Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge William M. “Billy” Ray II confirmed today that he will step down from his seven-year post presiding over the county’s drug court program.
Ray was careful to explain that he is not retiring from the court to which he was appointed in 2002. Rather, he said he will hand over drug court to fellow Superior Court Judge Thomas N. Davis Jr. in June so that he can devote time to his new post as secretary/treasurer of the state’s Council of Superior Court Judges.
“It takes a lot of time, and it’s a three- to four-year commitment,” Ray said. “I’ll have to frequently be out of the office on Fridays to attend meetings of the Judicial Council and Council of Superior
Ray also said that he hopes to establish a veterans court program in Gwinnett County that may begin operating as early as the end of this year.
The veterans court would be modeled after the existing drug and DUI courts in the county but will be “a little smaller, a little more intimate,” Ray said. The court will coordinate veterans in legal trouble with services such as drug abuse treatment, counseling, job training and housing.
While there is no estimate of how much the veterans court program will cost to create or how many offenders will participate, Ray said the program will start small and should cost the county less than a drug court program because much of the treatment and services will be paid for with existing federal grants.
Davis, who was first appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue in late 2005, is a former prosecutor and Navy veteran.
Duluth lawyer will run for Gwinnett County Superior Court seat
2:42 pm, November 29th, 2011
The race for the Gwinnett County Superior Court seat that will be vacated at the end of 2012 by Chief Judge K. Dawson Jackson now will have at least three candidates.
Duluth lawyer Kathryn M. Schrader has confirmed that she will run next year.
Schrader, who operates a private practice, was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 1987 and is a member of the family law, general practice and trial law, nonprofit law and tort and insurance law sections. She has served as a part-time Gwinnett County magistrate and an associate municipal judge in Duluth since 2005 and in Sugar Hill since 2007. The Georgia Nominating Commission recommended Schrader for appointment to Gwinnett County Superior Court in 2005 and 2007.
Christopher C. McClurg, a civil litigator from Lawrenceville, and Tracey M. Blasi, a private practitioner in Lawrenceville, announced their candidacies earlier this month.
Jackson’s term ends Dec. 31, 2012.