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Superior court to feature
2 races

Gwinnett Superior Court features two contested races in the Nov. 4 election - one for the office of clerk, the other for a judgeship.

In the judge race, private practice attorney Karen E. Beyers seeks to unseat Richard T. Winegarden, a Superior Court judge in Gwinnett since 1987.

Superior Court judges preside over felony criminal cases, civil cases including divorce, and other matters such as real estate deeds.

Winegarden, who's presided over roughly 55,000 cases during his tenures in Gwinnett State and Superior courts, considers himself Gwinnett's toughest sentencer. He points to his years of "proven leadership ability and community involvement" as deciding factors for voters.

"I want to continue in my efforts to do the right thing every day and keep Gwinnett citizens safe," Winegarden said. "I'm able to listen with patience to the evidence and find the truth as best I can before rendering a decision. My opponent has no experience whatsoever as a judge."

Beyers, a fifth generation attorney, first established a private practice in Gwinnett in 1992, focusing on felony and family law cases in Superior Court. In the years since, she's represented thousands of clients in most Superior Courts throughout Georgia, she said.

Beyers hopes to clean up the existing backlog of unresolved family law cases in Winegarden's court, which she called the largest backlog of civil cases in Gwinnett.

"(Winegarden's) mistreatment of people and mismanagement of his caseload diminishes respect for our court and undermines faith in the justice system," Beyers said. "Allowing these cases to go unresolved hurts the families and children of Gwinnett County."

In the race for Superior Court Clerk, Democrat Abby Alaoui is challenging the incumbent Republican Tom Lawler.

Responsibilities of the Superior Court Clerk's office include jury management and the handling of Gwinnett's real estate filings, notary system, garnishments and trade name applications, among other duties.

Lawler, a former Gwinnett District Attorney, has held the position since 1997. If elected, he hopes to complete huge ongoing projects, such as overhaul of the office's case management system.

"The clerk's office, and the functions it serves, are so important to the fabric of the county," Lawler said. "With my 12 years experience as clerk, I think I can do a job that makes the citizens proud of me and their county."

Alaoui, a political newcomer, was propelled to run this year by the "deterioration in the quality and quantity of services" offered by the Clerk's Office that he's witnessed since moving to Gwinnett 15 years ago, he said. He points to his educational background and ability to speak four languages as evidence that he's a strong candidate who would relate well with Gwinnett's diverse citizenry.

"My opponent has become complacent over the years, while I'm passionate (and) committed to bring accountability and transparency to the office," Alaoui said. "Enough is enough. Gwinnett residents deserve change for the better. I know who my boss will be, the citizens of Gwinnett."