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Five candidates vying for Superior Court judgeship

ELECTION CENTRAL

Visit our special election section for complete coverage of the 2012 primaries, HERE.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Streamlining the court's processes and the possible addition of mental health services are among the top goals proposed by candidates for Gwinnett's next superior court judge.

Five candidates will be vying for the right to replace retiring Judge Dawson Jackson, who's heard cases in Gwinnett since 1979. Most of the candidates -- Tracey Mason Blasi, Christopher McClurg, Kathy Schrader, Giles Sexton and Robert Walker -- offered similar views on how to carry Gwinnett's judicial system forward.

The outcome of Tuesday's countywide voting, then, may come down to the constituency's take on each potential judge's personal background and professional experience.

The Gwinnett County Superior Court has exclusive authority over local felony cases prosecuted by the District Attorney's Office.

-- Blasi, an attorney and municipal court judge for the city of Duluth, is a South Gwinnett High School graduate and, as she's quick to point out, a ninth-generation Gwinnettian. Active in the community, the 50-year-old has been involved with Leadership Gwinnett, the Gwinnett Chamber and the United Way, and has been the president of both the Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia and the Rotary Club of Gwinnett.

Blasi said her No. 1 goal as a superior court judge would be to help create a mental health court in Gwinnett, which would act as an alternative sentencing program for non-violent offenders. The county has similar programs in its DUI and drug courts.

"The underlying issues of non-violent offenders are addressed there," Blasi said, "getting them back to work, paying taxes, instead of costing us more tax dollars."

-- McClurg, a 43-year-old attorney and former accountant, believes he has the "deepest trial experience" among his competitors. A United States Army (1987-89) and Ohio Army National Guard (1989-95) veteran, McClurg has practiced law out of Gwinnett County since 2003, trying domestic, civil and criminal jury trials.

He is also very active in the community, coaching little league football and serving as a coach and evaluator for Georgia's high school mock trial program for six years.

His main goal, if elected, would be to "streamline calendaring and do keying to reduce unnecessary indigent defense fees, lost time from work for litigants, and more (become) more expedient on matters that need to be heard."

"Justice delayed is justice denied," he said.

-- Schrader, 50, is an attorney and municipal court judge for the cities of Duluth (2005-present) and Sugar Hill (2007-present). She has a number of special appointments during her career, including two to the Governor's Officer for Children and Families, and another to the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice.

Schrader has been in practice for 25 years, and is also a certified mediator and arbitrator by the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution.

The mother of three, calling herself "uniquely qualified," said she wants to improve access to the court's resources by "implementing strategies of justice reform."

"Through proven national models, we can insure timely hearings, address the domestic violence crisis in our community, eliminate corruption and collaborate with community resources to improve outcomes for everyone in the system," she said.

-- Sexton is a second-generation Gwinnett lawyer and the sole proprietor of a Lawrenceville-based firm. The 43-year-old father to two daughters said he is the ideal candidate for a Superior Court judge because he has no political ties to special interest groups or corporations.

Sexton said he has also tried various cases in the Superior Court, the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court. He worked in the Gwinnett Solicitor's Office while earning his law degree from John Marshall Law School.

He said he wants to "maximize judicial efficiency."

"Streamlining and updating processes and procedures could save Gwinnett revenue," he said, "which could be redirected toward new initiatives such as rehabilitative programs for non-violent offenders."

-- Walker, 48, has served as an attorney or judge for the last 22 years. Most recently a Gwinnett County Magistrate Court judge, Walker was the county's first full-time black judge.

Prior to his judicial role, Walker was a private practice attorney in Gwinnett for six years, specializing in indigent defense. He has also previously been an assistant district attorney. He also served as an attorney during eight years of active duty with the United States Air Force.

Walker stressed fairness and courteousness in the courtroom, and said, if elected, he would maintain and efficiently run operation.

"I would also work towards the establishment of more accountability courts," he said, "such as mental health court and veteran's court."

Superior Court judgeship

Tracey Mason Blasi

• Age: 50

• Education: South Gwinnett High School; B.A. in economics and French from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; juris doctor from Georgia State University

• Occupation: Attorney, mediator/arbitrator

• Political Experience: Municipal Court judge for city of Duluth

• Family: Husband Ronald; daughters Macy, 24, and Caitlin, 23

What is your political philosophy and how will it drive your role in office?

I believe that a judge’s primary responsibility is to uphold the U.S. and Georgia’s Constitution, meting out justice in a fair and impartial way while treating everyone in his/her courtroom with respect. A commitment to integrity and to this community is essential. I am dedicated to bringing to the bench the honor and competence that the position demands.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

I have visited the mental health court in Athens-Clarke County and have researched how Gwinnett could benefit from this type of accountability court, as it has benefitted from DUI and drug courts. The underlying issues of non-violent offenders are addressed there, getting them back to work, paying taxes, instead of costing us more tax dollars.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

I am a ninth generation Gwinnettian and am committed to continuing my tradition of service to this community in the was that I would be most effective, as the next Superior Court judge. I am the only candidate with a distinguished rating from Martindale-Hubbell, have both judicial experience and broad experience as a sole practitioner.

Christopher McClurg

• Age: 43

• Education: Bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University; juris doctor from Emory University

• Occupation: Attorney, former CPA

• Political Experience: None

• Family: Wife Martina; son Tyler, 23

What is your political philosophy and how will it drive your role in office?

Judges make decisions, not laws. I will follow the U.S. Constitution, Georgia Constitution and lawfully enacted statutes. I will provide a fair, impartial and dignified setting for all who enter my courtroom, and give everyone the opportunity to be heard.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

Streamline calendaring and do keying to reduce unnecessary indigent defense fees, lost time from work for litigants, and more expedient on matters that need to be heard. Justice delayed is justice denied.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

I have the broadest and deepest trial experience of all of my competitors. I have had domestic, civil and criminal jury trials. I have appealed cases to the Georgia Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. I have been appointed on over 100 occasions to represent children as a guardian ad litem.

Kathy Schrader

• Age: 50

• Education: B.A. in political science from University of Georgia; juris doctor from Mercer University

• Occupation: Municipal court judge, attorney, mediator

• Political Experience: Municipal Court judge for city of Duluth, 2005 to present; Municipal Court judge for city of Sugar Hill, 2007 to present; appointed twice to Governor’s Office for Children and Families, 2005-12; appointed to Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice, 2008-10

• Family: Husband Richard; children Russell, 21, Katie, 19, and Joey, 16

What is your political philosophy and how will it drive your role in office?

Our federal and state constitutions are the cornerstones of our legal system. I will continue to interpret laws in a fair, independent and competent manner recognizing these fundamental rights and treat each individual with the utmost dignity and respect during their case, as I have in my courts for nearly eight years.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

My top goal is to improve access to the court’s resources and protections by implementing strategies of justice reform. Through proven national models, we can insure timely hearings, address the domestic violence crisis in our community, eliminate corruption and collaborate with community resources to improve outcomes for everyone in the system.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

My character, credentials, and dedication to our community for 25 years uniquely qualifies me to understand the impact that conflict and violence is having on our community, to implement established resources and programs available to address these important issues, and most importantly, to grasp the profound nature that any decision of the court has on those involved.

Giles Sexton

• Age: 43

• Education: Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from University of Georgia; juris doctor from John Marshall Law School

• Occupation: Attorney, owner of Sexton & Sexton Law Office

• Political Experience: None

• Family: Wife Shellie, daughters Isabel, 11, and Taylor, 5

What is your political philosophy and how will it drive your role in office?

My philosophy is that the role of a Superior Court judge should not be politically driven or motivated. As a judge, I must remain neutral and non-partisan, following the mandates of the Constitution as it applies to each case brought before me, based upon the related evidence and testimony.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

One primary goal is to maximize judicial efficiency, ensuring all parties involved are treated fairly and their cases are tried in a timely manner. Streamlining and updating processes and procedures could save Gwinnett revenue, which could be redirected towards new initiatives such as rehabilitative programs for non-violent offenders, for example.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

First, the scope and depth of my courtroom experience with types of cases often tried in Superior Court, including serious felonies, complex civil issues, domestic cases, and appellate cases in Georgia’s Court of Appeals and Georgia Supreme Court. Secondly, I have no political ties to special interest groups or corporations.

Robert Walker

• Age: 48

• Education: B.A. in history from Emory University; Juris doctor from University of Florida

• Occupation: Gwinnett Magistrate judge

• Political Experience: None

• Family: Wife Melissa; children Madison, 12, Kellen, 10, and Alana, 8

What is your political philosophy and how will it drive your role in office?

Fairness and courteous treatment of all who come before me. I would combine these qualities with the timely scheduling of cases so that people get their cases heard as swiftly as possible.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

Maintain an efficient running of the courtroom while at the same time keeping costs of running the court down. I would also work towards the establishment of more accountability courts, such as mental health court and veteran’s court.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

Actual Superior Court judicial experience. Over these past four years, I have presided over serious, violent felony trials, domestic or divorce trials, and contract and business dispute trials. In fact, I am the only candidate to preside over jury trials at any court level.

Comments

roaads1 1 year, 8 months ago

If Giles Sexton truly doesn't have political ties, I like that. I knew his dad to be an exceptional man. Hope he does well.

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