0

Potential judges vie for open state, probate court spots

ELECTION CENTRAL

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

LAWRENCEVILLE -- While five candidates vie for the open judgeship in Gwinnett Superior Court, five more are campaigning for the open spot in state court. Two more are also competing for probate court judge.

In state court -- which handles primarily misdemeanor cases, traffic violations and civil actions -- Tuesday's voting will determine who replaces retiring Judge Robert Mock. The candidates include lawyers, municipal court judges and one longtime superior court judge.

-- Emily Brantley is an attorney and mother to three daughters. She said she believes that everyone has the right to equal treatment under the law, and that she would uphold that belief if elected judge.

Brantley mentioned that "several incidents have brought into question the people's trust and respect for government and the law," and that she would fight to restore that trust. She said her experience sets her apart from her four competitors.

"No other candidate has more civil trial experience than I do. That experience has equipped me with the tools to address the sort of cases that are unique to the State Court. My experience and ethics have placed me in the top 5 percent of female lawyers according to Martindale-Hubbell."

-- Pam Britt, a general practice attorney for 15 years, put herself through law school after 20 years in the business world. She said her main goal if elected will be to emphasis courts of appointment like DUI, drug and mental health courts.

Those courts "assist citizens with substance abuse rehabilitation and treatment for low-level offenders as an alternative to rising and costly taxpayer-funded incarceration," she said.

She also claimed to have more trial experience than her opponents.

"I have both civil and criminal experience, a thorough knowledge of the law and the right judicial temperament," she said.

-- Norman Cuadra, 45, is an attorney and has been a municipal court judge for the city of Doraville since 2005. He was appointed the municipal court chair for the Commission on Interpreters in 2010.

A father to three girls, Cuadra has been endorsed by the Gwinnett Forum and the International Brotherhood of Police Officers. He said he will strive to bring "respect, integrity, knowledge and diversity" to the bench if elected.

His top goal, he said, will be to implement better technology to make the court system more efficient.

"This will save the taxpayers money, the parties time, and allow the clerk to operate more efficiently," Cuadra said. "This will be accomplished through e-filing, Internet communication, electronic signature and Skype technology."

-- Greg Lundy, 46, is senior staff attorney for Gwinnett Superior Court and a former municipal court judge for the city of Suwanee. The father of three said he has the "perfect combination of private practice and judicial experience."

Lundy has attended the National Judicial College, and said the Gwinnett court system has room for improvement.

"Gwinnett has implemented DUI and drug court programs to stop the cycle of addiction and repeat offenders, with remarkable success," Lundy said. "I would like to help implement a mental health court."

-- Richard Winegarden, 63, is a longtime judge with 25 years experience on the bench.

Winegarden served in the role he is campaigning for from 1983-87 before becoming a Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge from 1987-2008. He said a judge "must be a strong leader who can guide parties with very different viewpoints through the judicial process."

He said his top goal is to make sure the caseload of retiring judge Robert Mock is taken care of smoothly, and that his significant judicial experience separates him from his competitors.

"There is a big difference between 'watching' a judge and 'being' a judge," he said.Probate courtThe two-candidate battle for Gwinnett's open probate court judgeship is one pitting inside experience against experience representing clients.

Candidate Chris Ballar, 41, is an estate planning and elder law attorney, and said he is "the only candidate with experience representing clients before the probate court." He said that gives him a true understanding of what people want from the court, which administers wills, guardianships of children, marriage and gun permits and other typically family-related issues.

His opponent, 50-year-old Marlene Duwell, is also an attorney but has served as the probate court's chief clerk since 1997 and a hearing officer since 2001. She said that makes her better equipped to serve.

"Experience running the court and hearing cases as a judge makes me effective from Day 1," Duwell said.

Ballar and Duwell, both Republicans, stressed improving the court's efficiency as their top goal if elected.

"I want to work to make access to the court easier through technology, educational outreach programs and case consolidation," Ballar said. "Responsive answers to problems is also a priority and I will work to make sure orders are issued quickly and efficiently by myself and the clerks."

Said Duwell, who has a certificate in local government management from the University of Georgia: "My goal is to replace the probate court's computer system to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Improved technology will allow the court to receive online filings, make the hearing calendar available to the public, streamline the estates/guardianships annual reporting system and simplify the marriage and gun permit application process."

State Judge

Emily Brantley

• Age: unanswered

• Education: Bachelor’s degree from Pfeiffer University; Juris doctor from Georgia State University

• Occupation: Attorney

• Political Experience: None

• Family: Husband Frank, daughters Christina, 21, Laurena, 18, and Megan, 16

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

My political philosophy is the same one on which our nation was founded. Everyone has a right to equal treatment under the law. No exceptions: the law applies equally to all. As a judge my role is to follow the law, enforce the rules, and give everyone a voice.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

My top goal on the bench will be the preserve the courts as an honorable place where citizens can resolve disputes. Recently several incidents have brought into question the people’s trust and respect for government and the law. As judge, I will work to restore and preserve that trust.

What sets you apart from you competitors?

No other candidate has more civil trial experience than I do. That experience has equipped me with the tools to address the sort of cases that are unique to the State Court. My experience and ethics have placed me in the top 5 percent of female lawyers according to Martindale-Hubbell.

Pam Britt

• Age: Not answered

• Education: Bachelor’s and juris doctor degrees from Georgia State University

• Occupation: General practice attorney

• Political Experience: None

• Family: Husband Robert, daughter Paige Wilder and granddaughter Morgan Wilder

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

I am a conservative candidate who pledges, when elected, to serve the people of Gwinnett County with integrity, honor and fairness to all. The citizens of Gwinnett deserve a judge who will put the Constitution and justice before politics and will treat every person with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

The top issue of the court is more courts of appointment, such as DUI, drug court and mental health court to assist citizens with substance abuse rehabilitation and treatment for low-level offenders as an alternative to rising and costly taxpayer-funded incarceration. Court efficiency is also paramount.

What sets you apart from you competitors?

I bring 20 years of practical real world work and business experience as well as 15 years of legal experience in Gwinnett County. I have handled more cases in Gwinnett County as an attorney than any of my opponents ... I have both civil and criminal experience, a thorough knowledge of the law, and the right judicial temperament.

Norman H. Cuadra

• Age: 45

• Education: B.H.S. degree in rehabilitative services and counseling from University of Florida; Juris doctor from Nova Southeastern University

• Occupation: Attorney, municipal court judge in Doraville

• Political Experience: Appointed municipal court judge in 2005; appointed municipal court chair for Commission on Interpreters in 2010; elected 4th District representative for Municipal Court Council in 2010

• Family: Wife Jill, daughters Juliana, 14, Kathryn, 12, and Christina, 9

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

I want to instill confidence in the public’s perception of the courts by bringing respect, integrity, knowledge and diversity to the bench. Everyone entering that courtroom will know that they will be treated fairly and with respect by a judge with knowledge of the law. You will get justice.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

My top goal will be to create more efficiency in the courtroom by the use of 21st century technology. This will save the taxpayers money, the parties time, and allow the clerk to operate more efficiently. This will be accomplished through e-filing, Internet communication, electronic signature, and Skype technology.

What sets you apart from you competitors?

I have presided over criminal cases as a judge and tried both civil and criminal cases as a lawyer. I have leadership experience in local bar and government organizations by election and/or appointment. I have been endorsed by the Gwinnett Forum and the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.

Greg Lundy

• Age: 46

• Education: Bachelor’s degree in business management from Georgia College; juris doctor from John Marshall Law School

• Occupation: Senior staff attorney for Gwinnett Superior Court

• Political Experience: Municipal court judge for city of Suwanee

• Family: Wife Sherri, children Meghan, 18, Jackson, 5, and Brylie, 3

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

Our judicial system is vital to our society. My legal career has been dedicated to the improvement of the judicial process. I am a firm believer in the Constitution, and I will work hard to insure that our laws are enforced and that the rights of our citizens are protected.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

Gwinnett County has one of the most efficient court systems in Georgia, but there is always room for improvement. Gwinnett has implemented DUI and drug court programs to stop the cycle of addiction and repeat offenders, with remarkable success. I would like to help implement a mental health court.

What sets you apart from you competitors?

I have the perfect combination of private practice and judicial experience. As a trial attorney I handled both criminal and civil litigation. I have served as a municipal court judge for the city of Suwanee. Unlike other candidates, I have attended the National Judicial College to sharpen my judicial skills.

Richard Winegarden

• Age: 63

• Education: Graduate of University of Michigan School of Business and Wayne State University School of Law

• Political Experience: Gwinnett County State Court judge from 1983-87; Gwinnett County Superior Court judge from 1987-2008

• Family: Divorced; children Jennifer, 35, Jeffrey, 31, and Emily, 17; five grandchildren

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

A judge must always be honest and impartial. A judge must do their best to be fair to all parties and to make sure everyone has a chance to be heard. A judge must be a strong leader who can guide parties with very different viewpoints the judicial process.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

Retiring Judge Robert Mock has served for many years. With my 25 years experience as a trial judge, including four years in his exact position, I want his cases to continue to move efficiently without any delay which might be caused by a new judge having to learn the job.

What sets you apart from you competitors?

I have already served four years as a Gwinnett State Court judge. I have already served 21 years as a Gwinnett Superior Court judge. None of my competitors have served in either position. There is a big difference between “watching” a judge and “being” a judge.

Probate Judge

Christopher “Chris” Ballar

• Age: 41

• Political Party: Republican

• Education: B.A. in history from Oglethorpe University; juris doctor from Mercer University

• Occupation: Estate planning and elder law attorney

• Political Experience: None

• Family: Wife Amy and daughters Jane, 11, and Shea, 8

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

I am a conservative Constitutionalist who supports lower taxes, less government and thinks people should be free to follow their own pursuits. As judge I will respect the Constitution and enforce the separation of the branches of government by not legislating from the bench.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

I want to work to make access to the Court easier through technology, educational outreach programs, and case consolidation. Responsive answers to problems is also a priority and I will work to make sure orders are issued quickly and efficiently by myself and the clerks.

What sets you apart from you competitor?

I am the only candidate with experience representing clients before the Probate Court. This is important because it gives me a true understanding of what people want from the Court. The judge must answer to the public and I have been answering to my voting clients my entire legal career.

Marlene Duwell

• Age: 50

• Political Party: Republican

• Education: B.S. in engineering science from Vanderbilt University; juris doctor from University of Georgia; certificate in local government management from University of Georgia

• Occupation: Attorney and chief clerk of Gwinnett Probate Court

• Political Experience: Appointed as Gwinnett probate court law clerk from 1995-98; appointed as chief clerk of Gwinnett probate court from 1997 to present; appointed as hearing officer for Gwinnett probate court from 2001 to present

• Family: Husband Les Capouya, daughter Rachel, 21

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

Political positions on issues should never influence a judge’s decisions. As a judge I will hear the facts of each case and make my decisions based upon the proper application of law. My judicial philosophy is that alternatives to litigation bring about more effective resolution to cases than court orders.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

My goal is to replace the Probate Court’s computer system to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Improved technology will allow the Court to receive online filings, make the hearing calendar available to the public, streamline the estates/guardianships annual reporting system, and simplify the marriage and gun permit application process.

What sets you apart from you competitor?

Experience running the Court and hearing cases as a judge makes me effective from Day 1. My competitor has no experience running a court or serving as a judge. My proven commitment to public service and my willingness to learn every aspect of the Court operations before I asked the citizens to elect me judge also sets me apart.