Have you ever gotten to the end of your ballot while voting and had no idea who any of the judicial candidates were? If so, you are not alone. For most people, voting for a judge is a shot in the dark since the judicial elections are nonpartisan, there are no debates, and little campaigning.
You can get an idea by looking at a sample ballot before going to the polls. You can get a sample ballot for your precinct by visiting the website of the Secretary of State: http://sos.georgia.gov/mvp/. The sample ballot contains the names and websites, if any, of the candidates.
One of the most striking ways to differ between judicial candidates is through their judicial philosophy. Generally, judges either fall into one of two camps. Judicial activists, who bring their own opinions and experiences to the bench, or strict constructionists, who rule based on the law as it is written and focus on the intent of legislature.
In spite of the low key nature of the judicial campaigns, voting for a judge is important. As we have seen in recent months and years, judges can overturn popular laws and policies on dubious grounds and shape our nation and state with little accountability. Georgia’s voter ID law, gay marriage and the upcoming legal battle over Obamacare are just a few recent examples.
Supreme Court of Georgia:
David Nahmias is the incumbent. You can view his website at: www.justicenahmias.com. You can also view his biography on the Supreme Court website: http://www.gasupreme.us/biographies/nahmias.php. Nahmias is a former US Attorney nominated by George W. Bush who received numerous commendations for his service. He states that his judicial philosophy is that “if judges do not like a law, they can vote to change it at the ballot box, like their fellow citizens, but they should not try to change it with judicial decrees”.
Matt Wilson is a practicing attorney from Atlanta. His website is: http://wilsonforsupremecourt.com/. He states that his judicial philosophy is “to uphold and defend the Constitutions of this State and of our United States, to listen courteously to all parties and all arguments, to fairly and impartially decide cases presented on the basis of the evidence and our laws, while always protecting our civil and Constitutional rights”. He criticizes Justice Nahmias for decisions that “elevate Corporate and Government Interests over Individual Rights”.
Tammy Lynn Adkins is an attorney with no address or website given.
Court of Appeals of the State of Georgia
The election is nonpartisan. There are twelve judges on the court. Three of these positions are up for election this year. Two incumbents, Harris Adams and Anne Elizabeth Barnes, are running unopposed. There are six candidates running to fill the seat of Edward Johnson, who is retiring.
James Babaloa (http://www.jamesbabalola.com/) is an attorney and Air Force veteran. Babaloa also serves as CEO and legal counsel for Quality Renters LLC, a management company for rental houses and apartments. He states, “I will not make policy decisions as a judge on issues that should be properly left by the text of the United States Constitution and the text of the Constitution of the State of Georgia to the executive and legislative branches of government.”
Antoinette “Toni” Davis (www.votetoni.com) is also an attorney. Davis has served in many legal capacities. She served as the UGA law school’s Director of Legal Research and Writing, an attorney for the Georgia Supreme Court, and as a private practice attorney. She says, “My decision to serve arises from my desire to join with those who believe that our judges should apply the laws passed by their representatives in a manner consistent with the values of the people of this state.”
Stan Gunter (http://www.votestangunter.com/) is currently in his third term as District Attorney for the judicial circuit that contains Union, Towns, White, and Lumpkin counties. Gunter says that his judicial philosophy is summed up by Deuteronomy 1:17: “Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike.” He adds “the role of a judge is to apply the law and not legislate from the bench.” Stan is the only candidate for the Court of Appeals that does not live in the Atlanta area.
Adrienne Hunter-Strothers (http://www.adriennehunterstrothers2010.com/) is also an attorney from Atlanta. She is a graduate of Harvard Law and began her career as an attorney in New York City before returning to Georgia to work for one of the state’s largest law firms. She writes that she “not only will apply the law as written to the individual facts of a particular case, she will strive also to prepare written decisions that create predictability and fairness in the law for everyone.”
Chris McFadden (www.mcfaddenforappealscourt.com) is an appellate attorney who wrote a leading reference book on Georgia appeals. He was voted most qualified for the Court of Appeals by the Georgia State Bar Association. McFadden writes in his blog that “the duty of a judge faced with a question of statutory interpretation is to make an honest effort to figure out what the legislature was trying to accomplish.”
David Schaeffer (http://schaefferforcourtofappeals.com/) is also an attorney. He has worked with the same private law firm in Atlanta where he has been a partner since 1987. He says, “I believe a judge should rigorously uphold a fair and independent approach to the law, applying the law to the facts to reach a well-reasoned result and not to begin with a preordained result and then try to justify it.”
For more information, please visit the candidate websites or contact them directly.