Name on campaign ad could cause issues for Overstreet

Judge accidentally included on public list of endorsements

The Committee to Re-Elect Ron Cross put Superior Court Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet in an ethical danger zone this month.

Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet's name was included in a campaign ad for Ron Cross.   Special
Special
Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet's name was included in a campaign ad for Ron Cross.

In ads that ran in The Columbia County News-Times on July 11, 14 and 18, a list of names under the heading "Join us in re-electing Ron Cross on July 20!" includes Overstreet's.

The state's judicial rules specifically prohibit any judge from publicly endorsing a candidate for public office.

"I gave him some money, but I didn't give him permission to use my name," Overstreet said Friday. While he privately supports Cross, he didn't intend for it to become public.

Overstreet, who lives in Richmond County, said he doesn't receive the News-Times, and didn't know his name had been included in the list of supporters until Tuesday. Overstreet said he also didn't realize the ad would be repeated in Sunday's edition.

Superior Court Judge J. David Roper, who lives in Columbia County, didn't take any chances when he saw his name included in the ad on July 11. He immediately e-mailed Cross. Roper's name did not appear in the next two ads.

"While Edna (Roper's wife) is happy to add her name to your list of supporters, judges are not permitted to publicly endorse candidates," Roper explained in the e-mail to Cross. His wife sent Cross's campaign a contribution, Roper said.

Overstreet said he gave Cross's campaign money. He assumed whoever put the ad together pulled names from the list of contributors.

The judicial ethics rules allow judges to make campaign donations.

By the time he learned of the ad, Overstreet said there wasn't anything to do -- it couldn't be taken back. If the Judicial Qualifications Commission takes exception, Overstreet said, he assumes he will hear from the judicial disciplinary group.

Cross, who beat out challenger Brett McGuire in Tuesday's primary election, said he didn't put the ad together but thought the names came from a list of contributors.

If there is a problem, Cross said, he takes responsibility and apologizes.

Comments (13) Add comment
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Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 07/24/10 - 08:39 am
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0
How much money did he donate?

How much money did he donate? If it was over $100, Cross would have had to disclose it anyway, making it public record.

Some of these "election laws" are silly, and border on unconstitutional, in my opinion.

Little Lamb
48969
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Little Lamb 07/24/10 - 08:51 am
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So we learn from Sandy Hodson

So we learn from Sandy Hodson that, "The judicial ethics rules allow judges to make campaign donations." Well and good. Anyone should be allowed to make a campaign contribution. But what about the rest of the story.

It is unethical for a judge to preside over a trial in which one of the parties received a campaign contribution from that judge. That's a no-brainer. The ad for Ron Cross first ran on July 11. Overstreet's contribution had to have been received earlier. Yet, Overstreet continued as judge of record in the Marshall family lawsuit against Ron Cross in his official capacity as chairman of county commission. Overstreet should have recused himself from that trial a few moments before he wrote that check.

Overstreet and ethics are oil and water.

Junket831
0
Points
Junket831 07/24/10 - 08:55 am
0
0
Judges SHOULD be barred from

Judges SHOULD be barred from ANY involvement in political races. No ads, no endorsements and most of all no money ties. The very notion of impartiality goes out the window once they get tied to the political parties.

If the judge doesn't like to keep their nose ethically clean, get a different job. The fine should be extremely steep to any judge that gets tainted by this process.

Shame to Mr. Cross for having a sloppy campaign. Hard to believe he wasn't aware of any ads that were developed to support his campaign.

TrukinRanger
1748
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TrukinRanger 07/24/10 - 09:30 am
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We should have a national
Unpublished

We should have a national fund set up to give all candidates equal monies and guaranteed equal tv time and stop campaign contributions from all but private citizens and cap it at $100. Lobbyists should be banned as well!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Just Another Day
0
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Just Another Day 07/24/10 - 10:28 am
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Little Lamb: Excellent point

Little Lamb: Excellent point about Judge Overstreet being the judge of record in the pending lawsuit.......

Riverman1
93501
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Riverman1 07/24/10 - 10:58 am
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0
That was a good point, LL.

That was a good point, LL.

Little Lamb
48969
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Little Lamb 07/24/10 - 11:18 am
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Well, the lawsuit is no

Well, the lawsuit is no longer pending. A settlement has been announced. Actually, it may still be pending because I don't know whether Overstreet has signed the settlement agreement (darn those paperwork details). But Judge Overstreet should have seen the conflict of interest in presiding over trials where he has financially helped one of the litigants.

I suspect nothing will change, though.

Lawyers are accustomed to checking into the relationships of jurors with the litigants by questioning them before jury selection. But how can lawyers check up on whether a judge has a financial interest in one of the litigants?

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 07/24/10 - 02:16 pm
0
0
If corporations cannot

If corporations cannot directly contribute to political candidates, then certainly judges should not be allowed to do so. There is just too much of a conflict of interest, especially in local elections.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 07/24/10 - 02:27 pm
0
0
Thanks for the info LL.. This

Thanks for the info LL.. This somehow does not surprise me.. and helps explain why all of a sudden we hear about this settlement the day AFTER the election. Of course political corruption has been so ingrained in local politics, that a lot of folks around here just seem to think its normal.

Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 07/24/10 - 04:30 pm
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Emery, corporations can

Emery, corporations can directly contribute to candidates.

Riverman1
93501
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Riverman1 07/24/10 - 07:06 pm
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Why did Overstreet donate to

Why did Overstreet donate to an election for Commission Chairman in a county he doesn't live in?

Little Lamb
48969
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Little Lamb 07/24/10 - 07:49 pm
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Remember, RM, that Carlisle

Remember, RM, that Carlisle Overstreet is a superior court judge in the Augusta Judicial Circuit, which encompasses Richmond, Columbia, and Burke counties. He needs to cover all his bases.

dwb619
104068
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dwb619 07/24/10 - 08:48 pm
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The Supreme Court has ruled

The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations can give unlimited amounts to candidates.

Little Lamb
48969
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Little Lamb 07/27/10 - 07:53 am
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No wonder politicians

No wonder politicians (including judges) snub their noses at campaign laws and ethics. Judging by the paucity of comments to this article, the general public doesn't expect politicians to obey the law, nor does the general public care.

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