Judge rules Saunders is eligible to run for Superior Court

Monday, July 16, 2012 4:15 PM
Last updated Tuesday, July 17, 2012 1:00 AM

A state administrative judge has ruled that Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders is eligible to run for a Superior Court judge position, according to an opinion filed today.

Jackie Ricciardi/staff Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders discusses a case prior to a hearing on Friday, April 1, 2011.   Jackie Ricciardi
Jackie Ricciardi
Jackie Ricciardi/staff Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders discusses a case prior to a hearing on Friday, April 1, 2011.

Judge Michael M. Malihi, with the Office of State Administrative Hearings, said although Saunders owes federal taxes, his plan to pay the IRS under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy settlement meets the standard for a payment plan required by state law.

A formal challenge to Saunders’ candidacy was filed in May with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office by Augusta attorney Jack Long. Long claimed that Saunders should not be allowed to challenge Chief Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet for his seat in the Augusta Circuit because state law bars anyone who has defaulted on tax obligations from holding office.

Saunders, who filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Sep­tember, owed more than $159,000 to the Internal Revenue Service and entered into a payment plan with the court to satisfy part of that debt, according to federal court documents.

State law makes an exception for candidates “making payments to the tax authority pursuant to a payment plan,” but Long argued that Saunders’ payment plan did not qualify because it was not for the full amount.

Malihi’s said that Saunders’ payment plan was “sufficient” to meet the standard, affirming Saunders’ eligibility.

The judge’s opinion is not the last word, however. The final decision on Saunders’ eligibility belongs to Secretary of State Brian Kemp, said Kemp’s spokesman Jared Thomas.

“It is an initial decision, which is advisory,” Thomas said, explaining that Kemp could accept the judge’s decision or rule that Saunders is ineligible. He expects that decision to come in the next two to three days.

“It is an important case which he will be looking at very closely,” Thomas said.

Even if Kemp goes along with the judge’s ruling, the decision can still be challenged in Superior Court, something Long said he might do, even though the election is only two weeks away.

“By the time the court hears it the election will be over,” Long said. “It will be moot.”

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pblitch
3
Points
pblitch 07/16/12 - 05:00 pm
1
0
Hope Long Continues Case To Superior Court If Necessary

If the Secretary of State allows Mr. Saunders to run, I would hope that Mr. Long would continue to persue this in Superior Court. People that are deliquent on taxes should not be allowed to run. Even if Saunders has a payment plan, he does not appear to be paying in full

Craig Spinks
818
Points
Craig Spinks 07/16/12 - 05:02 pm
1
0
Mr. Blitch,

Are you retaining Jack? Put your money where your mouth is.

Sweet son
11674
Points
Sweet son 07/16/12 - 05:47 pm
2
0
Spinks

If he doesn't pay his taxes and has to file one of the government's sacred "Chapters" to keep them at bay he has no business passing judgement on anyone about anything. The article says that he will pay "part" rather than the whole amount. That is crap! I pay all of my tax debt as do many others. He especially should be held to a higher standard if he wants to call himself a judge. I know that there are other lawyers, judges, politicians and a host of others who do the same thing but it is not right. Our nation is on the backside of it's greatness and just stuff as this is the reason.

Patty-P
3520
Points
Patty-P 07/16/12 - 08:06 pm
1
0
160K is a lot of back taxes

160K is a lot of back taxes owed. That must be several years worth.

Little Lamb
49138
Points
Little Lamb 07/16/12 - 10:04 pm
1
0
Concern

I, too, am concerned that Saunders would amass $160,000 in unpaid Federal Income Taxes. That is a serious character flaw, and unworthy to be a judge.

Little Lamb
49138
Points
Little Lamb 07/16/12 - 10:05 pm
1
0
Luxury

Does anyone know whether Saunders lives in a spiffy neighborhood or drives a luxurious car? Will he say, “Thank you” to us common taxpayers?

Craig Spinks
818
Points
Craig Spinks 07/17/12 - 07:01 pm
0
0
Little Lamb,

Yours are good questions. Why don't you ask Judge Saunders at his BBQ tomorrow night at the Julian Smith BBQ Pit?

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