Originally created 11/05/06

Superior Court Judge race



Question: Are children best served when their parents, through their attorneys, are pitched against each other in adversarial roles in domestic court?

J. David Roper

No. Children are the innocent victims of adversarial domestic cases. I support court-sanctioned (nonbinding) mediation to help parties resolve disputed domestic issues without the adversity associated with a formal court hearing. Mediation would be cheaper than a trial, keep the court docket moving and free trial judges to handle other matters.

Willie Saunders

It is never good for a child to have his or her parents fighting over him in court. This is not to say there are not times when court action is warranted; however, we must never forget that the child is caught in the middle of a dispute in which he or she loves both of the parties involved. The psychological and emotional trauma that results from such action can be more devastating and long term to the child than one could imagine.

Charles L. "Les" Wilkinson III

Children are seldom well-served by their parents' getting a divorce or going through the process. The adversarial contest will always exist in some form, but at least in court, it can be controlled and a decision rendered, which, for the most part, settles the issues once and for all. Thus, children are well-served by allowing their parents a forum in which to vent, after which a decision, with legal force, can be made by an impartial judge.

William J. "Bill" Williams

No. Children are always the casualties of a divorce. Some parents use their children as pawns before, during and after a divorce action, making a bad situation even worse. Mediation in some cases may be helpful. The unanswered question, though, is: Who will pay for these measures? Many people getting divorces can barely pay their household expenses, much less pay an attorney to represent them or pay for counseling and mediation.

Question: Because the Superior Court judges will vote on the local rules again after the election, do you support case assignment?

J. David Roper

I support the current case assignment system where the clerk assigns cases to judges in numeric order and each judge is responsible for his or her own docket. Under our former system, the civil and criminal dockets were controlled by the chief judge. That system, which was struck down by the Georgia Supreme Court, was grossly inefficient and potentially corrupt.

Willie Saunders

Yes. The case management system has provided for quicker resolution of less complicated matters, allowing the parties to concentrate on those cases that need more time before coming to court. Furthermore, the system gives the parties one judge who is responsible for that case until its conclusion. This saves the court and the parties time on motions and other matters related to the case because the judge is already familiar with the case.

Charles L. "Les" Wilkinson III

I support case assignment because it makes each judge accountable for his own case load. To increase efficiency, each jury trial term should run for at least two consecutive weeks, with all juries being selected on the first Monday. Thus, the panel of jurors would not have to return repeatedly during the term for jury selection.

William J. "Bill" Williams

This issue is not as simple as you have framed your question. As with many procedures or systems, case assignment can have its flaws. It is good that a judge is assigned to a case from beginning to end. It is not so good with eight active judges that we have several different procedures to get a case tried. If the judges would all adopt a uniform procedure for setting cases down for trial, the system would work better for lawyers and their clients.

Question: Have the changes in the civil law, deemed "tort reform" by the General Assembly, made ensuring a fair trial easier or harder? Why?

J. David Roper

Recent tort reform legislation imposes additional requirements in some civil cases, such as medical malpractice, and limits the amount of punitive damages and pain and suffering. It also gives the trial court additional power to dismiss frivolous claims and defenses. Ultimately, however, ensuring a fair and impartial trial is the responsibility of the trial judge. That is why this election is so important.

Willie Saunders

Georgia has a very fair civil trial system. Though the recent tort reform legislation enacted by the General Assembly has made medical malpractice cases harder to prove and places caps upon economic damages, which is an issue, the system itself is sound. There are also limits on punitive damages in most civil cases. The growing trend toward mediation also allows the parties to resolve their differences in a more amicable and efficient manner.

Charles L. "Les" Wilkinson III

Tort reform has not made a civil trial either fairer or harder. For once a trial begins, other rules apply. What tort reform has done is to make it more difficult for an injured party to get to the courthouse, have his case heard and obtain a full recovery from all responsible parties. Thus, tort reform has made it more difficult for an injured party to have his day in court and obtain full redress for his injuries.

William J. "Bill" Williams

Neither. Tort reform has nothing to do with a fair trial. The rules of evidence and procedure govern the conduct of a trial. Tort reform, as it has been called, actually either limits the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover or in some instances eliminates claims altogether.

CANDIDATE PROFILES

J. David Roper

Age: 60

Education: University of Georgia School of Law graduate 1973

Professional experience: Senior partner in the law firm Wilhelmi Haynes LLC

Other experience: Church deacon, Sunday school teacher, Goodwill Industries director, Rotary International director and 2005 recipient of the International Service Award for a Polio Free World

Family: Married; five stepchildren

Willie Saunders

Age: 37

Education: Widener University School of Law graduate, 1995

Professional experience: Assistant district attorney for eight years, private practice as sole practitioner with part-time roles as public defender in juvenile and misdemeanor courts

Other experience: Leadership Augusta board of directors, adjunct professor of criminal justice at Troy University

Family: Married; four children

Charles L. "Les" Wilkinson III

Age: 61

Education: University of Georgia School of Law graduate, 1974

Professional experience: Private practice with experience in civil, criminal and domestic cases in state courts; federal Social Security specialist

Other experience: Four years in the Army, with duty in Vietnam

Family: Married; three children; five grandchildren

William J. "Bill" Williams

Age: 61

Education: University of Georgia School of Law graduate, 1971

Professional experience: Partner in firm Johnston, Wilkin & Williams; appointed as special master for several civil disputes; served as Probate Court judge replacement

Other experience: Sunday school teacher, former Richmond County commissioner

Family: Married; two daughters