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Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

Why I only support lawyers for Judicial Vacancies

Why I only support lawyers for Judicial Vacancies

by: Eric C. Crawford (note that this opinion is mine and does not necessarily reflect the position of Crawford and Boyle, LLC or its other employees)

In Georgia counties below a certain population threshold, there are three types of courts that can hear criminal matters where the judge is not required to be a lawyer: magistrate, municipal, and probate courts.  The theory behind this practice is that Georgia has 159 counties (second only behind Texas), and persons elected or appointed to these judgeships must live in the county in which they are appointed.  Accordingly, in some of the smaller, more rural counties, there are not enough lawyers around to fill all of the vacant positions.  And really, who is going to complain about not having enough lawyers in their county?

However, where there are a sufficient amount of lawyers in a county such that a lawyer is in a contested race against a non-lawyer, unless the lawyer is absolutely unqualified for the position I’m going to support and vote for him or her.  And, believe it or not, it’s not just because I went to law school: there is an actual story behind my opposition to non-lawyers on the bench.

In July, 2003, the Georgia “Move Over” law went into effect.  On July 31, I happened to be traveling down GA-316 through Barrow County to visit my then girlfriend, now wife, Cindy, in Atlanta.  I wasn’t speeding, wasn’t breaking any traffic laws, but was pulled over for a move over violation for the law that had just gone into effect. Being in law school at the time, I took my citation and researched the law and came up with a rather clever statutory construction argument regarding the definition of an “authorized emergency vehicle,” an argument that is still being used by attorneys today.  Barrow County stalwart attorney Billy Healan was kind enough to give me some pointers and the lay of the land prior to my court date.

I came to court; the officer presented his case, then after I cross-examined him I launched into my statutory construction argument complete with references to other statutes and supporting caselaw.  Following my argument, the judge recessed to chambers and called another probate judge and an official with the DMV.  She returned to the bench and indicated that while I had “created lots of questions,” that I “had not proved” my “case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

For those of you who have lived in the United States for any period of time and have even a vague understanding of the American Justice System, you know that there is no burden on the defense to prove anything.  The burden is on the prosecution to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  After doing some research, I found out that the judge was not an attorney, which explained some of the confusion.  However, if someone does not understand that basic principle of our system, there is no way they should be deciding guilt or innocence, sentencing in criminal cases, whether a search warrant is sufficient, or whether a complex will is correctly drafted.

Yes, I know that I cannot ascribe this level of incompetence to anyone without a law degree seeking office.  I know some very fine judges who do not have a law degree.  And yes, I know that there are incompetent attorneys and crazy attorneys out there that should not ever be placed in a position of power.   However, when my client’s freedom and/or finances are at stake, I want someone who has studied the law and practiced law making the decisions in the case.  I do not want to have to spend my time trying to teach the judge about such basic concepts as “burden of proof” and “presumption of innocence” when I need to be arguing the finer points of more complicated issues of law.

As a private citizen, as a representative of an accused, as an attorney, as a former prosecutor, or as the accused myself, I want, no, I deserve nothing less than having a judge with a law degree hearing and deciding my case.

And, for those of you concerned about my case, it was overturned on appeal to Superior Court.  Had a lawyer been on the bench at the time of my trial, neither I nor the State would have had to waste time and resources on an appeal, and I would have won a whole lot sooner.

Are you a runner? Like to jog or walk? Want to support a great cause? We’ve got an event for you on May 26!

Crawford and Boyle is a proud sponsor of the 4th Annual Run for Kids 5k and 1 mile Fun Run, which supports the Walton County Boys and Girls Clubs.  Sign up for this May 26 race by clicking here, or read more about it below (courtesy The Walton Tribune).

 

Officials from Walton County Boys & Girls Clubs hope fundraiser will help with shortfall

By Robbie Schwartz

While there are no delusions the event will erase the $100,000 projected shortfall for the Walton County Boys & Girls Clubs, officials are hoping to put a dent with the fourth annual Run for Kids 5K and 1-mile fun run.

Registration is already under way for the May 26 event, which will begin with the fun run at 7:45 a.m. and the 5K at 8 a.m., both beginning at Felker Park, 725 S. Madison Ave., Monroe. The 5K will be through town and the fun run on a paved trail in the park

 In addition to adding such things as a vocalist performing the national anthem, the race has now been certified as a Peachtree Road Race qualifier.

“I have been a runner for more than 30 years and laid out this course. It is flat and fast,” said David Dickinson, president of the Walton County Boys & Girls Clubs advisory board of directors. “If you want to see what you can do, this is the course for you.”

While the course is certain to attract the most avid runners, the event itself is a family-oriented event, with those wishing to just walk as well as parents pushing strollers encouraged to participate.

The money raised by the event will stay in Walton County and benefit the two clubs in Walton County — John P. and Joyce C. Stevens center in Monroe as well as the club in Social Circle. With the projected shortfall, quarterly fundraisers like this are a means for the nonprofit to help make up funding where possible. This year’s goal is to raise $10,000.

“This year we have had very good support from the community in terms of sponsorship,” Dickinson said. “It’s just the economy. It’s tough, but we have still enjoyed great community support.”

The fees are the same as last year, at $15 per runner if registered before May 16. Registration will be $20 after that day leading up to the day of the race. There is also a family rate of $50 that covers four family members and special rates for high school cross country teams. Registration can be done online at www.active.com or checks made out to Walton County Boys & Girls Club can be mailed to Run for Kids, Attn: David Dickinson, 38 N. Broad St., Monroe, GA 30655. Those mailed must be postmarked by May 16.

Awards will be presented to the top male and female finishers in overall, master, grand masters and three deep in standard five-year age groups. Race sponsors are also still needed. For more information on the race or becoming a sponsor, call 770-601-9809 or email mayord@monroe access.net.

The Boys & Girls Clubs provide educational and social activities to more than 700 youth in the community, 96 percent of which are classified as economically disadvantaged. The two centers are open after school Mondays through Fridays and longer when schools are closed during spring break, intersessions and the summer.

The shortfall will represent about 20 percent of the overall budget for the two clubs and would men the club would have to cut back on programs offered as well as hours of operation.

“We need every penny to keep the doors open and lights on,” said Melanie Unchuan, executive director of the Monroe club. “Last year we could not open during fall break. This was a challenge for many of the parents.”

“The Boys & Girls Club is not a top-down organization,” Dickinson added. “The local board has to raise every penny through grants, local sponsors and other funding mechanisms. If we don’t get it, there is no parent organization to come bail us out.”