Friday, February 26, 2010

DeKalb County Judge Candidates have started their campaigns.


By Ben Smith, Special to the Daily Report

Eight lawyers have formally announced their candidacies for open judgeships in DeKalb County

Superior Court:

Courtney L. Johnson

Michael L. Rothenberg

• Denise M. Warner

State Court:

Akintunde A. Akinyele

Sherry Boston

Nicole D. Marchand

Anton L. Rowe

Phyllis R. Williams

Elections in 2010 to replace two retiring judges could mark a historic shift in the makeup of DeKalb County's judiciary.  Superior Court Judge Robert J. Castellani and State Court Judge Edward E. Carriere Jr., both white men, say they will not seek re-election this year. Eight candidates, seven of whom are black, are vying to replace them.  The election will take place Nov. 2.

If African Americans win both judicial elections, ethnic minorities would outnumber whites on the DeKalb bench in Superior and State Court.  If a woman takes Castellani's seat, there would be as many female judges as males presiding in Superior Court. Currently, four of the 10 judges in Superior Court are female and half are black.  Of DeKalb's seven State Court judges, two are women and three are ethnic minorities.

Three lawyers have formally announced their candidacies for Castellani's Superior Court seat. Among them is DeKalb Bar Association President Denise M. Warner, a specialist in family law and a law clerk for Superior Court Judge Mark A. Scott.  Also running are DeKalb Assistant District Attorney Courtney L. Johnson and attorney Michael L. Rothenberg.  Rothenberg is the only white candidate running in either judicial contest.

Meanwhile, five candidates are competing for the State Court judgeship. They include Chief Assistant Solicitor General Nicole D. Marchand and attorneys Phyllis R. Williams and Sherry Boston.  Senior Assistant District Attorney Akintunde A. “Tunde” Akinyele and Anton L. Rowe, a Stone Mountain lawyer, are also running for the post.  With four months until qualifying, there is still plenty of time for candidates to drop in and out of these races.  “We'll probably see a few more names jump in,” said Keith E. Adams, a former DeKalb County assistant district attorney currently in private practice.

Adams hasn't picked a candidate to support for Superior Court judge. He said he is backing Williams in the State Court race.  Nevertheless, Adams called the current field of candidates, “all good folks with good strong backgrounds and well regarded by the bar.”

Besides the three prosecutors running, two candidates—Rothenberg and Boston—are part-time DeKalb recorders court judges. Boston also serves as a part-time municipal court judge for the city of Dunwoody.

Two others, Williams and Rowe, are hearing officers for the DeKalb County merit system and human resources department.  Williams last summer presided over merit system hearings on the firing of DeKalb Police Chief Terrell Bolton. Williams upheld DeKalb Chief Executive Officer W. Burrell Ellis Jr.'s decision to fire Bolton for insubordination.

The personal experiences of some of the other candidates seem as varied as their résumés. Rowe is pastor of his own church. Marchand is an Atlanta Falcons cheerleader, though she plans on giving it up when her contract expires in April.  Marchand, 31, is the youngest candidate. She started her career in the DeKalb solicitor's office shortly after her graduation in 2003 from Emory University Law School. She's also served as a DeKalb assistant district attorney.

Akinyele is the son of a retired Nigerian civil servant important enough to have a street named after him. If elected, Akinyele says he'd be the state's first Nigerian-born judge. Akinyele, who at 16 immigrated to the U.S. in 1983, holds degrees in a variety of fields, including a master's degree in health care administration. He joined the DeKalb district attorney's office in 2003.

The Superior Court contest started only recently with Castellani's Jan. 11 announcement that he won't be running for re-election in 2010. The State Court race has been going on much longer. Boston, the most recent candidate to enter the race, filed the necessary paperwork to start raising money in July.  Akinyele, the first to enter the race, signed up to run in September 2008.

The Superior Court candidates haven't been running long enough to file campaign disclosures.
Meanwhile campaign finance records show that none of the State Court candidates has jumped to a commanding lead in the race for contributions.

Records show that Williams leads in fundraising. According to the latest disclosures, which were filed in December, Williams has raised $44,159. Her contributors include Adams, attorney Griffin B. Bell III and The Barnes Law Group.  Marchand reported having raised $40,000. Among her contributors were two local bonding companies. Attorney L. Lin Wood Jr. and former DeKalb District Attorney Jeffrey H. Brickman were listed as contributors to Boston's campaign. Boston reported raising $34,640 as of Dec. 31.  Akinyele, who reported having raised $30,000, listed attorneys Michael D. Mann and Rodney A. Williams as contributors.  Rowe, meanwhile lagged far behind with $3,251 in cash donations.

“In this economy,” said Johnson, “it's difficult to raise money, especially for a political race.”

3 comments:

Glory said...

Could you explain to me what the author’s intent was in the article you posted in these sentences?

“Eight candidates, seven of whom are black, are vying to replace them.”

“If African Americans win both judicial elections, ethnic minorities would outnumber whites on the DeKalb bench in Superior and State Court. If a woman takes Castellani's seat, there would be as many female judges as males presiding in Superior Court. Currently, four of the 10 judges in Superior Court are female and half are black. Of DeKalb's seven State Court judges, two are women and three are ethnic minorities.”

Why should race and gender even be mentioned? Shouldn’t the candidates and incumbents be judged on their records? It reads like the author wanted to frighten white males into getting out the vote.

And what is so ludicrous is that it's not like in the history of this country that white males have been under-represented. We’ve just had a couple of moronic white men (Bush/Cheney) lie about Iraq having WMD’s and subsequently leading our babies to slaughter, and in the process destroy our nation's economy.

So, please enlighten me here, if you could, of the author’s intent and why you posted his article. Thank-you.

John Heneghan said...

Glory, I was conflicted and almost didn't post the item because the racial and gender slant of the article but decided to publish it because I believed that providing a forum which listed all the candidates in one spot out weighed any bias of the article. Though I am not a daily reader of the Daily Report, it appears to be the daily journal of the Atlanta law profession therefore it also swayed me to reprint it verbatim.

I also attempted to add value to the article by posting the candidates websites or the best article I could find so that an objective reader could rise above the race & gender issues in order to pick the best candidate.

If Courtney Johnson or Denise Warner would like me to post a link to their campaign websites, I would be happy to do so. Future candidates are welcome to post comments along with links to their future websites too. Trust me when I say there was no malice intended by me in posting the article. Thanks.

Glory said...

Then I shall understand the article and your posting of it to be a candid political demographic assessment of the current circumstances with the DeKalb bench, similar to how an actuary would discern loss of life versus recall expense in the automotive industry, and will leave it at that and not read any more into it.

Ah, who would have suspected from your blog photo that you could be so audacious! I thank-you, sir, for your frank clarification.