Senior Assistant District Attorney Ann Harris, Cobb Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman and lawyer Nathan Wade all threw their hats into the ring this week to succeed Judge Jim Bodiford, who announced via Tuesday’s “Around Town” column he would retire at year end rather than seek a sixth term on the bench.
Don’t be surprised to see another candidate or two emerge for his seat as well.
AS FOR THE THREE announced candidates for Bodiford’s judgeship, Harris has worked as a prosecutor since 1995 and has a juris doctorate degree from Vanderbilt University. As a member of the Multi-Jurisdictional Human Trafficking Taskforce, she was instrumental in drafting Georgia’s original Human Trafficking statute that was passed by the Legislature in 2006. And in 2003 she was part of a select group of prosecutors and judges who went to the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) to train prosecutors there on effective criminal investigations and prosecutions. She’s a past president of the Smyrna Optimist Club and is a longtime member of the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club.
JUANITA STEDMAN has served as Juvenile Court Judge since 2000 and also presides over the Cobb Juvenile Drug Court and the Family Dependency Treatment Court. She earlier was an attorney with Cauthorn & Phillips and served as a law clerk for the late Judge Robert Flournoy Jr. Prior to her legal career, Stedman was a Special Ed teacher at Marietta High School and served as an assistant professor in the education department at Georgia State University. She is a former member of the Marietta School Board, earned her juris doctorate degree from Georgia State University, and has lived here for more than three decades.
NATHAN WADE’S practice, The Wade and Bradley Law Firm, specializes in family/domestic issues and personal-injury cases. Wade also serves as an associate judge in Marietta Municipal Court. He is a graduate of John Marshall School of Law and received the Justice Robert Benham Community Service Award from the State Bar of Georgia. He has served several terms on the board of trustees of the Cobb Bar Association, is a member of the Cobb Prayer Breakfast Committee, the Marietta Kiwanis Club and serves as a youth mentor. If elected, Wade would be the first black person ever to serve on the Cobb Superior Court bench.
SUPERIOR COURT is the pinnacle of the Cobb judicial ladder, both in terms of prestige and pay. In fact, Cobb’s Superior Court judges are some of the best-compensated in the state. Not only do they earn the standard $120,252 per year the state pays all of its Superior Court judges; they also enjoy a local supplement of $60,472 per year.
The county has been paying the supplement for decades, not just as a reflection of the higher cost of living here than in say, Hahira, but to keep the salary at least somewhat competitive with the kind of salaries top-rung local-level legal talent — including former judges — can command at private firms.
That’s always been the stated rationale, anyway. That perception has changed a bit during the down economy of the past half-decade, with many in the legal community beginning to see the steady salaries that come with a judgeship as a dependable paycheck — especially compared with having to worry about “billable hours” at a law office or the stresses of hanging out one’s own shingle.
AS REPORTED by the MDJ earlier this week, Cobb’s Superior Court judges have requested they be granted a 3 percent pay raise. A letter dated Dec. 18 to that effect was sent to the Cobb Legislative Delegation and was signed by Chief Judge Adele Grubbs and fellow Superior Court Judges Bodiford, Robert Flournoy, Reuben Green, Lark Ingram, LaTain Kell, Robert Leonard, Greg Poole, Stephen Schuster and Mary Staley.
The judges got a 3 percent raise on the local supplement last year, but not on the state portion. So now they are asking a 3 percent raise on both the supplement and the base salary.
At least eight members of the 15-person Cobb Legislative Delegation must approve the bill before it goes to the House floor for a vote, then at least four of the county’s six senators would have to approve it before it goes to the full Senate.
TO THEIR CREDIT, Chairman Tim Lee and the other four members of the Cobb Board of Commissioners said they don’t plan to take a pay increase if the legislators try to give them one. The chairman made $131,231 from the county last year and the other four make between veteran Helen Goreham’s $46,066 and newbie Lisa Cupid’s $42,583.
Meanwhile, Cobb State Court Solicitor Barry Morgan emailed Around Town that “I don’t believe the economy has sufficiently recovered to justify me requesting a raise.”
THE FIELD of candidates hoping to succeed Helen Goreham on the Cobb Commission representing northwest Cobb continues to grow.
The latest addition is Angela Barner, a Realtor and stepdaughter of late west Cobb Commissioner Harvey Paschal, who served for years in the 1980s and early ’90s. Meanwhile, sources say Ben Smith, the offspring of another west Cobb commissioner of that era, the late Harriett Smith, is considering a run for Goreham’s seat.
Already in the race for the GOP nod — the only one that matters in that district — are former Cobb Commission Chairman Bill Byrne and retired Marietta Assistant Fire Chief Scott Tucker.
With three or more candidates in a race, the likelihood increases of needing a runoff to settle things. Thanks to his high name recognition from past service as chairman and from his nearly successful race for chairman two years ago, Byrne would seem to be a shoo-in for one of the two spots.
MORE POLITICS: Former state Rep. Judy Manning (R-Marietta) told those at the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club luncheon Friday she’s “thinking about” running for her old seat, which she lost in an upset two years ago to then-little known Charles Gregory. Marietta lawyer/guitar-slinger Bert Reeves is already running against Gregory.
Gregory, a Paulite libertarian-leaning Republican, has marched to the beat of his own drummer under the Golden Dome, prompting comparison to late state Rep. Bobby Franklin of east Cobb.
The latest such example came Friday when the Legislature approved the 2014 midyear budget by a vote of 163-1, with Gregory the 1.
“I’m sure Leadership is taking notice of his apostasy on this vote and others, and he is taking after Bobby Franklin, it looks like,” one Statehouse denizen emailed Around Town afterward.
PEOPLE: Christine King Farris of Atlanta, only surviving sibling of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will be the guest speaker at the 3 p.m. Feb. 2 Friends of the Smyrna Library’s observation of Black History Month. The talk will be at the Smyrna Community Center’s Banquet Room due to the crowd expected. ... Among those expected at tonight’s Cobb Chamber of Commerce annual banquet at the Cobb Galleria Centre is U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah), who’s running for Senate.
BRAVES BANTER: Sixth District U.S. Congressman Tom Price (R-east Cobb) says he wants to see the lines of his district redrawn ever-so-slightly. Why?
“The new Braves stadium is going to be in the 11th District. All I’m going to have in mine are the parking lots,” he joked to an audience of local business people at a Vinings Bank luncheon on Thursday.