Harris to challenge Stedman in runoff for judgeship
by Rachel Gray
May 21, 2014 03:09 AM | 6098 views | 4 4 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ann Harris, running for Cobb County Judge of Superior Court District 13, waits for numbers to roll in at Hemingway's on the Marietta Square with her supporters Tuesday evening. With all precincts reported, Ann Harris won 23,638 votes, or 41 percent, over Juanita Stedman, who had 18,334 votes or 32 percent, and Nathan Wade, who had 16,021 votes or 28 percent. <br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Ann Harris, running for Cobb County Judge of Superior Court District 13, waits for numbers to roll in at Hemingway's on the Marietta Square with her supporters Tuesday evening. With all precincts reported, Ann Harris won 23,638 votes, or 41 percent, over Juanita Stedman, who had 18,334 votes or 32 percent, and Nathan Wade, who had 16,021 votes or 28 percent.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
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MARIETTA — A July 22 runoff election for a Cobb Superior Court judgeship will pit a prosecutor backed by the District Attorney’s office against a seasoned juvenile judge backed by the Cobb Sheriff’s office.

With all precincts reported, Ann Harris won 23,638 votes, or 41 percent, over Juanita Stedman, who had 18,334 votes or 32 percent, and Nathan Wade, who had 16,021 votes or 28 percent.

There are 392,761 active registered voters in Cobb, according to Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler.

The Cobb Superior Court runoff race will determine the person replacing Judge Jim Bodiford, who will retire at year end rather than seek what would have been his sixth term on the Cobb bench.

Harris, 50, lives in Smyrna and is a senior assistant district attorney who has practiced law in the Cobb Superior Court for 19 years.

After voting early Tuesday morning, Harris attended the East Cobb Business Association monthly luncheon and then returned to her office to work.

Harris’ devotion to work is one of the reasons District Attorney Vic Reynolds publicly endorsed her in the Cobb Superior Court race.

Although Reynolds said “there are three excellent candidates in the race,” he has witnessed Harris’ professional dedication first hand.

“She is very fair. She knows the law,” Reynolds said. “She works extremely hard. She is committed to serving justice.”

With nearly 20 years litigating in Cobb’s Superior Court, Harris said she has worked with victims, fellow attorneys and witnesses.

“It is that same experience that I will carry with me to the bench,” Harris said.

Because the race is nonpartisan, Harris said there was not the typical mudslinging seen in other primaries.

“I think my two opponents have conducted themselves honorably,” Harris said.

Harris gathered Tuesday night with supporters and family at a “thank you” gathering on the patio outside of Hemingway’s Bar & Grill of the Square.

“The last five months have been consumed with either work or campaigning,” Harris said.

Stedman, a former member of the Marietta School Board and special education teacher at Marietta High School, was endorsed by Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren and retired Sheriff Bill Hutson.

Stedman, who has been a judge for 13 years in the Juvenile Court of Cobb County and serves as an Assisting Superior Court Judge, campaigned with a vision statement promoting her “on-the-job training” and reputation as “conservative and “tough on crime.”

Stedman said her campaign message was she is the “best candidate for the job” and the only judge who has sat on the Superior Court bench.

She agrees the race between the three judicial candidates was clean and “we all tried to run on our record.”

Stedman gathered with supporters upstairs at The Butcher, The Baker off the Square Tuesday night.

Kerwin Swint, political science professor at Kennesaw State University, said judicial races are not labeled as partisan, “yet it can get very political,” with candidates in Georgia mostly aligning themselves as conservatives or moderates.

Swint said “many voters feel they don’t know much about the candidates,” so the results in judicial races are determined by lawyers, court clerks and law enforcement personnel, who “have a stake, or perceived stake, in the outcome.”

“Lawyers contribute a lot of money to judicial campaigns,” Swint said.

Wade, 41, who lives in east Cobb, was appointed by Mayor Steve Tumlin in January 2010 as the city’s first black male judge for the Marietta Municipal Court.

Wade, who attempted to unseat Cobb Superior Court Judge Reuben Green in the July 2012 election, is also a partner at the Wade and Bradley Law Firm.

Reynolds said people should expect the same treatment from each legal jurisdiction.

“The law is the law, regardless of which courtroom you step into or which county you live in,” he said.

Still, Reynolds said judges may differ on sentencing or may slightly contrast on interpretations of the law.

Judicial elections are important because of those slight differences among candidates, but also because a Superior Court judge has the authority to take property away, remove children away from the home and sentence a convicted criminal to life in prison,” Reynolds said. “That is a great deal of power.”

Comments
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ChristineCaresAboutCobb
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July 15, 2014
In every way I oppose someone such as Juanita Stedman for such a high honored position. I have witnessed first hand the back door politics and "favors" that resulted in decisions not reflective of fairness or wisdom. In addition, I have witnessed borderline venomous delivery of such decisions that alter people's lives, lacking any sort of base human compassion... All while filling in for a Superior Court Judge; a time one would think she would act on her best behavior. If this is how Judge Juanita conducts herself in a substitute setting, Cobb County does not want that with free reign unchecked in a permanent honorable position. Cobb citizens and tax payers deserve better.
ChristineCaresCobb
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July 15, 2014
In every way I oppose someone such as Juanita Stedman for such a high honored position. I have witnessed first hand the back door politics and "favors" that resulted in decisions not reflective of fairness or wisdom. In addition, I have witnessed borderline venomous delivery of such decisions that alter people's lives, lacking any sort of base human compassion... All while filling in for a Superior Court Judge; a time one would think she would act on her best behavior. If this is how Judge Juanita conducts herself in a substitute setting, Cobb County does not want that with free reign unchecked in a permanent honorable position. Cobb citizens and tax payers deserve better.
Scott Shaw
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May 22, 2014
I have practiced in front of Judge Stedman in the past, and she is a fair and fine jurist (even when she rules against me). That is all that I ask from a judge, someone who works hard, follows the law, rules on the facts and within the law, and who is honest, has integrity, and respects the litigants in front of her. I have to say that is an endorsement that she will make a very fine Superior Court judge and do credit to Cobb County.
Diamond Jim
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May 21, 2014
No way, no how, should we elect a former prosecutor to a Superior Court seat. I've been in and out of courtrooms here in Cobb numerous times over the last 15 years or so, both as an observer and a witness, and have seen first-hand the too-cozy relationships that often exist between judges and their former employers in the DA's office. Such relationships make it very difficult for anyone accused of a crime to get fair and impartial treatment.

Cobb County has gained a well-deserved reputation as a "hang-'em high" enclave where harsh sentences are the order of the day, and where those who would contest their charges by going to trial, and lose, are given even harsher sentences for daring to exercise their constitutional rights. I have no question that many of the accused come before out judges are repeat offenders with a penchant for lying and gaming the system, but that is still no excuse for a judge not treating those who come before him or her with dignity and a modicum of respect, rather than assuming each of them is guilty until proven innocent, which is exactly the opposite of how the justice system is supposed to work. Cobb County simply does not need more judges with a bias toward the prosecutors.
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