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Posted: January 29, 2010 12:01 a.m.

Wynne may not have to run in 2010 election

Next D.A. may also get free pass

Although District Attorney Ken Wynne may have to wait until July to be sworn in as a Alcovy Circuit Superior Court judge, he likely won't have to worry about running for reelection this November.
According to Georgia law, if Wynne is sworn in as judge anytime after May 2 he won't have to participate in this year's election and will serve until the next general election in November 2012.
"If he's sworn in less than six months before the November election, then he would get a pass on the election this year," said local Sen. John Douglas, who confirmed the law with the Legislative Counsel. The counsel provides legal information to Georgia legislators.
When asked if the delay in swearing in judges was political or simply related to the budget crisis, Douglas said believed it's driven entirely by money.
The governor has made a handful of judicial appointments recently, but he is considering not swearing in the judges in an attempt to save the state money, Press
Secretary Chris Schrimpf said previously. When a judge is sworn in, not only does the judge have to be paid, but the state also has to pay for a secretary, an assistant public defender, an assistant district attorney and office equipment.

"In the difficult budget time we're having now, it may better, or possibly easier, for the system to budget for a new judgeship at the beginning of a new fiscal year, as opposed to having to make further cuts now to fit these positions in the budget," Schrimpf said previously.

The state's new fiscal year will begin July 1, and Alcovy Judicial Circuit Chief Justice John Ott said he was told Wynne is more likely to be sworn at that point. The state legislature may cut more than $1 billion from the budget this spring.

The delay in swearing in Wynne could also affect the next district attorney.

Whenever Wynne is sworn in, Chief Assistant District Attorney Layla Zon will become acting district attorney until the governor makes an official appointment, either Zon or someone else.

There are three years remaining on Wynne's term as district attorney. However, Douglas said that according to Georgia law, the next appointed district attorney may have to run for election this year.

According to the law, if a district attorney is appointed with less than 27 months left in the unexpired term they then fill the remainder of the term. The key date here is Oct. 1, 27 months before Wynne's original term would end on Jan. 1, 2013.

If a district attorney is appointed before Oct. 1 they have to run election in 2010. If they are appointed after Oct. 1, they wouldn't have to run for election until 2012.

The governor can make an appointment anytime after an opening becomes available and the only timetable given is that the appointment has to be "prompt." The further Wynne's swearing in is delayed, the more likely the district attorney's appointment is to be pushed past Oct. 1.

Also, although Zon is the natural replacement district attorney, Douglas said he has been told that some people in Walton County would like to be considered for the position. Newton and Walton counties make up the Alcovy Judicial Circuit.

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