Newton and Walton counties inched ever closer to getting a permanent fifth Superior Court Judge last week as Gov. Sonny Perdue scheduled interviews for the three finalists on Dec. 14.
Lori B. Duff, managing partner for the law firm Jones & Duff, Robert "Bob" Stansfield, a partner at the firm Greer, Stansfield, & Turner, and William "Ken" Wynne, district attorney for the Alcovy Judicial Circuit, were selected as finalists on Oct. 6 out of eight serious candidates.
Bert Brantley, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office, said the governor will interview the candidates back-to-back and ask them questions to determine who has the best temperament and experience to be a Superior Court judge. A current Superior Court judge, from a different circuit, and a state lawyer will also sit in on the interviews if available.
Once the interviews are finished there is no timetable for the governor to appoint a judge.
"The governor takes these decisions very seriously and understands how important his role is to appoint judges," Brantley said.
Originally, the fifth judgeship was expected to be filled by July 1, the start of the 2010 fiscal year. However, Alcovy Chief Superior Court Judge John Ott said previously that the Supreme Court nominations took precedence over the summer and delayed the process.
Despite the delay, Ott said a caseload and calendar still had to be set up for a fifth judge, because the position was officially in the budget. Retired Superior Court Judge Marvin Sorrells has been filling that spot using the budgeted money. Once Perdue appoints a fifth judge, Sorrells will step down, Ott said.
A fifth judge has been needed because the Alcovy circuit judges were handling the largest caseloads in the state for the past couple of years, Ott said.
Meet the Finalists
Duff has been employed as a lawyer for 15 years in DeKalb and Walton counties. She was with the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office for 10 years, specializing in juvenile prosecution.
She has also run her own firm for about five years and has experience in criminal defense and civil cases. She was also a judge pro tempore for the DeKalb County Juvenile Court for two years. A judge pro tempore is a person who temporarily fills in as a judge for various reasons.
Duff said she wants to be a fifth judge because she could bring a unique perspective to the bench, mainly because of her broad legal experience but also because she would be the first woman elected to the Alcovy Circuit.
"I’m looking forward to meeting Governor Perdue and having a productive interview with him. I hope to gain some insight into what he expects from the judiciary in this circuit and to convince him that I am the most qualified person to meet those expectations," Duff said in an email to the News. "I feel confident that my background and experience in both criminal and civil matters, as well as my judicial experience, was key to my inclusion on the short list of candidates and that the same will be important factors in the Governor’s ultimate decision as to who to place on the bench."
Stansfield is a partner in the local firm of Greer, Stansfield and Turner and has practiced law for 22 years, mostly in the business and real estate world. Stansfield has worked for firms in Savannah and Atlanta and even studied international law in Germany. In Covington, Stanfield focuses on commercial transactions, banking, contracts, construction, employment, real estate and transportation law.
"My disposition and training would enable me to serve the community as a trial judge, ruling on the cases and helping people resolve problems, to perform a public service," Stansfield said previously. "Having never been a judge, I’m willing to offer myself in that capacity, again by training and disposition I think I’m equipped if I were selected. I do see that as an important part of public service."
Wynne has been the local district attorney for nine years and served as an assistant district attorney for 12 years before that. He was also a lawyer in an Atlanta law firm for a year.
Wynne has been a former president of District Attorneys’ Association of Georgia and the Alcovy Bar Association, and is current president of the board of directors of A Child’s Voice Advocacy Center, a non-profit child advocacy center in the Alcovy Circuit.
As district attorney Wynne has been the prosecutor for many of Newton Counties most high-profile cases over the years. Wynne said he enjoys his position, but would also look forward to the opportunity to be a judge.
"It’s a win-win situation for me, because I enjoy doing what I do so much now that if the governor selects one of the other candidates, I will still be able to remain in a job I thoroughly enjoy, but if he does select me, I will have the opportunity to pursue a job which will present new and different challenges," Wynne said.