Green was appointed to the bench, not elected, Wade pointed out during a candidate forum held by the Cobb Republican Women’s Club on Tuesday.
Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed Green to the Cobb Superior Court in 2010.
“This seat was held by long-time Judge Kenneth Nix,” Wade said. “Upon his retirement, there was an appointment that was made … without there being any interviews or without there being the opportunity for any qualified candidates to I guess submit a resume and interview for the position. I would have loved to have stacked my resume against the individual who got the appointment.”
Wade went on to say that he will be listed near the end on the ballot.
“I will not have the ‘incumbent’ next to my name,” Wade said. “‘Incumbent,’ I believe, should be reserved for those individuals who have been elected. I don’t think there really is an incumbent in this race. Neither of us have been elected. So please, ignore the incumbent mark.”
Green did not respond to Wade’s comments when he was given the floor.
Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University who specializes in elections, said the ‘incumbent’ note is powerful.
“When voters see the ‘i’ next to the judge’s name, that’s usually who they vote for because they don’t know any better,” Swint said. “The average voter doesn’t know what kinds of decisions the judge has made or really much about their reputation unless they happen to be in the court or a lawyer, that kind of thing, so it’s an uphill battle to any challenger.”
Many challengers to appointed judges speak about against the incumbent note, Swint said.
“It’s not fair, but it’s the law,” Swint said. “It makes races less competitive, certainly, but there are a lot of things in our system that make races less competitive.”
At the forum, Green and Wade were asked by the moderator, AJC columnist Jim Galloway, to talk about the recent sentencing reform bill passed by the General Assembly that emphasizes treatment and rehabilitation of nonviolent drug and property offenders, leaving more rooms for violent criminals in the state’s overcrowded prisons. Did the candidates think such legislation was sufficient or would they like to see more done, Galloway asked.
Green, a former Marine, attorney with King & Spalding, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Georgia, said the Cobb Superior Court is working to create a mental health court.
“It’s something that is desperately needed,” Green said. “A majority of the inmates in our state prison system and in our county have some sort of mental health issues, so having a mental health court will make a dramatic difference, and there’s some funding available for that right now, and we’re in the process of writing for grants and what that entails.”
Cobb already has a drug court run by Superior Court Judge George Kreeger, he said.
“But the third thing that I think that we will do here shortly is create a veterans’ court,” Green said. “We’ve got a desperate need for that as well in Cobb County with Dobbins and all of the veterans that have served our country and have come back all to often with mental health issues, post-traumatic stress and other things. So our hope is we’re going to create both of those courts in the near future.”
Wade, a former prosecutor in Cobb State Court who runs his own law firm, answered Galloway’s question by saying, “It is not the role of a Superior Court judge to legislate from the bench, and that is one thing that I intend on not doing.”
The three candidates vying to replace retiring Cobb Superior Court Judge Dorothy Robinson also participated in forum.
One of those three candidates, former Marietta City Councilman and Deputy chief assistant district attorney Van Pearlberg, who said he’s been endorsed by Attorney General Sam Olens, District Attorney Pat Head and the Fraternal Order of Police, also praised the county’s drug court while speaking of the need for a mental health court.
“One of the biggest problems facing the state or facing the court system is that the state has a lack of funding to provide these courts that are going to be very necessary,” Pearlberg said.
A second candidate hoping to replace Robinson, State Court Judge Roland Castellanos, said he would like for as much discretion as possible when it comes to sentencing.
“We don’t deal with broad general terms or broad general principles,” Castellanos said. “We deal with each individual that comes into the courtroom, and judges need the discretion to be able to tailor the punishment.”
Juvenile Court Judge Greg Poole, a third candidate in the race for Robinson’s seat who said he’s been endorsed by the Cobb County Association of Educators, said every judge in the country would like more discretion.
“At some point in time, a crime is so heinous that you can understand being hogtied in having to give someone 10 years automatically or something like that, but believe me, and this is what the media picks up on, there are cases in this country, in this state, in this county that don’t fit that type of profile,” Poole said. “So I’m 100 percent in favor of it.”