Around Town: Bodiford bowing out: High-profile judge plans to retire at year end
by Joe Kirby, Otis A. Brumby III and Lee B. Garrett, - Around Town Columnists
January 20, 2014 11:59 PM | 9187 views | 9 9 comments | 86 86 recommendations | email to a friend | print
COBB SUPERIOR COURT Judge Jim Bodiford, who has presided over many of Georgia’s most notorious criminal trials of recent years, will retire at year end rather than seek what would be his sixth term on the Cobb bench, he told Around Town on Monday.

Qualifying for the November non-partisan judicial election is in March and Bodiford said that revealing his intentions now will give lawyers who are interested in running sufficient time to prepare their campaigns.

But unlike many retiring jurists, Bodiford plans to serve out the remainder of his term rather than retire early and see his successor appointed by the governor. The successors in such cases then are able to run as incumbent judges, giving them a presumed advantage.

“It’s nothing against the governor,” Bodiford said. “But this will let lawyers who are interested run for an open seat like I did 20 years ago.”

Then-Judge Watson White announced his plans to retire early in 1994 but served out his term, which Bodiford won after a hard-fought campaign against Toby Prodgers, who now is a Cobb State Court judge.

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BODIFORD is arguably Georgia’s best-known judge after having presided over a string of notorious trials in the past 15 years, starting with the death penalty case against ex-lawyer Fred Tokars of east Cobb, convicted in connection with the shotgun death of his wife, Sara. He also presided over the case against Lynn Turner, found guilty of using antifreeze to poison first her husband, a Cobb police officer, and later her live-in boyfriend, a Forsyth County firefighter. She later killed herself in prison. Both the Tokars and Turner trials were held outside of Cobb because of massive pre-trial publicity here.

Bodiford in addition was called on to preside over a pair of other trials outside of Cobb that were covered gavel-to-gavel by Court TV. The first was the 2002 Walker County trial of Ray Brent Marsh, who was accused of stacking more than 300 dead bodies in the backyard of the crematorium he owned rather than disposing of them properly. Marsh eventually plead guilty after extensive pretrial hearings.

Then in 2008 Bodiford was recruited to preside over the death penalty trial of Brian Nichols, the Fulton County Courthouse shooter, after the first judge in the case recused himself. The trial had been pending for three years at that point, but Bodiford expeditiously empaneled a Fulton County jury and completed the trial within a matter of months. Nichols was convicted and is serving life without parole.

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BODIFORD, 64, hopes to serve as a mediator and case evaluator after his retirement and also plans to request Gov. Nathan Deal appoint him to Senior Judge status. That would allow him to continue to try cases as needed both in Cobb and, if requested, elsewhere in the state. Cobb’s other Senior Judges are Conley Ingram, Grant Brantley, George Kreeger and Mike Stoddard.

The Powder Springs native is a graduate of John Marshall School of Law and was given its Distinguished Alumni Award in 2010. Prior to his election to the Cobb bench, he spent 10 years as chief magistrate and was responsible for setting up Cobb’s first Drug Scheduling Court to move such cases through the system in a timelier manner.

Bodiford, who underwent emergency quadruple bypass surgery in 2011, dismisses talk that his pending retirement is health related. Just the opposite in fact.

“I think my health is better now than it was 10 years ago,” he said. “I’m extremely lucky that they found the blockages when they did, and I have a lot more energy now than I did then.”

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THE YEAR THAT JUST ENDED “was a phenomenal year for Lockheed and the plant, although you didn’t always hear about it in the news,” according to Lockheed Martin VP and Marietta site GM Shan Cooper.

The plant delivered 25 new C-130J Super Hercules cargolifters in ’13 and is projected to build 24 this year. The J is the only aircraft production program at the plant these days and employs 1,930 of the plant’s 6,300 workers, according to director of communications Johnny Whitaker.

The plant delivered its 300th copy of the C-130J last year and also saw the C-130J fleet surpass a cumulative 1 million flight hours, he said.

The plant produced and delivered 37 Center Wing Assemblies for the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, with about 40 (or about one per manufacturing week) expected this year. The Assemblies are trucked to the Lockheed plant in Fort Worth, home of the F-35 production line.

The plant upgraded six C-5 Galaxys into C-5M Super Galaxys last year and is expected to convert seven this year.

As for the rewinging program for the P-3 Orion maritime surveillance plane, the plant delivered 15 wing sets in 2013 and is projected to deliver 10 this year. The project is expected to add 15 or more years of additional life for the 50-year-old planes.

No new production lines are in the pipeline in the near term, but should LM land contracts to build the new T-X Air Force trainer, the new long-range bomber or more drone programs, “we want to position the Marietta operation to compete for the work to be accomplished here,” Whitaker said.

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TAXES: Former Gov. Roy Barnes of Marietta has come out in favor of doing away with the sales tax exemption for groceries, if the additional revenue brought in goes toward education. There are more than 100 sales tax exemptions, the biggest being those for food and prescription drugs.

“We should repeal the exemptions as necessary to properly fund our public schools,” he told the Marietta Rotary Club on Thursday. “Given the choice of saving our public schools and saving a few cents on my groceries, I will choose education and future prosperity.”

As he noted several times in his talk, “I can say this now,” since he is no longer in office.

Barnes noted that when he was the state’s chief executive (1998-2002) the first question asked him by the CEOs of companies thinking of relocating to Georgia was always the same.

“It was not, ‘What are your tax rates in the state?’ It was, ‘What are your test scores?’ ‘What is the state of education in your state?’ ‘If I locate there, will I be able to have the skilled workers necessary to fill the jobs?’

“Would they talk to you about taxes? Yeah — as they walked out the door. But it was never a deal breaker. And it was never what they looked for.”

“If we don’t educate and train the new generation of students who can compete economically and have high skills, I can tell you we will not prosper as a state or nation,” he added.

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EVENTS: The Civil War Roundtable of Cobb County will host Hunley Commission member Randall Burbage of Charleston at its Feb. 6 meeting. Burbage will talk about the recovery and later work done on the H.L. Hunley, which on Feb. 17, 1864 became the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship. However, the Hunley’s crew of Confederate volunteers perished during the attack and the ship’s remains were not rediscovered until the late 1990s. The talk will take place at the KSU Center, 3333 Busbee Drive in Kennesaw. For info go to cobbcwrt.org.

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DURING the Q&A period after his talk, Barnes was asked by member Chris Miller what could be done to prevent demagoguery by politicians.

“You can’t prevent demagoguery. You gotta have leadership, and folks willing to take a chance that they’re gonna get beat. But take it from me,” he added with a half-smile. “Getting beat is not the end of the world.”

Comments
(9)
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Golly gee
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January 24, 2014
Is this the same Roy Barnes that tried to take school tax dollars by trying to convince the School Board to give John Williams a tax break?

Sounds like double talk to me.
Argue
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January 24, 2014
Yes I would argue he is not the best known judge, and the only thing hard about the race against Prodgers was when Bodiford was caught pulling up his opponent's signs. Bodiford volunteered for those outside cases. He was not recruited.
An Enlarge Territory
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January 21, 2014
I have served under this honorable judge James G Bodiford administration for 16 years and without a doubt I believe God is about to enlarge Judge Bodiford's territory. With the competent knowledge of the law that God entrusted within this man and the dignity and respect He placed in his character, He is not finished with Judge James G. Bodiford. He has announced retirement from one bench but I predict he is about to advance to a higher calling in his judicial gifts. His gifts are many and were used honorably and superior. Now, God will elevate him and make room every where for Him across the nation. Be Blessed
irked
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January 21, 2014
I'm guessing the Judge will retire to Vegas to capitalize on his unique talent to come up with the big numbers as evidenced by his random selection for all the media cases over the years.
I Agree
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January 24, 2014
You probably are not aware he actually takes trips to Vegas with his buddy Magistrate Judge Frank Cox. Bodiford who was born in ST. Louis not Powder Springs is not as well known as the paper wants you to believe. There was a survey done when he was opposed that revealed he was not known any more than his opponent. Seventy percent of those polled did not know him.
need a real listner
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January 21, 2014
I have been in two court rooms in my life. The first one was run with excellence with a superior judge who obviously had a competent knowledge of the law and an equally important personal knowledge of respect and character. That statement describes Judge Bodiford to a Tee. I thought this type of courtroom behavior was the norm until I was later in Judge Bower's courtroom. Besides the unbelievable level of disrespect exhibited by Bowers (tossing a toy up and down during the trial and the way he addressed the public), Mr. Bowers and others would do well to take a lesson on how to treat people from Judge Bodiford. Hopefully, Bodiford's replacement will follow the Superior Court's model and not this lower court occupant's behavior on the bench.
Hey Jim is that you
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January 24, 2014
Everyone knows that Bodiford goes off on people in his courtroom. That is why you don't see comments from the many attorney's that have gone before him. He is arrogant and self serving. If there is a going away party you can bet several attorneys will be there to make sure he won't change his mind.
Just Wait
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January 21, 2014
Judge Bodiford is one the most able courtroom leaders in this state. His no nonsense approach, even handedness, complete control and knowledge are a lesson to be learned by other judges. He will be sorely missed on the bench.
is that you Nancy
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January 24, 2014
What did you base that statement on? If that is the case, this comment section should be full of comments from folks all over the state. Doesn't even look like folks in Cobb even think much about him at all based on the number of comments posted.
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