No variable specified
Roswell judge election won’t be on November ballot
by Joan Durbin
jdurbin@neighbornewspapers.com
August 28, 2013 01:25 PM | 1949 views | 3 3 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The decision to either keep the municipal judge an elected position rather than an appointed one is too important to be rushed, according to a majority of Roswell city council members.

On Monday, five of six of them voted to postpone the issue until the council meeting on Sept. 23 in order to give them more time to digest additional information.

According to the city charter, they have until Oct. 4 to call a special election to replace Maurice Hilliard, who resigned as city judge early this month.

But the city’s attorneys said state law does not require such an election, and that supersedes the charter.

If council wanted to get the election on the November ballot, the special election would have to be called this week, and potential candidates would have to qualify by Friday.

“I am open to an appointed judge, but I’m very concerned about making that decision right now,” said Councilman Kent Igleheart.

“I’m not comfortable putting on the election for November,” Councilwoman Becky Wynn said. “I’d like to have more information about the pros and cons of an elected versus an appointed judge. Right now I’m not married to one way or the other.”

If council on Sept. 23 does opt for the election, it could be held in either March or May of 2014, said Assistant City Attorney Bob Hulsey.

The only council member who voted against the deferral for more discussion was Councilwoman Betty Price.

“According to our charter, we are required to call a special election, if we are still following our charter,” she said.

Council approved appointing a list of stand-by judges to preside over municipal court to preside in the interim.

Price also said that if council intended to consider an appointed judge, city voters should have a say in that decision.

“If there is any movement towards an appointed judge, I think at least we should run it by the electorate for their approval,” Price said.

Council is having a special called meeting this morning (Wednesday) at 9 a.m. to talk about putting that question to voters.

On Tuesday morning, Mayor Jere Wood, who will be out of town on Wednesday, said the city’s legal department had found an attorney general’s opinion that non-binding questions, such as this issue of an appointed judge, can not be placed on an official ballot.

Hulsey said City Attorney David Davidson was drafting a memo to that effect for mayor and council.

In a related matter, council on Monday also postponed a decision on outsourcing court services to the Jacobs Group, which handles Sandy Springs’ court functions.

That reorganization would reduce the number of full time positions in Roswell’s court system from 16 to 13, meaning some current employees could be out of a job. Those employees now will wait until Sept. 23 to hear whether council approves the measure.

“Because this is a major decision, we owe it to everyone to have full information,” Igleheart said.
Comments
(3)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
anonymous
|
September 12, 2013


Let's cut to the chase!

Roswell’s Municipal Judge, Maurice Hilliard, threw out the city’s allegations during the city’s witch hunt of Andrew Wordes, AKA the Roswell Chickenman, not once, but twice.

Judge Hilliard's actions basically made Roswell's Legal Department and City Council the laughing stock of the civilized world bringing national media attention to City Hall.

The end result was that Judge Hilliard, who has been on the bench in Roswell for over 30 years and is without a doubt the most well respected judge throughout North Fulton, if not the entire State of Georgia, has been forced out of his position, frustrated by unacceptable changes in his working environment.

And I am sorry to say this was not the only example of government over reach in Roswell because at nearly the same time, a local member of Roswell’s medical profession was forced to go the Fulton County Court system to have felony terroristic threat charges thrown out when members of Roswell’s tax department chose to obfuscate the English language as a form of retaliation to the doctor’s charges of on-going incompetence and harassment.

And now the possibility exists that the City Administrator will be appointing the Municipal Judge, as well as the Chief of Police.

As Judge Hilliard stated “If I’m appointed by you and don’t do your bidding, how long will I stay appointed."

Lee Fleck
|
August 28, 2013
The following represents excerpts reprinted with the permission of the author, Mr. John Monroe, a lawyer from Roswell practicing in the area of civil rights litigation for 20 years. These come from his letter to Mayor Wood & City Council and shed much more light on the subject than expressed in this article alone:

August 28, 2013

Dear Mayor and Council,

I am writing you as a follow-up to my remarks made at the August 28, 2013 Special Called Meeting....

...It is true that Roswell is not required, as a municipality, to separate its powers. It is not true, however, that there is no current separation of powers. We currently enjoy a separate judiciary, with a judge elected by the people and not subject to dismissal by the Mayor and Council except for cause. The current proposal is to go to a system whereby the Mayor and Council will appoint a judge to serve at its pleasure…...

……..As I will show below, it would be unconstitutional for the Mayor and Council to follow through with the proposal as described above...

…... the constitutional separation of powers doctrine fully applies to municipal officers when they are exercising state powers. Thus, Roswell’s police officers are “state executive officers” when they enforce state criminal laws, and Roswell’s judge is performing “state judicial powers” when he issues warrants based on alleged violations of state laws, and when he presides over cases involving violations of state traffic or misdemeanor laws. Because the police enforce state criminal laws on a continual basis, and because the municipal judge presides over state violation cases at virtually every court session, it is nearly impossible in today’s arrangements to claim the police and judge are ever performing solely municipal functions…..

….The days are long gone when “police courts” or “city courts” applied only municipal law. We now use our municipal courts as “junior varsity” state courts. Indeed, the municipal courts are answerable to the Supreme Court as the State Judicial Qualifications Commission as part of a unified court system……

……the Supreme Court affirmed that the separation of powers doctrine does not apply to municipalities when they are strictly performing municipal functions in Building Authority of Fulton County v. State of Georgia, 253 Ga. 242 (1984). In that case, the Supreme Court remarked that a county commission is both the executive and legislative branch (much like the Roswell Mayor and Council is both the legislative and executive branch)…..

…… (despite City Attorney Davidson’s assertion that Roswell contains only a “trunk” and “no branches.”) One might wonder, then, how the separation of powers doctrine even applies in the present situation, where the Mayor and Council are contemplating only the power to appoint (and dismiss) the municipal judge…. ....It should be clear that those two powers, especially the power to dismiss, is a de facto power to control….....

….If the Mayor and Council move to a system whereby the municipal judge is appointed to serve at the Mayor and Council’s pleasure, the result will be an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers doctrine. The Mayor and Council will have given itself the power to control the state executive and state judicial powers wielded by Roswell. ...

I watch and wonder
|
August 29, 2013
I was at the Council Meeting on Monday night. It as like watching an audition for Saturday Night Live. But the quote by Becky Wynn in this reporting is inaccurate. She actually said she was in favor of an appointed judge and that "we should just do it". Why would a city give the authority to appoint a judge to the city council who are politicians first and citizens second? Georgia is not exactly a model of great judicial appointments. Maurice Hillliard served for 30 years and was a common sense judge who was elected by the people to serve justice to those people. Enough usurpation of power by this Mayor, Council and City Administrator (the real power behind the thrones ).

*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, spam, and links to outside websites will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides