Five judges in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit are up for re-election this month. Only one of them faces opposition.
Judge Art Smith, 56, was appointed to the bench last year by Gov. Nathan Deal. He faces opposition in Senior Assistant District Attorney LaRae D. Moore, 41. Smith was appointed to complete the unfinished term of former Judge Doug Pullen, who stepped down last year amid a judicial misconduct investigation.
Whoever is elected July 31 will serve a four-year term, as will the four judges who are unopposed: John Allen, Gil McBride, Bobby Peters and Bill Rumer. The six-county circuit includes Muscogee, Harris, Chattahoochee, Talbot, Taylor and Marion counties.
Moore has practiced law for 17 years. Her passion for the law has driven her to run for public office, she said.
"I want to offer myself for service in a job that I have a passion for," added Moore, who works in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit. "I think a Superior Court judgeship is a natural progression in that public service role."
Moore said she wants the judgeship because she can ensure everyone's rights are protected and give everyone the chance to be heard. She wants people to know that she'll equally consider all cases.
When asked why they should vote for her, Moore tells people they must understand the magnitude of the Superior Court. A Superior Court judge handles criminal cases, family law, civil and land disputes.
"The cases heard in Superior Court are life-changing cases," Moore said. "I've been there for the past 17 years. I've got experience dealing with those issues on a daily basis."
Moore has served as a prosecutor, a federal public defender and in private practice.
If elected, Moore said she wants the public to have confidence in the court system. People must know what the court system is, what is does and know that it works. For that to happen, they must know judges are handling cases properly.
"It's not some secret process," Moore said. "Everybody has a stake in it."
Smith is the second judge within two years to be appointed to the bench in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit. He said that when former Judge Robert Johnston III stepped down in 2010, the time wasn't right. However, Smith believed it was time when Pullen retired early. Smith retired from his job at Aflac and took the job he's always wanted.
"I've found it to be very satisfying," Smith said of the work. "I certainly didn't seek it for prestige or power. I'd always wanted to be on the bench."
Smith worked in a general law practice for 10 years before joining Aflac as its corporate counsel. He stayed with the insurance company for 23 years before the governor tapped him for the bench last year.
Smith pointed to what he said was a lifetime of experience as a reason to vote for him. He served as a Navy JAG officer for eight years on active and inactive duty in the Navy Reserves. He then practiced law for 33 years before becoming a judge.
"I've handled a wide array of cases all across the country in both state and federal court," Smith said.
If elected to a full term, Smith said he intends to move cases through the system at a reasonable pace. He noted one 1992 real estate case that had been lingering in the system which recently was resolved.
"I enjoy the job I've been given to do," Smith said. "This is a very busy circuit. I'd like to continue to do it."