Chuck Williams

Chuck Williams: Paulding County judge shenanigans highlight lack of integrity

There is a judicial mess playing out in Paulding County, Ga.

Superior Court Judge James Osborne qualified to run for re-election, then pulled his name off the ballot a week later after his daughter, attorney Elizabeth Osborne Williams, became a last-minute candidate to run against her dad.

The scheme apparently has failed.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission stepped in late last week and, as only folks at the state judicial watchdog organization can do, has worked out a tentative deal that will keep the judge and his daughter off the ballot, according to The Fulton Daily Report.

Judge Osborne is out at the end of the term, and his daughter won't be on the bench.

Fair enough.

End of the story, right?

Not really in these parts. In light of the failed coup of a critical position in any community, what recently happened in Russell County, Ala., is worth repeating.

While the Paulding County story highlights the lack of integrity and judgment by the judge and his daughter, it points out what a Russell County Circuit Court judge feared earlier this year when he announced his retirement.

Judge Al Johnson, who has been on the Russell County bench since 1984 and a Circuit Court judge since 1996, called me Jan. 9 and told me he was retiring at the end of the year. He wanted to make sure we published it immediately.

I thought the timing was strange because Judge Johnson had nearly 12 months remaining on his term.

It did not take long to figure out his motivation.

"I don't want any iota of shenanigans," Al Johnson said. " I want to give everyone fair and reasonable warning."

The reason?

The qualifying deadline to seek his office was Feb. 7. Johnson's son, David Johnson, is a District Court judge and had an eye on his father's seat.

You know Al Johnson wants his son to succeed him on the bench. What father would not want that for their son?

And, as predicted, David qualified to run for his father's Circuit Court -- which is the same thing as Superior Court in Georgia -- seat. But guess what? David picked up opposition along the way. Phenix City attorney April Logan Russell is running against Judge David Johnson in the June Democratic primary.

That is as it should be.

And it is because of the common sense of Judge Al Johnson, who had enough integrity not to give a public office to his child in an under-handed manner.

There was no common sense in Paulding County. Judge Osborne and his daughter proved they don't have the ethical common sense to hold a job that demands public trust.

Here's a tip of the hat to Judge Al Johnson, a father who was looking out for the best interest of his family name and in the process the people of Russell County.