No Experience Necessary To Be District Attorney in South Georgia!

As District Attorney for the South Georgia Judicial Circuit (composed of Decatur, Grady, Mitchell, Baker, and Calhoun counties), Joe Mulholland came to office four years ago after a last minute registration allowed him to run unopposed when the then D.A. surprised everyone and withdrew his name for reelection. At that time, Mulholland had been a member of the Georgia Bar for only about three years. Yes, the chief prosecutor for that chunk of Georgia had only been an attorney for around 1,000 days.

Flash forward four years and it’s time for Mulholland (a Democrat) to throw his hat into the ring for another election. But, interestingly, Assistant District Attorney Ryan Cleveland has also done so, as a Republican. As the Post-Searchlight of Bainbridge notes,

Cleveland, 36, A graduate of Brigham Young University, […] received a master’s degree in public administration in 1999 and earned his Juris Doctor degree from Mercer University School of Law, Macon, in 2005. [emphasis added]

So Mulholland, who continues to literally learn on the job, is being challenged by someone who also, as he qualifies to run for the first time, has himself only been an attorney for around 1,000 days.

Is there no attorney with more than a few years of experience who is willing to run for District Attorney there?


  1. HollyJ says:

    Chatham County seems to be having that same problem. Or at least the Democrats in Chatham County are having that problem. After 28 years the DA is stepping down and some kid named Will Claiborne is trying to become the next DA only problem….he hasnt even been a lawyer for three years yet and for some reason the Dems leadership it seems are going to back this guy. They have him on thier website. I usually dont vote along party lines. But there is no way that I would vote for this guy in the primary if the GOP has a guy with over 20 years of experience….are candidates that scarce in South Georgia? I am glad that at lleast it seems to be an issue all over the place and not just in pockets of the states.

  2. Rogue109 says:


    The Chief Assistant District Attorney there, David Lock, is also running for Spencer Lawton’s office. Ignore political parties on this one and give Lock your vote. He is top notch and has decades of experience as a prosecutor in Chatham.

  3. drjay says:

    there will be lots of dems in the chatham da race–zena mclain has qualified, a couple of others have said they are running but have not qualified yet-this seat only comes open every couple of decades so you can’t blame folks for giving it a shot-doug andrews rumors have been out there as well, the gop candidate david lock has been chief ada for several years now and is a great choice to succeed his almost former boss

  4. Groseclose says:

    Under Article 6, Section 8, Paragraph 1.b, a district attorney must have been a member of the bar only 3 years prior to the date of his/her election. See also Secretary of State. Poythress v. Moses, 250 Ga. 452, 298 S.E.2d 480 (1983)

    Mulholland was admitted 10/29/01, elected on 11/02/04
    Caliborne was admitted 10/01/05, seeking to be elected on 11/04/08.
    Cleveland was admitted 11/01/05, seeking to be elected on 11/04/08.

    Seems that all three met/meet, though barely, the constitutionaly admittance requirement. So don’t blame them, blame the Georgia Constitution.


  5. Rogue109 says:

    Groseclose: Did anyone say that their candidacy was illegal? I’m just saying that they aren’t qualified.

  6. drjay says:

    in a vacuum its probably a little tough to say that the guy that has been the DA for the past 4 years is not qualified to be the DA

  7. Groseclose says:

    Rogue: You missed the point of my post. They ARE qualified, by the standards set by Georgia’s Constitution.

  8. Groseclose says:

    No, John, I don’t think that was the point of his post. I think he was lamenting the fact that no one with more experience would not run for the post, not lamenting the arguably minimal requirements of the DA post.

    And to your second point. I don’t think it is “clear that Rogue is right.” The way to fix the problem—if one exists–is by making DA and ADA salaries more commensurate with private practice attorneys. You can hardly expect a partner with 7+ years of experience to leave his comfortable private practice to take a $109,464 (approximately the average salary of a DA) job, with little chance of increase pay.

  9. John Konop says:

    A DA and ADA gets a better health and retirement package in general than the private sector. Raising the pay without hire requirements does not make sense to me.

    I do know the issue of qualified people to become judges, DA, ADA…. is a real issue via pay. The problem is we have only so much tax dollars. Also mandatory sentencing has clogged the system up. Also we must find a better way to deal with the drug problem. Cobb is working on a innovative system to provide treatment for first time offenders, and it looks promising.

  10. Rogue109 says:

    No, John, I don’t think that was the point of his post. I think he was lamenting the fact that no one with more experience would not run for the post, not lamenting the arguably minimal requirements of the DA post.

    Groseclose: Spot on assessment. This is an important position and that these newbie attorneys think they can handle it is a testament to their inexperience. Someone else said that since the DA in question has held the job for four years that he can’t be called inexperienced….I would respectfully differ on that point. Just because you haven’t been recalled doesn’t mean that you still aren’t incapable of doing the job right. Just look at the Clayton County School Board!

  11. billybob3 says:

    I would argue that a guy who served as an ADA for three years and tried probably dozens upon dozens of cases (and saw how the office worked) would be more qualified than a guy who worked in private practice for 10 years doing corporate law . Just saying that the WAY you spend the three years makes a big difference.

  12. dorian says:

    John, I don’t know quite how to put this, so. . . .you have absolutely, positively no idea what you are talking about. None. Not only does the salary stink, but the insurance stinks too. United Healthcare. You gotta be friggin kidding me. yea, I suppose it is good compared to someone with no insurance. Also, did you follow the legislative session? They hosed the retirement package for virtually all new state employees. Then again, if you have no retirement, hey it’s beautiful, but if you have a law degree – not so much.

  13. dorian says:

    Not the point John. You said the insurance and benefits were great. They aren’t, but here’s another axim for you: “You get what you pay for”.

  14. dorian says:

    Uh huh, those folks at Kilpatrick Stockton are really, really hurting. I feel for them. I could just as easily say “many folks in the private sector are not hurting”. Wow me by next talking about howmuch better your anecdotal evidence is than mine.

  15. John Konop says:


    Many owners of companies like me require managers to check the going rate for jobs before we post them. How do you think we do it? BTW you can check by city.

  16. drjay says:

    i am now curious what the average amt. of exp is before one is elected da-as well as what kind of exp. it entails-not enough to look it up or anything but curious nonetheless

  17. drjay says:

    the nice thing about most of these positions (DA’s solicitor, judges, surveyors, etc…)is they are elected–so a minimal threshold is set and then its up to candidates to convince voters they are right for the job…

  18. Rogue109 says:

    Just to clarify, ya’ll know that per O.C.G.A. § 45-7-4 the base pay for District Attorney positions is $107,905.00, right? Plus, individual counties are permitted to pay additional supplements, if they so choose.

  19. dorian says:

    That’s super John. Only we were talking insurance and retirement. I doubt you even know the payscale for ADA’s.

  20. John Konop says:


    In the private sector most people pay a % of healthcare cost and have a 401k. I do not understand your point.

    Also many ADA’s know this is great trainng and use it to become trial lawyers. That training provides them with great jump in income in the future.

    BTW many of us do simular deals in business, in the early stage for less money knowing or hoping for the pay-off later. This is called risk vs. return.

  21. dorian says:

    What a great philosophy John. Let’s use the district attorney’s office, the ones responsible for prosecuting murderers and rapists, as a training program for private sector attorneys. I feel safer already.

    And my point was that you are wrong that insurance and retirement are better for the state. You’re still wrong, btw.

  22. dorian says:

    Apparently a lot more than you do. Stick with selling widgets champ. Looking up facts on websites in your free time hardly qualifies you as an expert.

  23. John Konop says:

    If you would use the internet ie google you would find out my father ia a successful trial lawyer out of Toledo. He has been on the most the major media via his cases.

    My father and his friends would recommend to law school that the ADA office is great place to get experience. This advice is rather common from experience successful trial lawyers.

    My father name is Alan Konop try google you might learn something.

  24. dorian says:

    So they leave to get paid more and for better benefits somewhere else? Gee, we’re right back where we started. . .with me being right.

    I’m actually secure enough in myself that I don’t need to name drop or ride anyone else’s coat tails. It may actually surprise you that some people care about the world they live in and like to make a difference. Having to constantly train a never-ending string of amateurs because the job pays slightly more than one of those DOT workers you see standing by the side of the road is insulting.

    I hope you are never the victim of a crime, any crime, but particularly a serious one. That inexperienced ADA will be the one you count on for any sense of closure. Maybe it will make you all warm and fuzzy to know the defense attorney who left for more money and for better benefits used to be a prosecutor.

  25. John Konop says:


    If I was riding coattails why did I not go to law school and work for my dad? I was only pointing out that the DA office has been a great training ground which many lawyers used.

    This is not uncommon in business many of us did the same to get ahead in life.

    As far as benefits do you understand most people pay a large % unlike you. Do you also understand that 401k is not paid retirement program?

  26. Doug Deal says:


    You really don’t know what you are talking about. ADA’s work under the supervision of the Sr ADA and the DA. It is not like they expect them to try murders the first day in the office.

  27. dorian says:

    Please, enlighten me Doug. Would you? Cause I could really use the benefit of your expertise. DA’s run their offices differently with different levels of oversight. You think one DA can supervise multiple counties and/or courtrooms? Could you also please enlighten me what a senior ADA is exactly and what the ratio to “junior” ADA’s is? What does a senior ADA do? Do they get special training? More money?

    If you could just point me to the place in PAC’s bylaws that explains all this, I would be more than happy to admit I am wrong. Perhaps a code section? A rule?

    You have no idea, neither of you, of the reality of the situation. You sit there in your little leather chairs trying to sound like you know what the hell your talking about, but in reality to someone who does know, it’s like a kid playing dress up. This state needs quality, educated prosecutors. Not a program for recylcing to the private sector.

    Finally John, I don’t recall mentioning what I pay, but I will tell you this, if you ever did see me in a courtroom, it wouldn’t be at the prosecutor’s table.

  28. dorian says:

    No, it means I’m not a prosecutor. We’re just debating dude. I don’t even know you. You could be 6’4 with a 400lb bench press. Jeez.

  29. dorian says:

    . . .though, if I ever did see you, in a courtroom or anywhere else, I may stick my tongue out at you. You can consider that a threat.

  30. Doug Deal says:


    You may be right. I am only familiar with the goings on in a handful of the larger judicial circuits, however those pretty much are run the same way, with a DA who usually has a senior ADA and a number of other ADAs.

  31. bowersville says:

    “bench press 350 lbs. and squats 485.”

    I’ll bet Trim didn’t know that when he was obnoxious to Konop’s son.

  32. dorian says:

    My apologies Doug. I can be rather overly-enthusiastic about certain issues, or as my wife likes to say “an insufferable a**”. I do have a stereotypical view of the successful/quasi-successful businessman who thinks their ability to pander widgets qualifies them as an expert on everything. In general, I find that these people end up in the legislative branch of government where they make a total mess of things. The ones that don’t. well. . .I only have two words. Ross Perot. Anyway, I am short, fat, and balding. I’ve also been told I waddle, so I don’t want to offend Tiny over there.

  33. Donkey Kong says:


    Konop was actually kicked out of the gym we used to go to. He broke too many bench press bars that they just couldn’t afford to keep him as a member. Poor guy. He has been relegated to benching his neighbor’s 1975 VW beetle instead.

  34. jct says:

    I think everyone admits that experience is a necessary element to the qualifications of a candidate. In my opinion, other vital elements are character, motivation and determination. With regard to experience, a simple review will show that Ryan Cleveland has close to three years working within the office he now seeks to run. He has seen firsthand the obstacles and the possibilities of the office, the position and the community. His trial record exceeds and rivals many of those in the civil arena that the commentators above call on for salvation. Most of the “commentary” on this blog focuses on this aspect alone. I don’t care to debate the system and whether it discourages or encourages any one of particular group of attorneys to its ranks. What I do care to debate is that anyone who knows Ryan Cleveland personally would have no doubt that he has no rival on the other necessary elements referenced above. No one can legitimately question his reasons for seeking this office. No one can legitimately question the manner in which he contributes to his community or cares for the integrity and role of the office of district attorney. No one can legitimately question the manner in which he has conducted himself during his time as an Assistant District Attorney. You may criticize his youth (and with that the energy and passion that walks hand in hand); however, if your concern is for the well being of the citizens of the South Georgia judicial circuit, your criticism undercuts that concern. I am not a resident of that judicial circuit (as I note neither are most of the “commentators” on this blog); however, I have family in that area. God forbid something were to happen to a member of my family, I have zero reservations that Ryan Cleveland is the person I want ensuring that my family member’s voice is heard and that those responsible account for their crimes.

  35. dorian says:

    Don’t know him jct, so I can’t comment either way. DA’s are generally politicians in jurisdictions of any size. Generally, not always. Experience helps, though. Say, for example, you have a capital murder case. High profile by nature. No question the DA should be the prosecutor. Problem is the cases are mine fields. You have to know the unified appeal procedure, and you can’t mess up at all on anything – because it all goes all the way up. Say, for example, you forgot to file the victim impact statements, or didn’t know when they had to be submitted. Well, you just lost your chance to use them in the penalty phase. Anyway, like I said, I don’t know the guy.

    Donkey, it helps when, you know, you can’t google the person you are referring to. In contrast, I have a bodyguard named “Big Vito”. he is an italian jew who after serving in the Israeli Special Forces went on to get his black belt from the Gracie dojo, so “Phphphphpt!”

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