Perdue: State standards are good for cops (and booze), but horrible for judges

Sonny Perdue yesterday vetoed HB 1236, which would have required Municipal Court judges throughout Georgia to be licensed to practice law and be a member in good standing of the State Bar of Georgia. Those already serving who were not qualified would have been grandfathered in.

Pretty good idea, right? Having judges in Municipal Court who are actually lawyers and actually have experience in the law? No so, says the Guv’na:

Because I believe cities should be able to decide what qualifications their municipal judges should have, I VETO HB 1236.

So local municipalities should be able to make their own decisions about who they want as judges. Okay, I’ll admit it, I can understand it if the citizens of, for example, Pavo or Brinson, want their judge to be Joe who runs the pharmacy down the street. Because if the guy chosen really screws up, he can be given the proverbial boot quickly.

But, then, if our Governor is sooooo interested in local control over law enforcement standards, why does Perdue continue to fund the Georgia Peace Officer’s Standards and Training Council? Georgia P.O.S.T. administers the law enforcement regulatory process and sets the standards for training and certification for all law enforcement officers across Georgia! Isn’t that telling “small town Georgia” how they can organize their own police force?

What if Ty Ty, Georgia, wanted to organize their own police force in some inventive way or just have ‘ol Fred standing on the corner issuing traffic citations? Why should they have to be burdened by the “rules” from “the man” in Atlanta? Can’t they decide how they want their law enforcement organized and operated?

No, I’m not actually calling for the destruction of Georgia P.O.S.T. But it points out, yet again, how the thought processes of our current Governor always sounds pretty fair on the first pass but then end up making very little sense. A Municipal Court judge should at least be licensed to practice law in Georgia.

Barney Fife just e-mailed in to note, “Rule Number One: Obey ALL rules!”

[UPDATE] In the comments comes another excellent point: Perdue is all hot and bothered by the concept of local municipalities being able to set the standards for their judges, but GOD FORBID if a municipality wants to permit its citizens to purchase alcohol on a Sunday from a store.

21 comments

  1. I Am Jacks Post says:

    “Because I believe cities should be able to decide what qualifications their municipal judges should have.”

    But they should not be able to exercise their judgment when it comes to alcohol, the Devil’s elixir.

  2. bgsmallz says:

    Those separation of powers doctrines are tricky, aren’t they. Police power typically falls under the a different branch of government than judicial…b/c the judicial branch is traditionally a check on police power. So, arguing for local power to decide standards of judges does not mean that you’re being inconsistent if you believe there should be state regulations over the local police.

    In fact, local control over the local judiciary is local control over a check in local law enforcement…a pretty common, but apparently misunderstood, concept.

    And why someone has to be an active member of the GA Bar to be a municipal judge is beyond me except that it would create more revenue for the…Ga Bar. There are literally hundreds of attorneys working in-house at large corporations in Georgia that are inactive members of the bar or who aren’t even members of the GA bar to begin with.

    Is there a genuine argument to be made over whether we should have minimum state standards for all judges in the courts of Georgia? Of course there is…I’d like to think that we should require more than a high school diploma, but really what costs should we impose on those local governments by requiring them to pay the salary of an active member of the GA bar or a college graduate, etc. and are those costs worth the benefits especially considering that there are always options to appeal to higher courts where the standards for judges are to have practiced law for a minimum of X # of years, etc.? Wait…I forgot, that is a productive discussion about cost/benefits of regulation…not something that meets the Pete Randall “Everything is a two-faced or liberal conspiracy that needs to be purged from our glorious state/city because it is imposing on my right to believe that I am always right and there is no gray” smell test.

    Let’s just keep today’s lesson simple. Judicial is a different branch of government than police.

    • bgsmallz says:

      I’s assuming my point will not be ‘excellent’ b/c it doesn’t agree with the premise of the article.

      Looks like I’m only going home with a nice assortment of parting gifts.

      • ZazaPachulia says:

        I’ll give you an ‘EXCELLENT POINT’ Bgsmallz…

        You’re pretty much spot on.

    • There may be 100’s of attorneys in Georgia working for corporations who aren’t members of the bar, but I highly doubt they are doing legal work. Every attorney I know who is employed but doesn’t strictly do legal work in this state maintains active bar membership. Every single one of them. And many of them have never stepped into a courtroom or been “actively practicing” at all.

      I think it’s insane that any type of judge in this state wouldn’t have to be a lawyer. There may be a few that have done it long enough to pick up how things work, and maybe if they are just in municipal court they deal with a small enough scope of the law that it is easy to master those parts, but c’mon. Judges should be lawyers.

      • ACCmoderate says:

        I’ve watched hours of Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown. Does the qualify me to become a judge? Apparently it does.

        I want to re-state the point that the “hundreds of attorneys” bgsmallz mentions are most likely members in good standing of the Georgia Bar. If they aren’t, than its a 100% garuntee that the most they’re doing “in-house” is getting people coffee.

        You can get a job straight out of law school, but nearly every place will ask you to leave if you fail to pass the bar exam (most places give you a second try). So those in-house guys making the big bucks are all members of the Bar.

        • ACCmoderate says:

          In addition… to actually litigate (which is what those in-house guys do), you need to be a member of good standing with the bar.

          • bgsmallz says:

            Just an FYI…you don’t have to be a member of the GA bar to do ‘legal work’ as an in house counsel in GA. Delta, Coke, Southern Company…well just see http://www.law.com/jsp/cc/PubArticleCC.jsp?id=1202428421539

            However, note that the GA Bar wants to try to require those attorneys to be active members of the GA Bar, too.

            I love this quote…

            “Nobody’s complaining that there are in-house lawyers that are somehow infiltrating Georgia,” said Susan Hackett, general counsel of the Washington-based Association of Corporate Counsel. Registration rules constitute “needless paperwork,” she said. “It’s make work. No one is going to be more competent because of registering with the bar and paying money.”

            Having a law degree, having been a practicing attorney, having bar membership in another state, being an inactive member of the GA bar, and being an active member of the GA bar…all different things. I agree that it would be better if all judges had a law degree and had experience practicing law. I certainly disagree that they should be required to be dues paying, active members of the GA bar by statute. But to me those are all part of the issue…what is the cost on the local governments for regulating the activity at the state level and despite the knee-jerk common sense reaction of “everyone should be a practicing lawyer to be a judge”, there would be increased costs on small, local governments for what seems to be a relatively small benefit considering that the losing party has the right to appeal to a higher court and a more qualified judge if they believe the judge to have made an error in the law. We are only talking about Probate judges in jurisdictions of less than 96,000, magistrate judges (who can’t hear civil cases worth more than $15K), and other small claims local courts. (http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2841)

            This just smells like a land grab by the GA Bar and their lobby rather than an actual attempt to weigh the costs of the law to small rural communities against the actual benefits the citizens there will receive from it.

            • bgsmallz says:

              Again, Pete, sorry to try to have rational discussion about these things and citing sources and such…I know how that brings you down.

              You can now resume trying to spin every veto/law/comment into a tail to be pinned on your donkey of choice.

  3. lively64 says:

    Earlier in the year these same citizens weren’t smart enough to choose the state’s school superintendent, insurance commissioner, agriculture commissioner or labor commissioner.

    Also, what of all the state standards for the lowest level school teacher?

  4. hugoblacksupreme says:

    This was a bad veto. The standards for judges has remained the same for some time now. It is practical for muni judges qualifications to change (increase) over time. This law would have kept the existing judges in place and updated the qualifications over time with the new replacements.

  5. iamnotasocialist says:

    WTF, mate? This is one of those things that Crazy Bobby Franklin would sit in the back, blathering on about how crazy Nazi robots are coming to eat his brains, and then everyone sane would vote for it–kind of bill. REALLY, Sonny? The good news is that whomever is in the seat next year will likely sign it.

  6. tek says:

    Georgia P.O.S.T. does set the standard of training and certification for all Law enforcement officer across Georgia. But they do not tell a city how to set-up their departments. All P.O.S.T does is teach all new and current officers the proper produces for enforcing Federal and Georgia state laws. It is up to the county or city to teach the officer their own produces that has on it on book. Like in Columbus police officers are not allowed to chase vehicles that do not stop but Atlanta they are allowed. Georgia P.O.S.T only mandate that officers have 20 hours of training per year to keep their certification.

  7. Jimbo says:

    I don’t know very much about judicial issues, but I am a little bit confused about this. Pete Randall says that the bill would require Municipal judges “to be licensed to practice law and be a member in GOOD STANDING [emphasis mine] of the State Bar of Georgia.” bgsmallz says “active member.”
    Meanwhile, the State Bar of Georgia website says “All persons authorized to practice law in this state are required to be members.”
    http://www.gabar.org/about_the_bar/
    This makes it seem that membership in the Bar is required BEFORE you become a lawyer or judge. If this is the case, then signing the bill would have been needlessly repetitive, right?

    • blazer says:

      It is required to be a lawyer; however, the issue at hand is that not all municipalities are requiring that their judges be lawyers therefore they are not members of the bar.

      • ACCmoderate says:

        Law firms will higher associates out of law school, but if they don’t pass the bar (usually with 2 tries), then they’re asked to leave. To practice law, you need to pass the bar and maintaing good standing with the bar (don’t show up to court drunk, don’t perjure yourself, don’t touch little boys, etc).

        To be a judge, all you have to do is convince folks to vote for you. Heck, you don’t even have to know anything about the human body and you can run for coroner.

      • The Georgia Constitution, Art. 6, § 7, II, requires that justices of the Georgia Supreme Court and judges of the Court of Appeals, the superior courts and the state courts “shall have been admitted to practice law for seven years.” Juvenile court judges are required to have been admitted to practice for five years. Probate and magistrate judges are to have “such qualifications as provided by law.”

        In some counties, probate and magistrate judges are required to be lawyers; in others they are not. Certain large-county probate judges, who must be lawyers, have powers that small-county probate judges do not, for example the power to conduct jury trials.

        I know of a couple recent magistrate-court elections where one candidate was a lawyer and the other was not. In one of those elections the lawyer won; in the other the lawyer lost.

        There is no mention in that constitutional provision of municipal courts. Municipal courts are created by local laws.

        Interestingly, the great majority of municipal court judges are lawyers, while many probate judges and magistrates are not. That is probably because municipal courts are found in municipalities, where there are concentrations of lawyers. But every county has a probate court, and there are some counties in Georgia without a single lawyer.

  8. The Comma Guy says:

    Who do you want to make decisions on the issuance of search and arrest warrants – a lawyer who will be able to make a legal determination if there are grounds to issue the warrant or some guy who everyone thinks is a “fair” person?

    Consider what happened in Twiggs County recently. The probate judge in that county, who is not a lawyer, has been accused of running a slush fund in the county, mistreating defendants and engaging in other misconduct, such as telling defendants they had to prove their own innocence, didn’t apply proper standards for finding guilt, and used unqualified people to serve as interpreters

    After two probation officers testified against him, the Judge tried to get the officers fired. The Supreme Court has now suspended him.

  9. Game Fan says:

    Ty Ty has a great mail order nursery. And according to the videos everybody @ TyTy is happy and good looking. No crime to speak of @ TyTy (the nursery, not the town) Then again, as far as I know the Town itself could be some type of hells kitchen. I just don’t know.
    http://www.tytyga.com/

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