Judge that set hearing in divorce records matter is a Marshall contributor

Jim Galloway reports that the judge that set the hearing arguments later this month on whether or not Austin Scott’s divorce records should be made public is has contributed to Jim Marshall in the past:

Tift County Superior Court Judge Melanie Cross has set a court date of Oct. 26 to hear the matter. The general election is Nov. 2 – and one presumes that any lawyer worth his or her salt could have the matter delayed a mere week.

Even so, Republican researchers have already come across a handy fact: According to opensecrets.org, a database of federal campaign contributions, Mrs. Melanie Cross of the law firm Cross & Rigdon, living in ZIP code 31794, gave $1,000 to Marshall in 2006.

[UPDATE] Cross set the date for the hearing, but Judge Bill Reinhardt will hear the arguments.


  1. inlimine says:

    You really need to do better. She signed the hearing notice or Rule Nisi. She is NOT hearing the motion. It’s funny how this “takes off” without any research, even the most basic!

    • Charlie says:

      But she did set a hearing one week before an election.

      Do you think Jim Marshall is taking any time off to prepare for this hearing?

      Do you think Austin Scott will have to?

      Do you see that setting a hearing on a case that has been sealed for 6 years one week before an election, whether granted or not, still distracts Austin from his campaign?

      The criticism of her is fair.

      • inlimine says:

        Motions are filed, court admins set hearing dates, judges sign the nisi. I think the whole thing is just a waste of everyone’s time, personally.

        • No, not everyone’s time. It’s a waste of Austin Scott’s time. Austin must now choose how to spend his time just before the election. Does he spend his time defending the privacy of his family or in beating the slime-loving Jim Marshall?

          If anyone cares, Ray Cross, husband of Melanie Cross gave $1000 to Friends of Jim Marshall earlier this year. I wonder if it was from his personal checking account or their joint account.

          Judge Cross should have recused herself. She has brought into question the impartiality of the courts by not doing so.

          Finally, I wonder if other judges were approached prior to Melanie Cross. It would be interesting to know.

      • polisavvy says:

        Exactly, Charlie, and she has opened herself up to it all. I guess she forgot people can find out who donates to whom by checking Open Secrets. Not a bright move on her part.

      • Mike Hauncho says:

        I don’t understand why anyone other than the couple who filed for divorce should have the right to open their sealed records.

        This is the quote that bothers me most.
        “The parties consent to closure or sealing cannot override the public’s right to review proceedings and documents,” Sanders argued in her filing.

        The notion that the public has a right to know your private life is wrong.

        • inlimine says:

          Parties should think about what they are putting in the record when they go through a divorce. When you go after each other and sue one another, essentially, over your marriage – it turns into the public’s business, sadly. Throwing in salacious and “dirty” laundry to gain leverage can come back to haunt. This isn’t “new law,” it’s age old stuff. Public records are public records. Sealing civil matters is the exception to the rule, and it doesn’t happen often. If my divorce is public record, so should yours be. The “sealing” discretion of a trial judge isn’t something to be applied lightly, and it’s a rarity.

          The fact that it was sealed says a lot, and I am sure Scott’s lawyers will go to bat to keep it that way.

          • I’m not an attorney, so excuse my ignorance. Is this one of those areas that descended from our adaptation of “English Common Law?” I can understand why many legal records are public, but a divorce proceeding is one that is hard to figure out.

          • If my divorce is public record, so should yours be.

            So, if I’m smart enough to request that my records be sealed and you’re too lazy or too dumb to not do so, then I should be punished equally to you.

            I think not.

            The “sealing” discretion of a trial judge isn’t something to be applied lightly, and it’s a rarity.

            If that’s so, then perhaps we should respect that judge’s decision.

            Only an idiot thinks that the request is not political – or that it benefits Jim Marshall. If you don’t understand that playing politics with a person’s family is wrong, then you just don’t get it.

            There will be nothing in those papers that change how effective Austin Scott will be as a US Congressman – and that will be much more than Jim Marshall has been for the past eight years – or will be in the next 20.

            Marshall is desperate to turn focus from his dismal lack of leadership in Congress; his inability to get legislation passed; and his inability to be a voice for the majority of the people in this district. Marshall will do and say anything to win this election . . . except follow the directives of the citizens of this district.

      • Lady Thinker says:

        She does live in a glass house so she has to make sure her actions are above board and fair so I agree, the criticism of her is fair and she should have recused herself.

        But in thinking about it, in raising political funds, don’t most all elected officials give money to each other?

        • Judge Cross and her husband live in Tifton, which is Austin Scott’s legislative district. I could find no contributions from either of them to Austin Scott.

          Judge Cross’s position is, I believe, a nonpartisan judgeship. Apparently she likes Jim Marshall enough to contribute to his past campaign.

          • inlimine says:

            Is it worth noting that she wasn’t a judge until she won the election in November 2008? Probably not, but I thought I’d throw it out there. In 2006 she was just another lowly lawyer without a black robe supporting candidates of her choosing.

            • polisavvy says:

              So, I guess since she’s a “newly elected” judge, we should assume that she had no idea that her husband gave to Marshall’s campaign this year? I kind of find that hard to believe. I think I’d know if my husband made a generous donation to any candidate.

            • And so, we’re supposed to ignore everything in her life prior to her election? No, I don’t think I will.

              Do you actually think she should not have recused herself?

              • inlimine says:

                Here’s what I think. The court administrator sets the hearing dates when a hearing is requested by an attorney. The attorney prepares the Rule Nisi or Notice of Hearing with the info provided by the admin and sends it to the judge. The judge signs it. Judge Cross hasn’t heard a bit of evidence or made any ruling whatsoever on the issue–nor will she.

                I don’t stretch the known facts to somehow make her responsible for dastardly “setting a hearing that she won’t be hearing just a week before the election!”

                If someone would dig a little into the procedure in the circuit for hearing dates, I feel this can be confirmed without much work.

                (ps) If she was deciding the issue, I would be in line with your train of thought.

                • Doug Grammer says:

                  She should have passed on anything to do with someone she gave moeny to. I hope this info winds up in every letter to the editor in the 8th.

                  Another judge could have looked at this issue and said it’s not the publics right to know.

                  • inlimine says:

                    Actually, that would be hearing the motion and making a ruling – something she’s not doing. The motion is entitled to be heard, no matter who you want to win the election.

                    • Doug Grammer says:

                      She should have passed on anything to do with someone she gave money to.

                      The motion may not have been set by another judge. You may be a lawyer, but it just looks bad in this case.

    • SFCWallace says:

      You’d think she was smart enough to tell them “Take this down the hall; I really shouldn’t have my name on this one.”

      • polisavvy says:

        Absolutely and, contrary to some poster’s belief on here, that’s exactly what she should have done. She’s brought all of this on herself and deserves the scrutiny and criticism she is receiving. Like my dad always said, “If you’re going to be dumb, you better be smart.” She should have thought of the ramifications before interjecting herself into the middle of a political campaign wherein she is a donor to the candidate running against Austin Scott. Not the brightest move I’ve ever seen a judge make.

  2. inlimine says:

    A motion is filed, a hearing is set. Happens every day. The records won’t be unsealed, I have no doubt about that. But the post is false, and the AJC report is false. Someone should rectify that and then debate the rest of it if necessary.

  3. fishtail says:

    The attorney that filed the complaint, Carmel Sanders, is a tough, no-nonsense lawyer who used to live in Savannah. She now practices domestic law in Macon and stronly believes in “outting” domestic violence acts. Not saying that’s the case here, but that’s what she is known for. She was once indicted in Chatham County for running over her ex-husband who was threatening her. The charges were later dropped. She will pursue this after election day, just to make sure that the public gets to see what was so secret about the divorce papers.

    • polisavvy says:

      I don’t know if you were hanging out on here or not back in either January or February; but, someone eluded to that here on Pundit. The ex-wife denied it then. I see no reason for her to have to go through that type of gossip again now. Next?

    • Goldwater Conservative says:

      I don’t know fishtail, I am guessing that if the divorce was filed on ground of domestic violence then Austin Scott would have changed his name like other misogynist conservatives in this state tend to do.

      Maybe it was abuse, I am guessing Scott had an affair that he doesn’t want made public. Does it matter? Probably not. Conservatives are always down for looking the other way when “one of their own” commits adultery.

      • polisavvy says:

        Wow! So you guys are insinuating spousal abuse and an affair? Nice. Unfounded speculation can be very hurtful. Lies, rumors, and innuendo can also be very hurtful. Y’all need to think of the pain you are possibly causing the innocent child, the ex-wife, and Austin Scott with this type of idle gossip.

      • B Balz says:

        If, ‘by working’ you mean that Rep. Scott is going to lose votes over this –I doubt that. If speculation of what may/may not have occurred during a divorce constitutes any voters criteria for selecting their candidate, we have much larger issues.

      • John Konop says:

        Goldwater Conservative.

        Divorce is never easy on either party. People throw out claims for many different reasons, custody, money…… Unless someone can show real evidence I would not even speculate on the claims. Also I do not see any reason to open up the case, since no one can show any complaints against Austin post the divorce. In most cases if there was a real issue the person repeats the behavior. This smells like dirty politics.

        • polisavvy says:

          Good post, John. It does reek, doesn’t it? Of course, this is a good reason for Marshall to still not run on the issues and face the music for his time in D.C. Every political season I become more amazed at how desperate candidates get. This is really a low stunt to pull. I sincerely hope it blows up in Jim Marshall’s and his drones’ faces.

  4. fishtail says:

    One odd thing about Austin Scott’s sealed divorce papers. They were not sealed by the Judge until 3 years after the divorce. Coincides with Austin seeking public office?

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