Letters to the EditorNews

Prosecutor Isn’t Fit to Be Judge

I am writing to recommend Eric Norris for Superior Court judge in Clarke and Oconee counties. I am a Democrat, as were my parents and my grandparents. I live in Clarke County. Judicial races are nonpartisan—for trial judges, this makes sense. They decide individual cases, one case at a time. Very few cases have political implications, and their rulings have no precedential value.

I will be voting for Judge Eric Norris because he has well-rounded legal experience and has already proven himself to be fair, impartial, reasonable and respectful to all parties and participants. I believe the parties on both sides of a dispute want a judge who is neutral, does not lean toward one side or the other and can be fair to all persons. The American legal system is adversarial. We expect the lawyers to take sides. We hope the judge does not.

For three decades, Allison Mauldin has been a prosecutor. Prosecution is the foundation of her professional identity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that—we need good prosecutors. But the lifelong identification with a single cause does not prepare one to be an impartial judge. Believing in the rightness of prosecution becomes as reflexive as breathing. This kind of habitual, committed worldview is nearly impossible to set aside.   

In her three decades of prosecution, Mauldin has handled death penalty cases—seeking the death penalty rather than life without parole or life with the possibility of parole after 30 years of prison, though Georgia law never requires that a prosecutor seek the death penalty. She has been good at her job. She has never practiced in Clarke or Oconee, but in those counties where she has practiced, defense attorneys know her to be an aggressive prosecutor, seeking the harsh punishments and lengthy prison sentences permitted by Georgia law and especially favored in the counties where she has practiced.

A few years of prosecution experience combined with other types of legal practice, both civil and criminal, would make for a well-rounded lawyer. However, the single-minded dedication that Mauldin has shown for prosecution does not put her on the career track to be a judge. It is asking too much of a person to set aside the view she has held and practiced for 30 years.  

Norris, by contrast, has already proven himself to be a thoughtful, fair and impartial jurist. He appreciates the uniqueness and humanity of every person and, at the same time, understands that the law applies equally to all. He understands the power of the office and the exceptional need to exercise power with impartiality. As a lawyer, Norris served a diverse group of clients on all kinds of cases across the spectrum of civil and criminal law. The majority of his legal work was in Clarke and Oconee counties. His well-rounded experience and proven impartiality distinguish him in this race.

Gabriel is a University of Georgia law professor and former public defender.