Georgia Supreme Court Rips Lower Court Judge, Democrat Removed From Ballot


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A justice on the Georgia Supreme Court ripped local officials in Douglas County over an election for chief magistrate judge.

Justice Charles J. Bethel on Tuesday blasted the Douglas County government for “playing games with the process of qualifying candidates for office,” while also reversing a lower court’s decision regarding the removal of a Democratic candidate from the ballot.

Bethel made his comments during oral arguments by attorney Jonathan M. Nussbaum, who is representing the county Board of Elections and Registration as well as Douglas County Elections Director Milton Kidd “in a lawsuit over whether Democrat Ryan Williams was improperly placed on the November ballot,” the Longview News Journal reported.

“It’s remarkable to me that the government is playing games, frankly — and I’m not saying you, counsel, understand,” Bethel told Nussbaum. “But the government you represent is playing games with the process of qualifying candidates for office in a democratic society. That’s just staggering to me that we’re sitting here saying, ‘Well, you meet these qualifications, and these qualifications over here, they’re only process qualifications.’ That’s hard for me to wrap my mind around.”

The outlet noted further:


The high court agreed to hear the appeal by local attorney Scott Camp, who argues that Douglas County Chief Judge William H. “Beau” McClain erred when he ruled in July he didn’t have authority under state law cited by Camp (OCGA 21-2-6) to remove Williams as a candidate for chief magistrate from the November ballot.

While Judge McClain found that he couldn’t remove Williams from the ballot, he also found that the process by which Kidd, the elections board and local Democratic Party put Williams on the ballot outside of the qualifying period after another Democrat was disqualified to be in violation of state law and “disreputable.”

Williams is running against Camp’s wife, Chief Magistrate Judge Susan S. Camp, who was first elected in 1998 and is the lone Republican still holding a countywide office.

Camp asked Georgia’s highest court to rule that McClain indeed possesses the authority, under OCGA 21-2-6, to remove Williams from the ballot. Camp also argued that the case could be remanded back to the superior court.

The outlet also reported that a ruling in Camp’s favor would essentially give Judge Camp another four years in office.

“Much of the hearing Tuesday centered around whether a candidate’s ‘qualifications’ referenced in OCGA 21-2-6 — which can be challenged per the statute — entail only certain substantive things that a candidate must have, such as being 25 years old and a member of the state bar, or whether those qualifications also include the ‘process qualifications’ Justice Bethel referenced in his rebuke,” the outlet reported.

Bryan P. Tyson, Camp’s attorney, noted in a brief to the Supreme court that the statute he cited to challenge Williams’ candidacy also contained other “required processes” that amount to qualifications which can additionally result in having candidates taken off ballots.

The law “provides for a process where if a candidate’s qualifying check bounces,” the outlet reported, citing the statute which says that “the superintendent shall automatically find that such candidate has not met the qualifications for holding the office being sought” unless the issuing bank says that it made a mistake in returning the check.


The Douglas County decision preceded another election-related case on Friday, in which U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones, an Obama appointee, ruled that Georgia’s voter integrity laws requiring voter identification and citizenship checks are constitutional and do not inordinately affect minorities.

The decision was seen as a loss for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abram’s organization, which sued to have the requirements overturned on claims they were racist.

Jones noted in his ruling that federal courts are “not the arbiter” of state elections, which handed a major victory to Gov. Brian Kemp who fought the lawsuit.

“Although Georgia’s election system is not perfect, the challenged practices violate neither the constitution nor the VRA,” the judge said. “As the Eleventh Circuit notes, federal courts are not ‘the arbiter[s] of disputes’ which arise in elections; it [is] not the federal court’s role to ‘oversee the administrative details of a local election.’”

“Having held a non-jury trial and considered the evidence and arguments of the parties, for the foregoing reasons, the Court finds IN FAVOR of Defendants and against Plaintiffs on all remaining Counts of Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint,” he said.

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