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Morrison: State Court a “Once in a Career Opportunity”

Sole practitioner Jane Morrison decided to run when she heard of Judge Brenda Cole’s retirement

Editor's Note: Early voting concludes Friday, July 27 for Tuesday's General Primary that pairs attorney Jane Morrison against Fulton Magistrate Judge Melynee Leftridge for the non-partisan Fulton County State Court judge seat that is being vacated. State court oversees misdemeanor criminal and civil cases.

Just a couple of months ago, Jane Morrison had no plans to run for Fulton County State Court. 

“I have a comfortable practice, so this is rather a surprise run for me,” said Morrison, an attorney who has practiced in Georgia for 18 years.

Typically the governor appoints state judges. Morrison said that vacancies like the one created by Judge Cole, who is retiring after serving 14 years on the bench, happen once every 15-20 years.

Morrison learned of Judge Cole’s retirement online after hearing persistent rumors from her colleagues. “I would never run against an incumbent judge,” she said.

This race is also unusual because of how few candidates are running. Morrison’s sole opponent is Magistrate Judge Melynee Leftridge. Typically seats on the State Court attract “a wide field of candidates,” according to Morrison.

Coming from a judicial background, Morrison was appointed as Judge Pro Hac Vice in Atlanta Municipal Court by then-mayor Bill Campbell in 2000. As a municipal judge, Morrison heard criminal cases from Fulton and DeKalb County.

After serving in municipal court, Morrison worked part time as a Magistrate in Fulton County State Court from 2003-2005. While serving with the State Court, Morrison frequently worked overnight at the Fulton County jail, where she heard applications for search warrants and arrest warrants.

Morrison’s experience as a judge taught her the importance of trials. “Some cases need to be tried. [As a State Court judge] I would feel it was my duty to give parties their day in court.”

In 2004 Morrison opened her own law office, where she specializes in contract disputes, family law and estate planning. She also served as an Assistant Solicitor in Fulton County starting in 1994, where she worked on appeals. Morrison said the Court upheld 100 percent of its convictions during her time with the Solicitor General’s office.

Having been both lawyer and judge, Morrison says she has developed a solid understanding of the legal system. “You have to have a good appreciation of playing by the rules as a lawyer, all the more so as a judge,” she said.

Although accessibility is one of Morrison’s guiding judicial principles, she acknowledged the potential for abuse of the trial system. “People come to court with many different motivations,” she said, “I’m not saying our legal system is perfect.”

Morrison, who is seeking to become one of the first openly gay judges in the state, is optimistic about her chances in the upcoming July 31 election. “The reason I want to win people votes is because I really do value the things I think everyone want their judge to be: fair, honest and impartial,” she said.

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Cary Aiken July 28, 2012 at 04:21 PM
With so many court positions left uncontested, we are left with no opportunity to get a change from the incumbent due to the sentiment expressed here by Ms. Morrison that she would not run against an incumbent. State positions are not for life like the Supreme Court. I find this situation very unfortunate. I would appeal to any candidate qualified to run to have the courage to be available for public service even in the presence of an incumbent.

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