By Ed Brock
A new face will be sitting on the judge's bench in Clayton County's Magistrate Court while in Superior and State courts the incumbents will continue to dispense justice.
With all but absentee and advanced voting ballots left to count, incumbent Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield had apparently handily defeated challenger Robert Mack, 18,597 votes to 12,252.
Magistrate Judge Gloria Darty Reed lost her bid to take the seat of Chief Judge of Clayton County Magistrate Court Michael Baird. Her rival for the seat, attorney Daphne Melinda Walker, had 14,183 votes to Reed's 9,522 with only absentee ballots left to count.
Clayton County State Court Judge Harold Benefield defeated his challenger, attorney Coatsey Ellison, 17,583 votes to 12,654 with absentee and advanced ballots.
A native of Fort Valley, 32-year-old Walker graduated magna cum laude from Spelman College in Atlanta and received her law degree from Emory University Law School. She has been practicing law since 1998 and for the past two years has had a law practice in Jonesboro.
Walker served as a senior assistant district attorney in Fulton County and previously said that she is especially proud of the work she did prosecuting the case against then 38-year-old Andrew Moore of Atlanta, convicted of "pimping" a 12-year-old child prostitute. Moore was convicted and the case helped promote legislation to make "pimping" a felony.
A native of Fort Valley, Walker graduated magnum cum laude from Spelman College in Atlanta and received her law degree from Emory University Law School. She has been practicing law since 1998 and for the past two years has had a law practice in Jonesboro.
During her years as an ADA she worked in the Crimes Against Women and Children Unit. Walker said she wants to see more pre-trial intervention programs for non-violent, first-time offenders. And she wants the magistrate court to reflect the county's diversity.
In particular, she would like to appoint a Hispanic judge.
"That's a growing population here and I'd like to have a judge who speaks the language," Walker said.
At the beginning of 2004 53-year-old Reed became the first black woman to be appointed as a judge in Clayton County Magistrate Court. Baird has decided not to run again so he can take a job at Clayton College & State University in Morrow.
A graduate of Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., and of University of Georgia Law School, 47-year-old Benefield has practiced law for 20 years and served in her current position for 12 years.
Prior to becoming a judge, Benefield was the county's first assistant solicitor in 1984 and in 1985 she went to serve as an assistant district attorney in 1985. During two years she took off for maternity leave Benefield wrote news articles and legislation on domestic violence.
She currently lives in Jonesboro.
Mack, 47, has been practicing law since 1993, first in Lithonia and then in Jonesboro, where he now lives, from 1996. He received his undergraduate degree from Southern Technical Institute in Marietta and then graduated from Georgia State University Law School. He currently has a general practice of criminal and civil law at Glaze, Harris, Arnold & Mack.
Previously Mack also said that he wanted to change a perception in the county of inequity in the implementation of justice in the county that lies along racial and socioeconomic lines. Benefield had said that the perception is far from true in her courtroom.
Incumbent Superior Court Judge Matthew Simmons ran unopposed in the election. He is 48 years old and has been on the bench for 11 years.
Benefield, 53, was appointed to the judgeship in March 1982 following a career spent as a prosecuting attorney and in private practice, all in Clayton County where Benefield has lived his entire life.
In 1973 Benefield graduated from Georgia Tech and in 1976 received his law degree from Mercer University School of Law in Macon.
Benefield said he offers the people a "breadth and depth of experience" and in his 22 years on the bench he has handled over 500,000 cases of various natures.
Ellison, 49, has been practicing law in Jonesboro for 16 years. He graduated from Clark College in Atlanta and received his law degree from Georgia State University.
State Court of Clayton County Judges Morris Braswell and Linda S. Cowen ran unopposed.