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Three considered for State Court judgeship

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

To fill a new judgeship in the State Court of Clayton County, the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) has submitted the names of three local attorneys to Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The judgeship was created by the Georgia General Assembly this year, according to a statement issued Friday by the governor's office.

On the short list are Robert L. Mack, Jr., of Mack & Harris, P.C., in Stockbridge; James J. Dalton, II, a sole practitioner with offices located in Fayetteville; and Aaron B. Mason, an assistant attorney general for the state of Georgia.

The process of being considered for the judgeship begins with the submission of nominees, according to Barbara Watson, executive assistant to Mike Bowers, chairman of the Judicial Nominating Commission. "Anyone may nominate them - any citizens or another attorney - or they may nominate themselves," Watson said.

Fifteen attorneys were nominated for the new position, according to Watson. Five nominees withdrew their names, and the remaining 10 submitted completed applications to the commission, she said.

"There is a review of an extensive questionnaire that each applicant must prepare, [then] interview by the commission, and interview by the governor," Bowers said.

To qualify for consideration, nominees must be attorneys who have been members of the State Bar of Georgia for a minimum of seven years, must live in the county in which the vacancy occurs, and must be at least 25 years of age, according to Bowers.

Mack, 52, is the majority owner and managing partner of the law firm, Mack & Harris, P.C., located at 205 Corporate Center Drive, Suite B, in Stockbridge, according to the firm's web site.

Originally from Yulee, Fla., Mack said he has lived in Georgia since 1975. He said he and his wife, Rochelle, live in Jonesboro. They have three adult children - a daughter and two sons.

"I've done a full gamut of things on the civil side, as well as the criminal side. I do appellate work as well," he said. "I think because I've got a very diverse and well-rounded background, I may be an asset as a judge here in Clayton County."

Mack recently represented a former Morehouse College student, Breylon Garland, who was acquitted last week in the 2006 torture-death of a fellow student. Garland faced 12 counts, including charges of malice murder and felony murder, in the death of Carlnell Walker, 23.

"It's good to see justice prevail," Mack said Monday. "The jury paid a lot of attention to all of the details of the case, and they returned a fair and just verdict."

Mack's law firm also serves as legal counsel for the City of Forest Park, and has represented the city in a federal lawsuit involving adult entertainment, Mack said. "With Forest Park, we are the city attorney, so we advise them on ordinances, resolutions ... and give them legal advice," he said.

Mack received his juris doctorate from the Georgia State University School of Law in 1993, according to his firm's web site. He was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia the same year, according to information posted on the State Bar's web site.

Dalton, 68, who is also on the short list to be considered for the new judgeship in the State Court of Clayton County, said he has lived in Clayton County since 1971. He and his wife Virginia live in Riverdale. They have three adult children, two grandchildren, and "one grandchild due in December," he said.

Dalton said he received a law degree from Georgia State University in 1988, and was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 1989.

Dalton is a sole practitioner, with offices located at 110 Habersham Drive, Suite 154, in Fayetteville, he said.

"I'm grateful that the Judicial Nominating Commission saw fit to actually include me in the list," he said. "Obviously I sought the position, so I'm elated that I'm taking the next step."

Dalton said in 20 years of practicing law, he has represented clients in matters from misdemeanor criminal cases, to civil cases.

"As a lawyer, probably having been in practice for some time, you feel like you at least possess some of the qualities that might be good to be on the bench ... and this would be an appropriate time for me to consider it," he said.

Mason, 39, said he learned that he was a finalist to be considered for the judgeship while driving home Friday.

"I received a text message congratulating me. I'm very excited ... honored and also humbled, because I know there were a lot of well-qualified people that were interested," said Mason, who is an assistant attorney general for the state of Georgia.

Mason said he has been a resident of Georgia since 1989. He lives in Jonesboro with his wife, Donna, and their two daughters. He received a law degree from the Emory University Law School in 1996, and said he was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia the same year.

Mason said he has held the position of assistant attorney general for the state for the past nine and a half years. He has worked for the Licensing Board division, the Civil Rights Litigation division, and currently works in the Environmental Law division, of the Georgia Department of Law.

"Prior to that, I was a senior assistant solicitor general in Clayton County, for three and a half years," Mason said.

There is no set time-frame for Perdue to make the appointment to the judgeship, according Watson. However, she said the governor will likely make the appointment by the end of the year.

The State Court of the Clayton Judicial Circuit is a trial court with limited jurisdiction covering misdemeanor and traffic violations, according to the Clayton County government web site. Cases in State Court are prosecuted by the solicitor general. Civil actions, regardless of the amount, are also handled in State Court, unless the Superior Court has exclusive jurisdiction.