What’s more, in doing so, it may be thumbing its figurative nose at the law, That was one of the key points in a report commissioned by the city from the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government on the pros and cons of elected versus appointed municipal court judges.
The findings, presented by the Institute’s Ted Baggett in a Monday night city council workshop, appeared to land heavily on the side of an appointed judge.
“State law strongly implies only appointed judges are permissible,” Baggett said, leading Councilman Kent Igleheart to wonder out loud if Roswell has been violating the law for all the years its judges have been elected rather than appointed.
Removing a judge from office is easier when the judge is appointed, Baggett indicated. “State law says the judge serves at the pleasure of the governing body,” he said.
The institute’s research culminated in the conclusion that “Georgia’s statutory structure, scholarly opinion, and local expert experience all weigh towards appointing rather than electing municipal court judges,” according to the report.
“Appointment allows for careful vetting of the most qualified candidates by the city governing authority which will have a greater ability to weigh their merit than an electorate and makes operational cooperation between the court and the city more likely.”
However, the report notes that the integrity of the court “rests on the independence of the judge and that if appointed judges become subject to the political interference by the city government they will not be fulfilling the proper role of the judicial branch in serving the public.”
After the workshop, during a regular council meeting, members voted to establish qualifying fees for a special judicial election called in May, as per city charter. But they also reserved the option to go with appointment rather than election.