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Valbuena and Collins to face off in Tuesday runoff for magistrate judge
by Savannah Weeks
August 16, 2012 09:45 AM | 2405 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dan Collins will face incumbent Martin Valbuena in the Aug. 21 runoff election for chief magistrate judge.
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Retired businessman Dan Collins will face incumbent Martin Valbuena for the position of chief magistrate judge in the Aug. 21 runoff election.

The magistrate judge position presides over civil cases and signs warrants.

Valbuena earned 47.1 percent of the vote — below the requirement of more than 50 percent to avoid a runoff — in the July 31 election. Collins earned 24.7 percent and qualified for the runoff by finishing second out of four candidates.

Collins, a retired businessman, said he wants to make the position full-time.

“I would bring something new to the office,” said Collins. “I don’t have to run a law office on the side, which is something that hasn’t been there for the last 10 years.”

Currently, Valbuena practices law in the county, as well as serving as magistrate judge part-time.

Valbuena said he did not believe having a full-time magistrate judge in his position was a feasible option because it would require a higher salary, possibly forcing the county to eliminate one of the other two full-time magistrate judge positions.

“My salary is reduced 25 percent, since I am part-time,” said Valbuena. “It’s not a bad idea by itself, but it would require us to take it down to two judges.”

Valbuena said he also took an additional 7 percent pay cut this year when the county commission cut the magistrate budget.

Valbuena has practiced law since 1991, when he graduated from law school at American University. He has been magistrate judge since 2002.

He was first appointed in 2002 when the General Assembly created the Paulding judicial circuit. He ran and was elected to a full term in 2004 and was re-elected in 2008.

Since graduating from law school, Valbuena has practiced in a variety of types of law, including business litigation, insurance defense and civil cases.

Collins described the magistrate court as “civil court for the common man.”

“You’re pretty much on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Valbuena. “I just recently had to sign a warrant at 2 a.m. for a DUI. It couldn’t wait until the morning.”

Collins has a business background, which he believes will benefit him in magistrate court. He owned his own business in Hiram before selling it in 1992, and he also serves on the Paulding County Civil Service Board.

Previous to owning his own business, he worked for General Electric.

Collins grew up around the law, as his father was a police officer in College Park.

“I thought it would be a good way to give back to the community,” said Collins.

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