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Candidates vie for judge’s seat in Roswell runoff
by James Swift
July 16, 2014 01:35 PM | 2840 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This Tuesday’s runoff election for Roswell Municipal Court Judge pits Brian Hansford against Melanie Ellwanger. The two candidates were the top vote-getters at a special election held in May, with 40 percent of ballots marked for Hansford and 32 percent going to Ellwanger. Each is seeking to fill the vacancy created by Judge Maurice Hilliard, who served on the local bench for more than 30 years. Since Hilliard’s retirement last Aug, Hansford has presided over Roswell’s municipal court as one of two pro-tem judges. A founding partner of the Cumming firm Miles, Patterson, Hansford and Tallant, Hansford has also served as a judge in both Alpharetta and Milton.

“I have been a Municipal Court Judge for over seven years, and have handled well in excess of 5,000 cases in the Roswell Municipal Court,” he said “As a city of over 90,000 people, Roswell is no place for a young, inexperienced lawyer to get on-the-job training as a judge.”

Ellwanger has worked for the Forsyth County Solicitor’s Office and served as a senior associate for the DUI and criminal defense firm Head, Thomas, Willis and Webb. She has twice been recognized as a “rising star” by the magazine Georgia Super Lawyers. She said her practice was dedicated to misdemeanors, traffic violations and ordinance violations – cases similar to those that are heard in municipal court.

“I have handled more than 3,000 cases as a prosecuting attorney and have been in front of more than 120 judges across the state of Georgia as a defense attorney,” Ellwanger said. “I have worked shoulder-to-shoulder with police officers, other prosecutors, private criminal defense attorneys and criminal trial judges throughout the state on a daily basis and understand how an efficient and effective court should be run.”

Ellwanger said she was an advocate for educating young adults to understand the consequences of their actions and make better decisions.

“As a former prosecutor, I have seen many permanent records blemished by criminal charges that could have been avoided with some advanced warnings about these hazards,” she said.

The most significant municipal court issues, Hansford said, are public safety, improving court process efficiency and youth education. “With the initiatives I have already implemented,” Hansford said, “these issues are all currently being addressed, and will continue to be my primary focus as the Roswell Judge.”

Ellwanger said the court has been in “limbo” since Hilliard’s retirement, stating it lacks “stability and leadership” without a full-time judge. “Roswell does not need to have a judge who is a tax collector in a robe,” she said. “That type of reputation merely encourages citizens charged with offenses to bind over their cases to Fulton County.”

If elected, Hansford said his top priorities would be continuing the initiatives he has already started. “I am especially excited to see the results of the new Teen Victim Impact Program, which I brought to the court this summer,” he said.” I am also very committed to utilizing the sentencing provisions of the newly expanded City of Roswell Criminal Ordinance Code, when applicable, to continue the court’s tough stance on violent crime and violent criminals within our city.”

Hansford has received endorsements from Roswell Mayor Jere Wood and city council members Nancy Diamond and Becky Wynn.

Ellwanger has been endorsed by former city judge Hilliard and former election opponents Leslie Donaho and John Monroe.

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