Bibb County Civil Court election pits veteran against newcomer

awomack@macon.comApril 18, 2014 

William C. “Billy” Randall, Bibb County’s Civil Court judge and chief magistrate, has drawn an election year challenge from a political newcomer, former prosecutor Emory Denise Christian.

Randall, 70, has held the judgeship since 1999. He previously worked in private legal practice, and he served 24 years in the state Legislature.

Christian, 57, is a former prosecutor of 12 years who also has taught law to lawyers, judges and police in Afghanistan. She now works as an evidentiary hearing office coordinator for the Bibb County school system.

The victor in the May 20 primary will run two courts -- Civil and Magistrate courts.

Magistrate Court deals with preliminary criminal matters, such as search warrants, first-appearance hearings and setting some bonds. The court -- also known as Small Claims Court in some jurisdictions -- is the destination for civil cases up to $15,000.

Civil Court has jurisdiction for civil cases up to $25,000.

The job now pays $138,920 a year, according to the county’s Human Resources department.

If elected to another term as judge, Randall said he wants to expand the Civil and Magistrate court clerk’s office capabilities for electronic filings, to include not just complaints and answers, but also motions.

He also wants to enlarge his staff to help manage the courts’ growing caseloads.

Christian said she wants to make the office “service oriented” and an office with “integrity.”

She leveled no direct criticisms against Randall, but said she believes in hard work.

“I am a big believer in working to your absolute capacity,” Christian said.

She said she also would explore options to make the courts paperless, since paper and ink are often among an office’s biggest costs.

Both candidates tout their experience.

Randall said he’s the “most experienced,” and he cited court innovations undertaken during his tenure.

He brought online filing to the two courts. Randall said he also has allowed late-working police officers to attend in-office, first appearance hearings so they can go home to bed, instead of making them attend court at 1:30 p.m., then turn around and go back on their evening shift.

“I think I’m a good judge and I think this court needs my leadership,” he said. “I’d like to maintain what we have.”

Christian cites her experience as a prosecutor in multiple states, but most recently at the Houston County District Attorney’s Office from 2007 to 2010.

While there, she implemented a “Fastrack” program to help the office resolve cases for people charged with felonies for first time.

Instead of sending defendants to jail with traditional plea agreements or pretrial diversion strategies, Christian developed plans on a case-by-case basis aimed at rehabilitation. Those plans included using community resources such as counseling or enrolling in school, defendants getting jobs and using devices such as those that monitor alcohol consumption, she said.

Randall said he initially thought he didn’t have opposition in the race when Christian filed to run for Macon-Bibb County magistrate. The Bibb County Board of Elections later ruled that Christian’s intent was to run for the position Randall now holds.

Randall said he disagreed with the board’s decision.

He also disagreed with the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission’s opinion earlier this year that it was “inappropriate” for him to appoint his grandchild’s mother to fill a vacant magistrate position.

Randall said he didn’t consider the child’s mother as family.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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