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Douglas County Special called meeting 3/29/22

Synopsis of meeting: The meeting was held online via Microsoft Team 3:00pm March 19th, 2022. Republican Susan Camp, incumbent Chief Magistrate for Douglas County, claims that one qualification for the office of Chief Magistrate is to be a member of the State Bar Association, this claim based on a 1982 law. She requires that her opponent, Democrat Sylvia Baker, be taken off the ballot because she is not a member of the Georgia State Bar Association. Baker claims that this rule only applied/applies (tense unclear to me) to Chief Magistrates who are “selected” by which she claims selected applies to those who are “appointed” as opposed to “elected.”

In addition, she claims that the only qualification stated, using the Judicial Council’s “Georgia Magistrate Handbook 2019-2020,” for Chief Magistrate is being 25 years of age, holding a highschool diploma/ GED, being a registered voter, and living in the district. She claims the qualifications derive from both both state and local law. The main areas of contention were the meaning of the word “selected” as including or excluding the option of election, the intention of state lawmakers to include the qualification of a member of the bar after magistrate courts were implemented across the state, and the list of qualifications listed under the Secretary of State’s Office and Judicial Council. Ingrid (I did not get her last name), representing the Douglas County Democrats, claimed that they had certified Sylvia Baker and no affidavit was given to her stating that the candidate must be a member of the state bar. The Board of Elections postponed the decision to field questions to both parties’ lawyers (Caron Erwing representing Camp and Herschel Clark representing Baker) and the County Attorney as well as doing independent research. The next meeting will be posted online and a decision will be made regarding the qualifications of Democrat Sylvia Baker as a candidate for Douglas County Chief Magistrate. A detailed list (I apologize for any typos or shorthand) of the conversation as well as a link to both parties’ exhibits can be found below. 

Two contentions in the meeting are worthy of note: Member’s of both parties, as well as Ingrid, engaged in verbal argument (outside of their allotted time without raising their hand or being called on) about the ability of their party to speak. In addition, Camp’s Attorney, Caron Erwing, stated that the meeting being online as well as the qualification for invitation (of which I was given in order to attend) impeded the ability of the public to attend the meeting and disqualified the meeting as “open.” 

March 29th 2022, held virtually 

  • Caron Erwing- Baker is non a member of the bar, Baker says she doesn’t need to be a member of the bar because of 1984? statewide amendment
    • Position- Baker is not qualified to hold position because she is not a member of the Georgia Bar but the general law requires her to be a member of the Georgia bar
    • Key points of brief submitted
      • Qualification to Chief magistrate set by state magistrate and georgia constitution- resident of area, didn’t have magistrate system until 1993 (until then encouraged local areas to set their own system with different names) but in 1983 state abolished other court systems and set up magistrate system (Douglas County already created magistrate system)
      • 1982- Included requirement that member must be member of state bar, originally appointed but then elected same year 
      • Member must be member of state bar, have highschool diploma, registered voter, must be 25 years old- other qualifications could be added by general assembly and local elections 
      • “State law applies to local magistrate but can add additional legislation”
      • General law (1983) and specific local code provision Oc GH15-10-22 but apply
      • Must satisfy state law
      • “Clear that because she is not member of state bar not qualified to hold position of Chief Magistrate”
      • “Generally interpreting one true rule is you try to determine the legislators intention”
      • “Local law can be repealed by general/state law if it is expressly or indirectly if that was the intention of the general assembly”
      • First Chief Magistrate (1984) appointed but then made to stand for election the same year and position was elected since then
      • Beginning 1985- state law said they must be elected unless they were already there but only for the remainder of the term, Douglas County been elected this every since- election has not been elected ever since
  • Susan Camp- chief magistrate, judge since 1985 became judge since 1988
    • All bigger counties has chief magistrates that are members of the state bar
    • Exhibit 18- Dekalb County required chief magistrates to be active members of state bar of Georgia with 3 years experience- point is that they are not unusual
    • Exhibit 19- all these are counties that have local laws passed in 1984, underlined part all say that local laws apply 
    • Exhibit 16- magistrate court handbook, “Georgia Magistrate Handbook 2019-2020” if not otherwise stated in state law OC GH15-10-22 applied, Supreme Court held that selection and term of local magistrate can be determined by local law, some counties have used this to say that they be members of state law
    • Exhibit 17- case from State Supreme Court- local laws to not violate the rule set forth by state court 
    • “Reasons need to be a member of the state bar because of case load, 10,700 cirminal plus 10 civil, last year complete 8500 civil during pandemic. . . have court every single day.. Have court all day every day. . . need to be a part of state bar because there are so many cases you need to know the state law. My opponent is not a member of the state bar… ask that you disqualify opponent because she is not a member of the state bar”
  • Baker- candidate for chief magistrate
  • Herschel Clark- representing Baker
    • Workload- attorney baker familiar with workhold, two J.D master in criminal justice and master in psychology, bared in Alabama- doesn’t see caseload being an issue 
    • Agree with a lot of those point but vary in some point
    • Should not be disqualified and name taken off the ballot b/c no local law which changes the qualifications of those that are elected 
    • Difference between appointed and elected 
    • Magistrate judge requirements- no qualifications
    • Judicial council does not list any qualifications to be magistrate, local judicial law doesn’t have any local rules
    • Exhibit 1- chief magistrate must be 25 and be active member of state bar 3 years prior to “selection” – entire 1984 act all were appointed so they do not apply to those that are elected, 1985 became elected
    • Exhibit 2- paragraph C, taking office on or after january 1985? 
    • Exhibit 3- State condition treats elected vs selected judges differently
    • Exhibit 4- court follow the literal language of the statute, general courts should look to legislative intent only when literal language is confusing
      •  Legislative internet means for additional qualification to be one that is “selected”
    • Exhibit 7- all statue presumed to be made with full knowledge of the law- very “germane” issue 
    • Can be elected or selected in a different manor- 1983 law only applies to selected, Douglas County does not have different law that applies to election 
  • Caron Erwing response 
    • Constitutional provision “article 6,section 7, sentence 1” supremiror and state courts shall be elected
    • Selection can be “elected” or “appointed”- “all of judges meant to be selected in the manor”  does not mean that they are all appointed 
    • What does selected mean? It is a selection. . . next sentence says “shall be elected by the voters”
    • “Election is matter of ‘selection’” 
    • “Magistrates other than chief magistrate shall be ‘selected’ by election”
    • “A lot of judges are ‘selected’ by appointment”
    • 1983 amendment of state law actually says “those already elected shall continue to be elected”
    • 1984 made it very clear (probably some confusion around the state) as of january 1, 1985 “all chief magistrate shall be elected unless otherwise provided by local law”- prosumption is that they will be elected 
  • Argument about who is allowed to speak, Baker asks for order of speaker
  • Camp
    • State court judge has to be a “member of state bar in good standing”
    • Exhibit number 7, page 5, page 888, part D- “unless otherwise provided by local law  . . . shall be elected. . . chief magistrate shall be elected by general election”, started in 1982 and he was elected and elected against in 1982
  • Argument again about who can speak- Baker “give both candidates a chance to speak” and Erwin “are you saying we can’t speak anymore”
  • Camp
    • Exhibit 10- 1984 amendment, “chief magistrate shall be at least 25 years of age and shall be a practicing member of state bar for ? number of years”
  • Silvia Baker
    • Should look at internet, not up to us to “clear the air”
    • “All interpretation of statute, keeping in mind the . . .”
    • Look diligently at intention, 1984 “25 years of age and three years immediately preceding his selection” 
    • Chief magistrate- no qualification under judicial council for chief magistrate 
    • “Not taking about qualifications for other judges, need to stay focused on that area”
  • Erwin
    • Asked for it to be in person, told it was online only and need invitation to join, don’t think its the best way to hold “open meeting”
  • Ingrid
    • Speaking for douglas county democrats, qualified her based on information on state website, f”act of the matter is most recent laws we could find offset anything that happened in 1984”
    • Was not affidavit, specific requirements usually have special affidavit at sheriff’s office, nothing like that on secretary of state or douglas county registration site, 
    • Based on that alone 
    • Where is the affidavit?

Motion to move to executive session-

Advices not to discuss anything in executive session- bob and Kevin Evans moved and seconded to move back into general session 

  • Good question to Attorney Erin Watson 
    • What are the qualifications and what are they given to know if they are qualified?
  • Erin Watson
    • Not willing to make recommendation right now
    • Usually not that hard to find the qualifications but apparently not given here
  • Member ?
    • Want to consider this for 24 hours 
  • Bob (board member)
    • Will discussion be public hearing
    • Do all offices have affidavit (used generically)
    • Agrees that they can’t come to a conclusion after an hours decision 
  • Watson
    • Not all offices have affidavit 
  • Hurry
    • Motion- Consider it to 24-48 hours 
  • Bob seconds but what’s to know what the procedure will be 
  • Milton Kidd- what is the proper procedure to proceed to with legal council 

Meet back and then send letter out with finding from the board 

Anything asked of Aaron Watson (county attorney) and director Kidd will be included with all members, all questions will be in writing

  • Aaron Watson on the 1984 law and OC GH15-10-22
  • Camp- at the bottom of the paper says you are responsible for your own qualification 
  • Wayfarer- did know this and did qualify under qualifies, went to judicial council, and 25/highschool grad/ residency, not accurate to say that information is readily available 

Sylvia Wayfer Baker’s Hearing Exhibits: 

Judge Susan Camp’s Hearing Exhibits:

Update: The Board met again March 31st where it was determined Sylvia Baker would remain on the ballot

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