May 13, 2014

Superior Court judge race: Wilbanks aims to look at jury duty process

— Jim Wilbanks says he’s worked for this position all his professional life.

Wilbanks, who is the judge for Dalton Municipal Court, is seeking a seat as a Superior Court judge for the Conasauga Judicial Circuit that includes Whitfield and Murray counties. He faces incumbent David Blevins and Assistant District Attorney Scott Helton in the nonpartisan election on Tuesday.

“This is what I’ve worked for for certainly all of my professional life, which is as of this month 30 years as an attorney,” Wilbanks said. “But I also knew at a young age I wanted to be an attorney and a judge.”

Wilbanks worked as an attorney with local attorney Mike Brown before opening his own law office in 1990. He said he’s since handled “every type of case that would come before a Superior Court judge” and some that likely would not.

Wilbanks has held a number of appointed positions, including judge pro tem for the city of Varnell Municipal Court, associate judge for Juvenile Court in the Conasauga Circuit, and as a judge pro tem who fills in for Superior Court judges. He’s also been a judge pro tem for the Whitfield County Probate Court, Murray County Probate Court and Cohutta Municipal Court.

Wilbanks said he was recently called for jury duty in Superior Court. While he wasn’t selected, he said the experience made him more aware of some issues he hopes to pay special attention to if elected as judge.

“I think we need to look at the compensation of jury members, and I know that saying that conjures up all sorts of financial issues, so I’m certainly not in favor of any new taxes for any reason but again I’m sensitive to the value of people’s time,” he said.

Wilbanks said he understands individuals involved with the court sometimes have to call employers on potential jury members’ behalf to help them keep their jobs or remain in good standing. He said he would continue that practice and emphasize it more if needed.

He said he also hopes to work to expand the Conasauga Drug Court program that allows certain individuals to go through an extended rehabilitation program in lieu of going to jail. Wilbanks said he was on a team of individuals who helped develop the program in 2001 and occasionally sits in for Superior Court Judge Jack Partain who oversees it.

Wilbanks graduated from Murray County High School in 1977. He received his associate degree in criminal justice from Dalton State College in 1979, his bachelor degree in political science in 1981 from West Georgia College and his law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1984.

The 54-year-old lives in Cohutta. He and wife Rhonda have two daughters. Alex, a senior at Coahulla Creek High School, plans to attend nursing school at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega. Tiffany Amos is a registered nurse in a cardiac group in Acworth. Amos and her husband, Josh, have a daughter, Riley, 2.

When he isn’t practicing law, Wilbanks enjoys working outside on his family’s small farm in Cohutta. He attends First Baptist Church of Cohutta.

His campaign website is www.jimwilbanksforsuperiorcourt.com. He can be contacted at wilbankslaw@reagan.com or (706) 694-0055.

The salary for Superior Court judge is a little more than $140,000 a year with most of that provided by the state and about $20,000 supplemented by Whitfield and Murray counties.

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