May 14, 2014

Superior Court judge race: Helton touts district attorney experience

— Scott Helton says he’s made difficult decisions for the last 18 years as an assistant district attorney for the Conasauga Judicial Circuit that includes Whitfield and Murray counties.

Now, the 45-year-old wants to become a Superior Court judge in the circuit. Helton, who lives in Whitfield County, faces incumbent David Blevins and Dalton Municipal Court Judge Jim Wilbanks in the nonpartisan election on Tuesday.

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

Helton said he’s tried thousands of cases with charges that range from stop sign violations to murder. He said his position involves not only prosecuting cases but also investigating to determine whether the charges that law enforcement officers leveled originally were appropriate. He said he also has to consider what kinds of penalties to pursue.

“I’ve been making decisions for the community for over 18 years, decisions that affect people’s lives,” Helton said. “My interest in being a judge is continuing that ability in a different position — to continue to make the difficult decisions for our community, continuing to pursue the truth.”

The son of a father who worked in pharmacy and a mother who taught in the Whitfield County Schools system, Helton graduated from Northwest Whitfield High School in 1986 and from the University of Georgia in 1990. He finished his law degree at Georgia State University College of Law in 1994.

From there, he worked as a law clerk for about a year in Superior Court. Jack Partain, currently a Superior Court judge but then a district attorney, hired Helton to work in the district attorney’s office in 1995. He has been there ever since.

“I have extensive experience as a trial lawyer,” Helton said.

He said he’s tried at least 100 jury trials. The most difficult cases he’s handled involve domestic violence, he said. A handful of marital rape cases stand out as among the most challenging and have shaped who he is as an attorney and judge hopeful.

“(Domestic violence cases) are cases where the stakes are very, very high often for children involved and for our community generally, and oftentimes they’re cases that are extremely difficult to prosecute because you don’t have the support necessarily of all the people involved,” he said.

Helton said his work has been focused on the community and seeking truth and justice.

“I’ve worked as a servant for over 18 years,” he said. “I’ve worked for the community — not for a particular client, but for the community ... All of my experience — virtually all of it — has had to do with the obligation as a prosecutor to seek the truth, to seek justice and to use that effort to serve the community, to protect the community.”

Helton and his wife, Betsy, have three children — Will, 12; Henry, 10; and Ella, 8. They attend Dalton First United Methodist Church.

In his spare time, Helton enjoys spending time with his family and cycling. He can be reached at johnscotthelton@gmail.com. His campaign website is scottheltonforjudge.com.

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