Local News

April 12, 2014

Blevins responds to criticism about judge appointment

Levels questions of his own

Dalton Municipal Court Judge Jim Wilbanks is questioning whether Superior Court Judge David Blevins got his judgeship because he served as Gov. Nathan Deal’s local campaign chairman in 2010.

Blevins, Wilbanks and Assistant District Attorney Scott Helton are running for the Superior Court position in the May 20 nonpartisan election. Deal appointed Blevins to fill the vacancy created when former judge Robert Adams retired in February 2012. Wilbanks sought the position then but didn’t make the list of finalists.

Wilbanks suggests on his campaign website, jimwilbanksforsuperiorcourt.com, and on his Facebook page that Blevins was appointed over other qualified applicants because he chaired a Whitfield County committee seeking to elect Deal in 2010. Blevins said that volunteer position mostly entailed organizing activities at the local level under the direction of individuals higher up in the campaign.

“Is it coincidence that he had previously run the governor’s campaign in Whitfield County and had previously served as the governor’s appointee to the State Personnel Board?” Wilbanks’ website states.

Blevins acknowledges his relationship with Deal likely had a positive impact on him becoming a Superior Court judge, but he said that relationship alone wasn’t enough to put him in office. Blevins said he believes Deal learned enough about his character, work ethic and capabilities to trust him in office.

“I would hope that the fact I had served well would be a favorable thing with the governor,” Blevins said. “I would hate to think that I would serve (and my service would work against me).”

When he resigned from the State Personnel Board in March 2012 after becoming a judge, Blevins was early into a five-year term as one of Deal’s appointees. The body sets policy for state employees and reviews complaints. As a judge, Blevins is bound by an ethics code to remain politically neutral while in office.

Wilbanks said the fact he hasn’t campaigned to get anyone else into political office sets his campaign apart from that of Blevins.

“I’ve been a judge for over 20 years, and as a judge I can’t have politics, and that’s a big difference,” Wilbanks said. “It’s one of the many differences in our campaigns and our qualifications and experiences.”

Blevins said he makes objectivity a priority, even to the point of ruling in ways that sometimes go against his personal political beliefs.

“In this country, we do have a government of laws and not of men,” he said.

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