Citizen challenges ruling on judge race

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2000

MONTICELLO — A former county attorney has decided to challengeelection commissioners here on their decision not to certify him asa candidate for the Justice Court Judge Post 2 seat.

Albert Turnage, who served as the county attorney from1996-2000, was denied certification Sept. 11 by the electioncommissioners because he lives outside the district in Post 1.

Turnage said he expects to file a Petition for Review Tuesday.The petition will go before a Circuit Court judge who will heararguments from both sides and decide whether to reverse or affirmthe election commissioner’s decision.

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The case may be heard as early as Wednesday, according toCircuit Clerk Cindy Stokes.

If he wins, Turnage said, the decision would allow him to pursuehis candidacy and effect future justice court elections, openingall justice court elections to members of the county and notlimiting them to districts.

Turnage’s candidacy is based on the amended constitution.According to Turnage, the State Constitution of 1890 statescandidates must be a resident of the district, but when it wasamended in 1979 the word district was changed to county, therebyopening the office to all county residents.

The Office of the Secretary of State, which oversees elections,and the Attorney General’s Office, however, believe otherwise.

According to an AG’s opinion issued in June 1997, referred to byelection commissioners in their denial notice to Turnage, justicecourt candidates “must be lawful residents of the district theyseek to serve.”

David Blount, communications director for the State Department,said they agree with the AG’s opinion.

Turnage is presently serving as the interim Post 2 judge afterbeing appointed by the Board of Supervisors Jan. 5. Turnage wasappointed because the incumbent judge, Maxie Carey Rutland, diedafter securing another term in November.

In addition to Turnage, eight other candidates are vying for theopen Post 2 seat. They are: James H. Ard, James E. “Jamie” GivensJr., Verla Davis Dillon, Gregory L. May, Curtis “Curt” Brister,James “Sandy” Brister, Donald Glen “Donnie” Mullins and HomerSutton.