The Fayette Citizen-News Page
Wednesday, August 19, 1998
New judge has no time to waste

Staff Writer

Superior Court Judge-elect Chris Edwards says he is determined not to waste the time between now and his swearing in next January.

"There is a lot to do," Edwards told The Citizen after winning a seat on the Griffin Judicial Circuit Superior Court bench last week.

Edwards narrowly defeated David Fowler of Molena, Ga. in a runoff last Tuesday after the two emerged from a field of five in the General Primary election July 21.

An open election for judges is rare. Judge Andrew Whalen announced his retirement in time for this year's elections, instead of following the usual course of retiring mid-term and allowing the seat to be filled by gubernatorial appointment.

Whalen said he preferred to let the voters decide who their next judge would be.

Edwards and his supporters combed Fayette and other counties in the district removing campaign signs shortly after the election. As soon as that was taken care of, Edwards said his first order of business was to get in touch with Fayette county manager Billy Beckett to begin looking for space for an office.

For the first time, a spot on the Griffin District bench will be filled by a Fayette resident, and Edwards said he will arrange to have an office here rather than in Griffin.

"I promised during my campaign that I would do that," said Edwards.

He also will be busy divesting himself of his current law practice. "I hope we can resolve some of the cases before then, but I'll have to make arrangements to make sure [my clients] are provided for," he said.

Edwards said he also plans to make a trip to Columbia, S.C. to gather information on new curfew laws and enforcement of truancy laws there. "Their crime rate has dropped dramatically, and I'm interested in seeing it. A judge is not a dictator of policy to anybody, and I'm not seeking to undertake any sort of role like that," but he said he hopes to gather information that local governments can look at.

A lot of talking and listening is also on the new judge's agenda for the next four months. He said he is soliciting invitations to speak to church groups and civic clubs to get input on how the courts can run better.

In church talks, he said, he will emphasize a message that was part of his campaign, "that faith in God is the only thing that is really going to answer the lawlessness and disrespect for authority in our society. One thing that people received well [during the campaign] is the message of hope," he said, adding, "It's important that our authority figures carry that message to the public."

He also will urge parents and students to work for more prayer in local schools. "It's legal as long as it's voluntary and in the proper time, place and manner, and I would like to encourage that," he said. "It would be an exciting thing if others in authority as well could encourage churches to reestablish that legal prayer in the schools that's authorized now."

He also will speak to groups of lawyers, and hopes to have a series of dutch treat suppers to discuss ways to improve the justice system.

And he is putting the word out to law enforcement officers in Fayette that he will be available to help with warrants and other problems. "I'm the first judge from Fayette County, and I want law enforcement people to know that I'm available to them whenever that's necessary," he said.

Much of his daytime work will be in the other counties of the district, but nights and weekends he will be in Fayette, Edwards said. "I've never worked strictly 9 to 5," he said.

Lawyers also should feel free to call him, he said, to help move their cases along faster. Disputes over issues in discovery sometimes can cause a case to drag out, he said, adding he is available to help work those problems out "as inexpensively and as quickly as possible."

Running for the office was a grueling experience, Edwards said, but he held out an olive branch to the four lawyers who ran the race with him. "We had five candidates, and all five were excellent, honest lawyers whom I highly respect," he said. "This is not something where enemies have been made."

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