As part of Chilivis Grubman’s election law practice, Jeremy Berry represented a Fulton County resident who challenged the qualifications of a candidate seeking to run for the Superior Court of Fulton County.  The basis for the challenge is that the candidate lived and voted in DeKalb County – not Fulton County – at the time that she sought to qualify to run for the Fulton County judgeship.  The challenged candidate is one of two contenders who sought to run against current Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee.  

Candidate qualification challenges like these are initially heard by an administrative law judge, who issues an initial decision, followed by the Secretary of State, who issues a final decision based on the administrative law judge’s initial factual and legal findings.  As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently reported about the case, “Administrative Law Judge Ronit Walker had disqualified Johnson from standing for Fulton Superior Court judge after her residency was challenged and she failed to appear at an April 2 hearing. Walker’s decision was then finalized by the Secretary of State’s office.”

The DeKalb Superior Court judge, who heard the case on appeal because all Fulton County judges were recused from hearing the case, affirmed the Secretary of State’s decision that held that the candidate failed to carry her burden at the initial hearing.  As explained in another article about the case, “Jeremy Berry, who represents [the resident who brought the case], argued that Judge Hydrick should affirm Johnson’s disqualification because she was not a Fulton County resident when she filed to run in March. Under Georgia law, he said candidates must be able to vote for themselves when they enter a race. And regardless, he said, Judge Walker got it right when she held that Johnson’s failure to appear at the April hearing meant she hadn’t met her burden of proving she could, in fact, run for the judgeship.”  

Following the court’s ruling that the candidate failed to carry her burden after receiving notice of the initial administrative law judge hearing, Berry further stated that “”We appreciate Judge Hydrick hearing the parties on an expedited basis,” Berry told Law360 Friday. “We are pleased that she affirmed the decision of the secretary of state that the Office of State Administrative Hearings sent, and Ms. Johnson received, notice of the hearing and failed to carry her burden as to whether she was properly qualified to run for Fulton Superior Court.”