However, the current race for the Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court judge has two popular Coweta County attorneys campaigning throughout the five-county circuit to win the judge’s seat being vacated by the retirement of Allen B. Keeble on Dec. 31.
Kevin McMurry, a Newnan senior assistant district attorney, and Emory Palmer, a Newnan attorney in private practice, have both made numerous campaign stops in Carroll County, the latest being last Thursday night’s Carroll County Tea Party meeting.
Both have strong Carroll County support. McMurry’s Carroll County campaign is being led by Carrollton attorney Jason Swindle, while Carrollton attorney Tommy Greer has given his backing to Palmer. McMurry also has the endorsement of his boss, Coweta Circuit District Attorney Pete Skandalakis.
The judicial candidates appear on all three July 31 election ballots: Republican, Democratic and Nonpartisan. Voters choose one of the three before casting their votes.
Palmer and McMurry gave their stump speeches last Thursday. Palmer emphasized his dedication to applying the law firmly and fairly and to treat defendants as he’d want to be treated. McMurry spoke about the motto on his campaign literature: “Seek Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly with God.”
“My effort as judge will be to enforce the law and apply it firmly and justly,” Palmer said. “It should apply to everyone, regardless of their status in society, their race or their position. I’ll do my best to treat everyone on the other side of the bench how I would want to be treated if I were there. When people leave my court, if they’re honest with themselves, they’ll leave feeling respect for the system and feeling like they were treated fairly.”
Palmer also emphasized that judges should have independence from political influence, financial influence and from any kind of personal grudge.
“I love the law and have dedicated my professional life to it,” Palmer said. “I feel with every fiber of my body that the court system is the pillar of our republic and our system of government. It’s essential that it function and that every citizen has confidence that it functions in their best interests.”
On a question about judicial misconduct Thursday from an audience member, Palmer called on voters to pay attention to who judges are and what they do. He said judges often run unopposed and the public is often not focused on judicial elections.
“Some judges are good and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t run unopposed,” he said. “If you don’t like what’s going on, find someone to run against them.”
On a question about capital punishment, Palmer said he is for it, but qualified it by adding, “You have to be careful when the state is taking someone’s life. The person has to have the opportunity to defend himself and the system has to be fair, but there’s certain cases where capital punishment applies.”
Palmer enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from Newnan High School in 1987. He served four years and an extended tour during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. During Desert Storm, he was deployed with the Marine Corps Signals Intelligence detachment for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and participated in amphibious operations in Kuwait and the Persian Gulf.
He attended West Georgia College and graduated from Georgetown University with a B.S. degree in international affairs. He earned his law degree from the University of Georgia.
Palmer was admitted to practice law in 1999 and is currently admitted in Georgia state courts, the U.S. District Court for the Northern and Middle districts in Georgia and the 11th District Court of Appeals. In addition, he has been admitted pro hac vice (for this event) in numerous state and federal jurisdictions in all parts of the country.
Palmer has been a partner in the firm Carr and Palmer since 2003 and has tried cases all over Georgia. His practice focuses on litigation, including trials and appeals of complex commercial litigation and professional liability cases.
Palmer and Jennifer, his wife of 13 years, live in Newnan and have two sons who attend Coweta County public schools. They are active members of Newnan First United Methodist Church, where he teaches Sunday school and has served several years on the administrative board. He is a Cub Scout den leader for the Boy Scouts of America, Pack 41, and has coached baseball and football teams for both sons.
McMurry devoted much of his speech Thursday about how he felt his life experiences led him into prosecution work and how he likes helping victims of crime.
He said Skandalakis asked him about running for Superior Court judge when Keeble announced last November that he would be retiring at the end of this year.
“I thought about it a lot, the wheels began to turn and I prayed about where to go from here,” he said. “I’ve been before every judge in the circuit. We have good judges and really bad judges, which always bothered me. This is an opportunity for me to change the bench. Before I decided to do this, I wanted to define what a good superior court judge is about.
McMurry said he recalled the slogan from Micah 6:8 in the Bible, “Seek Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly with God.”
“I can’t say it any better than the Bible says it,” he added.
In explanation, McMurry said justice means being fair and providing equal treatment before the law.
On mercy, he recently told a trial lawyers group, “I have a reputation for being a very tough prosecutor and I’d challenge anyone to find a tougher one. But there is a necessity of mercy. Judges are in a unique position to give some of that mercy. They are given a range of punishment and can apply whatever sentence they want in that range. I’ve seen the effect of mercy is some people’s lives and it offers a chance of redemption and hope.”
Speaking on “Walk Humbly with God,” McMurry said last Thursday, “Some judges see the courtroom as their little kingdom. We’ve had 35 judges in the past three years in Georgia removed for ethics violations. We only have 350 judges in the entire state. It’s important that I, as a judge, report to you and you put me there. God is the source of all wisdom and all our laws and you can’t do the job without him, at least I can’t. Someone else may think they can.”
McMurry earned a joint J.D./M.B.A. degree from Georgia State University and holds an undergraduate degree in business from Baylor University.
After graduating from law school in 2000, he did volunteer mission work in Nepal for a year. It was while on that trip that he met his future wife, Carolyn. They now live in Newnan and have four children, including a set of twins.
McMurry serves on the board of the Freedom Firm India, an organization that works to free children from sex trafficking in South India.
Before joining the district attorney’s office, McMurry was a civil attorney at the litigation firm of Hollberg and Weaver, where he defended numerous state entities, such as the University of Georgia and the Georgia State Patrol, on a case-by-case basis.
In his current position as senior assistant district attorney, he has prosecuted a variety of cases, including murder, rape, drug trafficking, burglary, armed robbery and child molestation. His cases have been featured on national TV shows such as “48 Hours,” CNN and “Snapped.”