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Judge Disqualifies from Re-Election so Daughter Can Run Unopposed

A judge from Paulding County, Georgia will remove himself from the ballot just one week after signing up for re-election, according to The Daily Report Online. Elizabeth Osborne Williams qualified to run for the Paulding County Superior Court seat that is occupied by her father, Judge James Osborne.

Because the father is withdrawing his name from the ballot, his daughter will run unopposed. He is retiring at the end of this year.

“He just wanted to give me the best opportunity to serve in the position and work in the community,” she said.

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Williams said she and her father spoke weeks ago about running for his position on the bench. She also said the following when the two discussed him retiring: “I thought it was a great opportunity, and I thought I would work hard and do a good job as a superior court judge.”

Williams said that the two did not plan this together so she could run unopposed. But, Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics specialist from New York University School of Law, said that this move “certainly harms the reputation of the judiciary.”

“A judicial post is not an hereditary position,” Gillers wrote in an letter to the Daily Report. “It is apparent that the judge and his daughter meant to game the system. By qualifying on the first day, he could scare off challengers. By qualifying on the last day, his daughter could expect to escape a challenge that might have surfaced if she had done so earlier and if her father had given earlier notice of retirement. I couldn’t call the tactic unethical. We must expect just such behavior, so long as we choose to elect and not appoint judges.”

The executive director of Common Cause Georgia, William Perry, said, “I’m really shocked. This is incredibly unfair to those who may have wanted to seek the seat. … Clearly if he [Osborne] knew he was not seeking re-election, he should not have qualified … so people who were interested in seeking the position could. But to sandbag it so only your daughter qualifies is amazing.”

Williams earned her J.D. from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham back in 2005.

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