3rd mountain judge resigns; Ralston’s law partner appointed
They’re opening a new can of judges in the Mountain Judicial Circuit, where the only two Superior Court jurists have called it quits in the last four months.
Judge James E. “Jim” Cornwell Jr. tossed in the towel Friday, telling Gov. Sonny Perdue he had chosen to retire rather than seek re-election in November. He said he would step down May 15 rather than serve the remaining seven months of his term:
I have greatly enjoyed my time on the bench, but admittedly have grown too weary of making life-changing decisions in other people’s lives. I look forward to resuming the private practice of law.
Perdue, in accepting Cornwell’s resignation, sent a carbon copy to the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates allegations of wrongdoing by the state’s jurists. The JQC does not confirm whether it’s looking at a judge unless it files charges.
Media reports said the agency was investigating Cornwell’s colleague on the Mountain Circuit bench, Ernest H. “Bucky” Woods III, when he submitted his resignation Dec. 29. Woods had reportedly offered to help a female defendant whom he had contacted on Facebook.
Cornwell made headlines for conduct outside the courtroom in 2007, when he rolled his Chevy Trailblazer, crashed it into a tree and left the scene after the vehicle burst into flames. The judge said he had swerved to avoid hitting a deer.
The judge later paid a $475 fine after pleading no contest to failure to report an accident, failure to maintain lane and driving too fast for conditions. The accident occurred around midnight but was not reported until 3:18 a.m.
A state trooper who interviewed Cornwell at his home about 4:30 a.m. said the judge had “a strong odor of alcohol” on his breath, WSB-TV reported at the time. State law does not allow authorities to require an alcohol test more than three hours after an accident.
Perdue named Stephens County Attorney Russell W. “Rusty” Smith and Habersham County State Court Judge Linton K. “Kim” Crawford Jr. to fill the Superior Court vacancies.
Also Friday, Perdue named House Speaker David Ralston’s law partner, Amanda H. Mercier, to a judgeship in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit. She will replace former Superior Court Judge Oliver Harris “Harry” Doss Jr., who faces a litany of JQC charges, including misuse of public finds, abuse and harassment of employees and attorneys, and improperly interfering in sentencing procedures.