Two newly appointed Georgia Superior Court judges within the Western Judicial Circuit are facing challengers for this upcoming May election.
Local prosecutor Allison Mauldin is challenging Judge Eric Norris, and public defender Lisa Lott is challenging Judge Regina Quick. All four judges in the circuit have the same jurisdiction, so challengers can choose any seat.
The Western Circuit is led by four judges who serve four-year terms and consists of Clarke and Oconee counties, one of 49 circuits in the state.
Superior courts have general jurisdiction over trial cases in Georgia as well as hearing appeals from lower courts. They handle felony criminal cases, civil lawsuits and family law.
Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Norris, a former Watkinsville lawyer, in spring 2016, filling the newly created fourth judgeship. Prior to, the Georgia legislature voted to add the fourth judgeship because of the increased caseload within the circuit.
In fall 2017, Deal appointed Quick, a former Republican state representative, replacing Judge David Sweat upon his retirement.
This is the first judicial election for both Norris and Quick because they were both previously appointed by the governor.
Allison Mauldin said “it’s time” to run for Superior Court judge after 28 years practicing as a criminal trial prosecutor.
Mauldin earned both her undergraduate and law degree from the University of Georgia.
After law school, Mauldin clerked in the Fulton County State Court. She later served as the assistant solicitor in Gwinnett County before working in the Piedmont and Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit.
Mauldin currently serves as the chief assistant district attorney in the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit.
“I’m a trial lawyer. I’ve been a trial lawyer basically my whole career. I’m in court every single week,” Mauldin said. “There’s a certain appreciation for the courtroom if you’re there day in and day out. I don’t think my opponent can say that.”
If elected, Mauldin said she would not allow cases to be heard in another county without the consent of the defenders or victims.
She pointed out that this specific judgeship was created by the Georgia legislature by the increased caseload, primarily coming from Athens. However, she said majority of cases are heard in Oconee County.
Mauldin said the key issue with this is that Oconee and Clarke County have two different communities.
“Oconee County has no public transportation,” Mauldin said. “A lot of the people [in Athens] who are going to be served by this court rely on public transportation, for people dropping them off at the courthouse. Driving to Oconee County where the crime has not been committed is an issue. It’s become a regular problem, and it needs to stop.”
Mauldin said the choice to hold cases in Oconee County is solely based on convenience for the judges.
If elected, Mauldin said her husband, a district attorney in the circuit, will resign to promise fair trials under her judgeship.
Judge Eric Norris
Norris hopes to continue serving the Athens area to preserve “a fair, impartial legal system” and a united community.
Norris has been practicing law in northeast Georgia for the past 20 years. His experience includes a broad range of civil and criminal cases.
In 2004, Norris was selected as the chief magistrate judge in Oconee County before he was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to be a superior court judge in the Western Circuit.
Currently, he presides over the court docket of Treatment and Accountability Court, which provides probation alternatives for people with mental health problems convicted of nonviolent crimes.
Norris said the Western Circuit needs a judge with extensive experience in both criminal and civil cases who understands the inclusiveness of the community.
“We have to recognize this is an inclusive community legally,” Norris said. “The decisions made in front of the courts are made purely off of law, the facts and the circumstances. As we move forward, I think we are always trying to recognize how do we serve people better in the court.”
In the last five to 10 years, Norris said the Western Circuit has included accountability, veterans, parent accountability and drug courts within the Superior Court.
“We are trying to help people within those situations and reintegrate them into the community so they have the opportunity to have a stable life, have jobs and support their families,” Norris said.
Norris also emphasized the importance of keeping the courtroom accessible.
“I think our courts are extremely accessible [currently]. If someone wants a court hearing, they’re able to get in front of a judge in a very efficient time frame,” Norris said. “That’s part of the reason why the fourth superior judgeship was created.”
In addition to serving as judge of the Western Circuit, Norris has served as president of the Western Judicial Bar Association and member of the 10th District Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, Western Circuit Public Defender Supervisory Committee and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court’s Workload Assessment Committee.
Aside from law, Norris has served as the president of the Oconee County Rotary Club, board member of the Oconee State Bank Citizens Advisory, coach of the North Oconee High School Mock Trial and judge for the Georgia Mock Trial competitions.
“I have found that is better to serve something higher than yourself … and ultimately you’re bettering your community,” Norris said.
Norris was born and raised in the Athens area and graduated from Oconee County High School.
After high school, Norris joined the Georgia Army National Guard, where he served for the past 32 years. He has earned the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Norris received his undergraduate degree in finance from North Georgia College in Dahlonega before moving to Virginia to attend law school at Regent University.
Correction: In a previous version of this article, Judge Eric Norris was said to be a prosecutor. He is a lawyer, not a prosecutor. This has since been corrected.