November 29, 2006
Next week, voters will decide who will take the bench as superior court judge.
When you think about it, superior court judges are some of the most powerful people. With the stroke of a pen, they can close a business, send someone to jail, take someone out of jail, and decide custody.
News 12 sat down with the two men in the runoff: David Roper and Bill Williams.
"Candidates for judge ought to be running for the job as if they were brothers," Roper said. "We should be getting along."
Maybe the way it should be...but the face off between Roper and Williams hasn't been so friendly.
One of Bill Williams' commercials states, "David Roper actually resigned from practicing law to become a baseball umpire. Is this the kind of lawyer we want as our superior court judge?"
Roper responded in another ad, "Please don't be misled by the negative and false attacks on me by my opponent."
Williams told us his ads targeting Roper hit the air only to dispel lies he says were being told by a local paper and radio host.
"It wasn't a personal attack on him," Williams said.
"I call it an attack ad," Roper said. "I call it going negative."
Much of the debate is over the question of how much judicial experience each man has.
"I have continuously practiced law for 35 years," Williams said. "Hardly a week goes by that I'm not in court."
Roper says he's practiced law for over 30 years too, but says in recent years, he hasn't been as involved in trials because of his duties with a rotary club. He says it was never about umpiring.
"I actually quit umpiring 18 years ago, so the whole issue of the last part of that ad is false and malicious," he said.
With differences aside, both men agree the person who takes the bench must be fair, with the life, liberty, and property of people at stake. For Williams, safety is a primary concern; for Roper, diversity is an issue.
"I know people want to feel safe, and I want to be a part of making them feel safe," Williams said.
"We never had a black juvenile judge, we've never had a female juvenile judge," Roper said. "We need to take a very close look at the diversity issue."
From talking with these two men today, they actually have a lot in common. Both graduated from UGA law school. Both are Sunday school teachers. And get this: their law firms are next door to each other, and they even share a driveway.
Their support, however, really comes from different parts of the area.
Roper has strong support in Columbia County, and Williams has more in Richmond County. It's unclear which way Burke County will vote.
With the runoff approaching, we're seeing a lot of endorsements.
Sheriff Ronnie Strength of Richmond County and Sheriff Corsey from Burke County have endorsed Bill Williams.
Augusta Commissioner Joe Bowles, Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle, and several Columbia County commissioners are backing Roper.