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Cobb, Ga., Juvenile Court Presiding Judge James F. Morris is stepping down, and money is the reason. The 57-year-old Morris, who has been a juvenile court judge for 11 years, says he hasn’t seen a dime of the $170,000 that the Georgia Legislature earmarked for Cobb juvenile judges last year. That money, Morris says, went directly from the Legislature to Cobb’s coffers. “I attempted to speak with the [Cobb County] commission,” Morris says. “I wrote them letters and sought audiences. I was unsuccessful.” Morris argues that Cobb juvenile judges deserve raises because their caseloads are just as large as those in other metro counties and yet the judges are paid less than their metro counterparts. According to a survey conducted by the Judicial Council of Georgia’s Administrative Office of the Courts, the Cobb juvenile court presiding judge is paid $99,894 a year. Associate Judge Juanita P. Stedman earns $98,395. Fulton County juvenile court judges are paid $120,107. In DeKalb, juvenile court judges are paid $125,265. In Gwinnett, a juvenile court judge earns between $119,347 and $122,000. “I’m not asking for the whole $170,000 as a raise,” Morris adds. But he says at least some of that money should be used to bring his Cobb colleagues up to parity with those in Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett Counties. Cobb delegation chairman John J. Wiles, R-Kennesaw, says the delegation was powerless to approve anything over the raise amount budgeted by the Cobb Commission. Wiles says any amount the delegation approves over the amount budgeted by the commission is an unfunded mandate. Cobb delegation member Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna, says the use of the $170,000 depends on statutory interpretation and legislative intent. “Is that money supposed to be in addition to or in substitution” of juvenile court judges’ salaries? asks Golick. Golick says he doesn’t know how the legislative intent of H.B. 182 is supposed to be interpreted. The bill, which was approved in last year’s legislative session, does not specify whether the money should bolster juvenile court judge salaries or reimburse the county for salary expenses. Cobb Commissioner Samuel S. Olens, who’s a lawyer, says Georgia’s Constitution and state law conflict on the issue of whether salaries set by counties need to be approved by counties’ legislative delegations. Because no appeals court has clarified the issue, Olens says Cobb has chosen to defer to its legislative delegation. The legislative delegation recently approved a cost-of-living increase of 4 percent for all Cobb County employees. That raise will take effect when Gov. Roy Barnes approves it, says Cobb delegation member Rep. Don Parsons, R-Marietta. That could happen as early as next week, he adds. On Oct. 1, the $170,000 went into Cobb County’s general fund, Morris says. “It was a political decision, I suppose,” he says. At that time, he says, the commission already had budgeted juvenile judges’ salaries. Olens says the commission took no action on the $170,000 because it received no instructions about the matter from Cobb Superior Court judges. “We traditionally look for guidance from the Superior Court,” Olens says. The issue, he says, is not about the Cobb juvenile court judges’ salary disparity. “The issue is solely the process.” Prior to joining the juvenile court bench, Morris was a Cobb County assistant district attorney for 13 years. While he says he’s unsure about what he’ll do next, Morris says he might enter private practice or devote his time to children’s issues. Morris says he doesn’t know if he’ll make more money when he steps down. “I’m willing to go out and try,” he says. He won’t seek reappointment for another four-year term, so his resignation is effective April 2002. NEW AVLF DIRECTOR Gina Smith Mangham, the new executive director of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, says she has plenty of ideas for expanding the organization’s services. Mangham was formerly the managing attorney for Atlanta Legal Aid’s southside office. She opened that office, which serves Clayton County and South Atlanta, in June 1999 and had worked with the group for the past four years. The challenge of working for Legal Aid was the limited number of resources and attorneys, Mangham says. “It’s tough to compete with private firms.” While Atlanta Legal Aid can provide its own attorneys to indigent clients, Mangham says, the entire bar is at her disposal on a volunteer basis at the AVLF. “The pie is certainly bigger,” she says. Among her projects, Mangham says she’ll encourage more midsized law firms to provide attorney-volunteers, a goal she must achieve to fulfill the rest of her ambitious agenda. She also wants to develop a pilot program that she calls “advocacy in education for children with special needs” to ensure that these children receive all the special schooling to which they are entitled. Mangham says she also wants to work with Legal Aid to represent more tenants in landlord-tenant disputes. “I did a lot of that work [at Legal Aid],” Mangham says. “There’s not many tenant lawyers down there except for Legal Aid.” Finally, Mangham intends to augment AVLF’s consumer work, such as representing those who have signed unconscionable contracts. Before joining Legal Aid, Mangham was the executive director of Pittsburgh Partnership Inc., a nonprofit community development organization for the Pittsburgh neighborhood in Southwest Atlanta. While working for the partnership, she attended John Marshall Law School and graduated in 1994. Twenty-five applied for the executive director job, says Mark S. VanderBroek, president of the AVLF board and a Troutman Sanders partner. Mangham was a good fit, he says. “She had a strong background both in providing legal services to the poor and good experience in managing a nonprofit organization,” he says. Mangham succeeds Debra A. Segal, who left to run Kilpatrick Stockton’s pro bono program. Segal, who served as executive director from 1989 until last December, says the AVLF worked closely with Mangham when she was at Legal Aid. PARTNER LEAVES A&B Alston & Bird partner Robert J. Middleton Jr. left the firm — and Atlanta — to return to Albany, his hometown. Middleton joined the Albany firm of Watson, Spence, Lowe and Chambless in January, he says. He’ll continue to do regulatory and municipal work, he says, and took “nothing significant” as far as client work from Alston & Bird. Middleton, 43, worked for A&B for nearly eight years. “I just wanted to slow down my lifestyle a little bit,” he says. “I had practiced in a big firm and been a partner in a big firm and had done a lot of interesting work.” Neither Middleton nor Alston’s managing partner, Ben F. Johnson III, will say whether Middleton was an equity or nonequity partner. Briefly … Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law dedicated a law school scholarship Friday to King & Spalding partner Frank C. Jones. After graduating from Mercer Law School in 1950, Jones practiced law in Macon until 1977 when he joined K&S. Jones is a former president of the Georgia Bar Association and the American College of Trial Lawyers. King & Spalding partner Griffin B. Bell, Jones and other Mercer law alumni at K&S donated to the scholarship fund. The Riverdale High School mock trial team won the Georgia Mock Trial Competition on Sunday. The Riverdale team will represent the state in the national mock trial tournament in May. Attorneys Cheryl S. Champion of the Champion Law Firm, Bryant, Davis & Cowden’s Robert A. McDonald, sole practitioner Donna R. Sims, Fayetteville sole practitioner Stephen T. Smith, Judge Advocate General officer Anece Baxter White, and Clayton County Magistrate Court Judge Clara E. Bucci coached the winning team. DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Daniel M. Coursey Jr. and Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Debra Turner presided over the tournament.

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