Family: Married five years to Supattra K. Swords; two daughters Sadie, age 3, and Emily, 16 months.
Occupation: Attorney. Joined the Army in 1976, received an honorable discharge with the Army Commendation Medal and Good Conduct Medal. I was hired by the Rockdale County Fire Department in 1979 as a firefighter/EMT. After finishing a paramedic course, I went to work at St. Mary’s EMS in Athens. I later managed ambulance services in White County and for American Medical Response. I also was a consultant with the Saudi Arabian Red Crescent Society. Assigned to Coalition Provisional Authority-North in Erbil, Iraq, regional coordinator as executive assistant/attorney, tasked with standing up the Iraqi Property Claims Commission to help Kurdish and Yazidis recover their land stolen by the Saddam Hussein regime. Practiced workers compensations law in Rockdale County for a local attorney for a short time while I awaited approval of a new position with KBR as a senior operations coordinator in Mosul, Iraq. I was approached to take a contract as a remote site paramedic in IraqSix months later I took a position on a personal security team as a team medic in Afghanistan providing security for the Army Corps of Engineers to inspect rural and very remote site reconstruction projects. I injured my knee in May 2011 during a training mission and returned to the U.S. for surgery.
Previous political experience or other political offices that you may have sought? None, I have never had any political aspirations.
Why I’m running:
I am the only attorney running for the magistrate judge’s position. While this is obviously not mandatory by law currently, one can only reason that it would make the process of ruling on cases smoother and faster if the judge is knowledgeable in the law (both civil and criminal) and is versed on how to do legal research and remain up to date on the laws. The fact that Georgia counties with populations less than 95,000 are not required to have an attorney in the magistrate position, is based more on economics necessity than it is on the ever-increasing complexity of the job.
Should a case be appealed it is very important that the judge’s ruling be based in the law and contain cites to the exact law the judge relied on. I know from my own experiences it can be frustrating to have a clear cut case only to have the lay judge rule against your client. It forces your client to make a decision if they want to expend even more money to appeal the judge’s decision and pay additional attorney fees for what they had already believed to be a straight forward case. For the person representing themselves, who is not an attorney, they may assume the Judge knows the law and be frustrated by the loss. The late British politician William Gladstone is credited with the maxim “Justice delayed is justice denied.” This can leave both attorneys and lay people very frustrated and feeling like the system is biased and corrupt.
My many years of management experience will benefit the court by allowing me to maximize efficiencies. It is in everyone’s interest to ensure the process functions smoothly and according to schedule. Most people are terrified of going before a Judge and the process is daunting. The magistrate court is the people’s court and should be as informal as possible without compromising the integrity of the process. I believe that I have the skills and experience to ensure the magistrate court can be as painless as possible and a more satisfying experience.
My background as a paramedic working in very poor communities, and as a contractor working with people from all over the world, has given me the ability and patience to communicate with just about anyone.
My experience in a war zone and responding to emergencies has left me very calm and even keeled from an emotional stand point. I believe this will allow me to maintain control of the court without a heavy hand or people leaving with bruised feelings.
I am running because I believe strongly in the law and the American system. For the legal system to function, you must have a judiciary that is educated in the law, and believes that like an umpire a judge sticks to the pertinent facts and renders opinions after applying the law to the case before the court. It is not the place for judges to act outside the law to render decisions and I will not be political or biased in my judgments.
I have spent all of my adult life serving my community, state and or country. If the people of Effingham County will give me the honor of voting for me for Chief Magistrate Judge, I give them my promise that I will not disappoint them.
My goals for my first term will be: first to evaluate the system in place and deal with any immediate changes needed. I will visit other counties’ magistrates to see if I can get ideas that can be brought back to Effingham County. To change any process in place in order to maximize the access to the public, ensure that integrity of the system is in place and to eliminate any process that does not make good economic sense.