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Fulton Superior Judge Candidate Had Two D.U.I.'s

(APN) ATLANTA -- A candidate for Fulton County Superior Court Judge, Kelly Amanda Lee, has had two D.U.I. (Driving while Under the Influence) charges, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

Lee is in a Run-off with Shelitha Robertson.  Lee came in first and Robertson came in second in a crowded General Election race which also included Clarence Johnson, Chloe Dallaire, and Karlese Yvette Grier.

Robertson previously came very close to unseating Atlanta City Councilman Lamar Willis (Post 3-at-large) in the 2009 election.  APN endorsed Robertson in that election.

Robertson impressed GLBT advocates when she intervened when several staff members and male dancers were arrested at the Atlanta Eagle in September 2009; she called and insisted the judge let them out of jail.  All defendants were later found not guilty.

Lee admitted to the DUI's in an interview with APN, as well as in a questionnaire she completed for the Judicial Nominating Commission on September 21, 2009, obtained by APN.

Lee was previously nominated by Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, for a vacancy in Fulton County Superior Court.  The Commission eventually selected Shawn LaGrua, who as previously reported by APN, served as Inspector General for Secretary of State Karen Handel's office.

"In 1990, I plead nolo contendre to a charge of driving under the influence while at the University of Georgia (City of Athens Municipal Court, Case No. 016149).  In 2002, I plead guilty to a charge of driving under the influence in Fulton County (City Court of Atlanta, Accusation No. 220994).  I no longer consume alcohol and have not done so in over four years," Lee said.

"I was charged a fine in excess of $50.00 for a speeding citation in Laurens County, Georgia, in 2005 and in 2009," Lee said.

Prior to the General Election, Dallaire raised concern about Lee's DUI's; however, Dallaire has endorsed Lee in the Run-off.  Dallaire told APN that she thought the Lee was the better qualified of the two candidates, despite the two DUI's and other concerns she had raised.

State Sen. Donzella James, whose son was killed in a drunk driving accident several years ago and who has been active with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said she thought the DUI's did make Lee unqualified to be a judge.

James told APN she was concerned that Lee may be lenient in cases involving a drunk driver.

Lee said that was not true and she would consider each case based on its merits.  She also said that the experience of going through the judicial system showed her how it can cause somebody to change their life.

When asked what her thought process was when deciding to drive while drunk, Lee responded "Probably most people don't think they're going to get a DUI," adding that both incidents occurred several years ago.

Robertson told APN that she did think Lee's DUI's were an issue. 

Lee noted that the JNC rated her as well-qualified despite the DUI's, but Robertson said it was a partisan, and non-objective panel.

Lee is being supported by many North Fulton Republicans and a photo posted on her Facebook shows her with then-Gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal.

Yet, she is also being supported by State Rep. Stephanie Benfield, a progressive Democrat, who said she knows Lee from law school.

Jason Cecil, one of the co-founders of the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats, told APN that Lee did not return her questionnaire concerning GLBT issues. 

"Kelly Lee will be an anti-gay judge... she will cause major problems for gay families, especially in an adoption situation. She needs to be DEFEATED," Cecil wrote in a comment on Blog for Democracy.

In Lee's defense, she does have several openly-homosexual friends.  She also said she does not recall not returning a questionnaire.

Lee graduated from the University of Georgia in 1990.  She got her law degree from the same school in 1993.  Since then, she's worked at three different law firms and also run her own practice.

In her early years as a lawyer, she defended corporations.  According to her application to the JDC, Lee "litigated automobile insurance defense cases; over 100 files under my sole control; tried approximately 30 jury trials in state and superior courts as lead counsel; assisted with defense of EEOC and slip and fall claims."

At her second law firm, she worked "In defense of third party actions, including wrongful death actions, or were subrogation matters for aviation insurers, property insurers, automobile and casualty insurers and employee theft bond companies."

Robertson graduated from Brenau University in 1987, and from Atlanta Law School in 1990 or 1991, she said.

Robertson worked as an Atlanta Police officer from 1980 to 1990, as an Atlanta Public Defender from 1997 to 2003, and as a City Attorney from 2003 to 2008.

She also previously served as the attorney advisor for the Atlanta Police Department License Review Board. 

Robertson said she clerked with Clifford Hardwick, an attorney, in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and has also represented individuals in a variety of cases.  "I have extrensive litigation experience from criminal to civil litigation to transactional law to family law to domestic law to real estate."

Lee was among the four judge candidates who participated in APN's Official Town Hall Meeting and Candidates' Forum in October.  Robertson did not attend.

APN endorsed Dallaire and Grier in the General Election and has not yet decided regarding the Run-off.


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