This is the third in a series to run on Sundays focusing on the four candidates seeking the GOP nomination for Morgan County District Judge Place 3.
Emily Baggett, prosecutor with the city of Decatur for the last 10 years, says her ability to juggle a large caseload in Municipal Court and having the temperament to effectively handle it give her an edge in the race for Morgan County District Judge Place 3.
“I think prosecutors have a unique perspective because they’re in the courtroom so much more than most attorneys, and the volume of cases that we have to handle on a daily basis actually is similar to what a judge handles on a daily basis,” said Baggett, 41. “You have to be able to (handle the volume of cases) effectively and efficiently.”
The municipal court averages 200 to 400 cases a week, including misdemeanor and traffic cases.
She said that as a prosecutor, she deals with attorneys, victims and people coming to court who don’t have attorneys representing them, like a judge would.
“I could handle the high volume of cases and also have the judicial temperament to do it,” Baggett said.
Baggett and attorneys Patrick Caver, Ta’Kisha Guster Gholston and Kevin Kusta will be on the March 3 Republican primary ballot, seeking the judgeship now held by Charles Langham, who is unable to run for reelection because of the state’s age limit for judges. The winner will go on to face Democrat Paul Ray Holland, a Decatur attorney, in the Nov. 3 general election.
For individuals who are visually impaired or who have difficulty reading, ExpressVote machines will now be available at all 39 polling places and at the Morgan County Courthouse for absentee voting, said Kate Terry, Morgan County’s director of elections and chief clerk in the probate office. She said the device reads options and instructions to voters via a headset, and selections are made using a handheld remote equipped with Braille. A paper ballot is printed to be placed in the ballot counting machine.
Baggett was an assistant district attorney with the Madison County District Attorney’s Office, prosecuting misdemeanor and traffic cases in that county’s district court, then was an associate with Price & Flowers Law Firm in Huntsville before joining the City of Decatur in January 2010.
“I’ve been in 10 different district courts across the state, I’ve been in over 20 city courts and in over 10 different circuit courts across the state,” she said. “While I’ve been in city court for 10 years, that’s not where all my experience has been, by any means.”
Baggett said her desire to serve motivated her to run for the judgeship.
“I have a servant’s heart,” she said. “That’s one of the main reasons why I’ve served the citizens of the city of Decatur the past 10 years, and now I want to serve Morgan County.
“My main motivation for running is to be that judge who people feel knows the community, knows the law, respects every individual that comes in the courtroom and makes the best decision following the law.”
Though there’s “a great system” already in place in district court, “there are programs that other courts in the state have that we don’t have that we could look at, to see if those are programs we could potentially use in Morgan County,” Baggett said.
She mentioned two programs of interest: a mental health court and veterans court.
Last year, the Alabama Legislature passed legislation to increase the jurisdictional limit for district courts from $10,000 to $20,000, allowing claims up to $20,000 to be filed in district court. It took effect Sept. 1.
Baggett wants to see how that change has impacted the number of cases in District Court and determine with the other judges “the most effective way to work together and divide the caseload. I would yield to their experience on that,” she said.
Baggett said she believes each case she prosecutes in Municipal Court, or would hear in District Court, should be treated with the same respect and fairness.
“People deserve to have their voice heard and they deserve to have that moment in court,” she said. “I give them an opportunity as a prosecutor, and I‘m certainly going to give them that opportunity as a judge.”