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Election 2012: Chief magistrate
Incumbent, past judge want position
Bramblett WEB
Forsyth County Chief Magistrate Walker Bramblett - photo by For the Forsyth County News

Walker Bramblett (I)

Age: 57

Occupation: Chief magistrate

Education: Bachelor’s degree from North Georgia College & State University, law degree from Cumberland School of Law

Background: Juvenile court judge, municipal court judge, former president of Forsyth County Bar Association, charter class of Leadership Forsyth, former member of Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce board of directors

Family: Wife, Vicky, and five children and four grandchildren

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Barbara Cole

Age: 54

Occupation: Private practice attorney

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University and law degree from John Marshall Law School

Background: Accredited veterans’ attorney, United States Supreme Court, Georgia Supreme Court, Georgia Federal Court, member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys

Family: Husband, Michael, and two children

Both candidates for Forsyth County chief magistrate have held the office before.

Incumbent Walker Bramblett began his current term in 2009, while his challenger Barbara Cole held the post from 2000 to 2008.

Cole could not run in 2008 due to changes in local legislation that said the position must be held by an attorney who is a current member of the bar.

Cole said she finished her law degree while in the office, but did not have enough time as a member of the bar to run then.

Both she and Bramblett say they made positive changes to magistrate court, which handles a wide range of activities, including issuing search and arrest warrants, some misdemeanor cases, evictions and civil small claims cases.

“We’re a busy, hardworking court,” Bramblett said, noting that he believes the court has become better under his leadership.

“I think [voters] can look at what magistrate court is now and what it was before and I think they can see that we’ve taken it to a higher standard, that we’ve brought more professionalism to the magistrate court,” he said. “I am the first person who was an attorney and a member of the bar at the time of election to chief magistrate since I’ve practiced law in Forsyth County since 1981.”

Cole also believes she made strides to the office when she held the position.

“I took the court from a very bad situation where it had no organization, no computerization, and I got in the electronic warrant system, fought to get the new building, saved costs, cut the budget,” she said. “I made it where the sheriff’s department was saving money not transporting prisoners because we did a video link-up. I made it so people who couldn’t afford an attorney could use forms and represent themselves in the court.”

Bramblett said some of the programs he’s implemented that he’s most proud of include MAPP, a program similar to drug or accountability court.

“The people who qualify are young people who are charged for the first time with misdemeanor marijuana or alcohol under the age of 21,” he said. “That program requires evaluation, treatment, education and of course accountability.”

He’s also proud of continuing use of broader technology, which he said is “safer and cheaper.”

“We continue to upgrade our reliance upon technology,” he said. “We do first appearance hearings and warrants … all by video conference. We have the technology for the judges to do that from home in the middle of the night and from the office in the middle of the day or on the road.”

If elected to the post again, Cole said she would like to expand the court’s night time hours to better accommodate people who work during the day, and potentially add a special court for veterans and people with mental disorders.

“I think if we do a mental health court and a veterans’ court we can, not to give them preferential treatment, but address their specific needs so they don’t go out and repeat [offenses].”

Bramblett said the groundwork has already been laid for the mental health court.

“The groundwork for a mental health court in Forsyth County started 18 months ago,” he said, noting that if funding becomes available it would fall under Superior Court with Magistrate Court supporting it.