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Chief Magistrate said he won't run again

Posted: December 30, 2011 - 5:32pm

Columbia County Chief Magistrate Judge Bobby Christine announced Friday that he will not seek re-election.

The decision, Christine said, is based on information that he’ll likely be activated and deployed through the Georgia Army National Guard in 2012.

“I can’t be on the ballot if I’m on active duty,” Christine said. “As long as I am in the military, this is a potential.”

Christine, a National Guard lieutenant colonel, is a Judge Advocate General officer. He was activated and deployed to Iraq for 14 months in 2003 and 2004.

Christine said though he’s met his obligations to the military and can retire at any time, he won’t.

“I’m not going to take my uniform off while we’re at war,” Christine said. “I’m not going to walk away from the military while we still have troops in harm’s way.”

Though the potential deployment isn’t yet certain, Christine said he doesn’t want to wait any closer to the May qualifying to see if the orders will be confirmed.

“I’ve wrestled with this the last couple of months, thinking about it,” Christine said. “The last thing I want to do is dissuade good folks who might offer (to run) had they known early enough.”

Christine served four years as associate magistrate before being appointed to fill the nearly four remaining years of former Chief Magistrate J. Wade Padgett’s term in February 2009. That term ends Dec. 31, 2012.

“It has been a blessing and such an honor to have been called forth to finish Judge Padgett’s term,” Christine said. “To be a judge for the people of Columbia County in that position, to have been Chief Magistrate, has been a blessing and an honor; one of the highest honors of my life.

“Ultimately, it is not my seat. It is the people’s seat. Knowing this information, I probably need to step aside and let somebody else run.”

If Christine were to qualify in May without opposition, then be mobilized, he’d be forced to pull out of the race due to U.S. Army regulations.

If Christine is activated and/or deployed during a term, there are procedures to keep the court running in his absence. But he simply can’t be activated and on a ballot.

Christine said he might regret the decision not to run if he’s not deployed before the November election. But he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of running for the Magistrate or another office in the future. “What gives me peace is it has been an honor to have served like this,” Christine said. “I’m going to complete this term. Then, you know, I’m a young man.”

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Comments (148)

LBenedict

I'm not buying it. Jason

I'm not buying it. Jason Hasty has had meet-and-greets scheduled because he decided to run against Christine, and, Christine KNOWS IT. He does not want to run opposed because his laundry will be aired, especially since he palled around with Scott Dean for years.

"Chief Magistrate said he won't run again" is the title. Again? He never ran the first time or any time. He has always been appointed, probably in large part due to hefty campaign donations he has made.

Riverman1

I Love These Comments

Internet comments have changed the face of journalism. It's a whole new game. The more friends in government I hear about Scott Dean having the more I understand why no one went after him for the affair with the married county employee.

Austin Rhodes

Hasty to run against Christine?

He would have gotten his butt whupped. Nothing against Hasty, but no one of substance has any real problem with Bobby Christine, and the man who would step forward to question his character would deserve a smack in the mouth.

Hasty had been looking at a run against Carlisle Overstreet, but decided it was not in the best interest of his family to leave the public payroll to run. He would have to leave his job in the Public Defender office to be a part time magistrate...I don't buy this it.

...and RM...if you think "internet comments" have anything to do with this decision...you are barking up the wrong tree. They haven't done anything to lay a glove on Ben Harbin, have they?

Riverman1

Well

I'm not saying I necessarily buy Lee's comments of why Christine decided not to run, but I didn't know of his relationship with Scott Dean which I find interesting. I'm sure others are surprised, too.

From what I've heard about Christine, he does a good job. But most of us have to be concerned about our finances, too. Going back on active duty for a year will probably mean he makes Colonel, in addition it ups his retirement income as a retired reservist. Plus, all this about him doing the right thing and stepping down will help him politically when he comes back.

None of this is detracting from his service to the country by going back. I stayed in the military for reasons that were party personal, but, hopefully, I helped the country a little too.

Riverman1

About the Internet

Austin, you are one of the main critics of those of us who comment on the internet. But you are not the only one, print journalists negate us too. I believe I understand the effects of internet comments and the psychology of it. It doesn't work immediately like an article criticizing a particular politician, but it does work as the comments start to surface.

Interesting that you use Ben Harbin as an example of internet commenters' ineffectiveness. You've been going after him lots longer and harder than we have. Many of us just came to this party after learning of his support for Dean and the money Magnolia Trace developers gave him. Don't worry, we'll now run with the ball. In our wisdom we'll even throw you an ego biscuit or two and let you believe you did it. Your Costco size whatever needs that.

LBenedict

Sorry Austin, but me,

Sorry Austin, but me, personally, I have major issues with Christine's "character". Why you ask?

He endorsed a candidate for office by making a speech on the candidate's behalf. He did more than read a letter from another elected official. He flat-out endorsed a candidate, and if you want to hear the tape, I will get one for you. The reason this is an issue is because judges are forbidden via Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct from endorsing any candidate for public office. There ain't but seven canons, and any judge or judicial candidate must be aware of them. But, Christine stepped on out there and made a speech and endorsed a candidate.

Until recently, Christine and another judge served as campaign Chairperson and Treasurer for Ben Harbin, which, is against judicial canon, but the judges thumbed their noses at the canons. Now before anyone claims that they were on the committee long before being given the black robes, know that Christine asked me if my candidacy against Harbin can change. After Church one day, Bobby Christine asked me to reconsider running against Ben Harbin. Plus, the other judge made a speech on Harbin's behalf at the Columbia County GOP breakfast just before the election, and in fact, he and I sat at the same table. Ben could not attend because he was out of state at an event with one of his children, which is fine and he should be with the kids, but, a judge did speak on his behalf and encouraged those present to vote for Ben.

When Bobby Christine buys memberships to the Columbia County GOP, he is violating judicial canon. When he pays for breakfasts and other meals at GOP gatherings, he is violating judicial canon. Should a judge be permitted to attend political functions? Yes. But, when the functions raise funds for a partisan political group ( GOP, Democrat, Libertarian...), judicial canon is broken.

I will stop here with presenting my reasons, of which there are many, for having issues with Christine's character. I DO NOT believe that he did not know he was violating canon. Radio hosts, publishers, teachers, attorneys, doctors...know the rules of their profession, and to violate them over and over and to do such out in the open is pure arrogance and a slap in the face to the public.

Riverman1

Well, there You Go

Interesting, Lee. Christine certainly appears to be heavily involved in politics and orchestrating carefully. Looks like Austin is the one who got "smacked in the mouth."

macktaylor

How about proof

Riverman before you subscribe to what Lee is saying require him to show some proof. As already outlined anyone can get on here and say anything they want to say and sometimes anonymously. Although we know who Mr. Benedict is, how about we require some proof and show which of the canons Judge Christine has broken. Folks in the profession know that Bobby is a man of high integrity who has not only served his community well as a judge and assistant district attorney, but also his country. Not many people can hold that distinction. I always hate to see people that engage in the court of public opinion without all of the facts then find them guilty so as to air their personal vendettas so they may gain political standing.

macktaylor

Besides

If Lee did have the evidence what is wrong with Lee for not reporting Judge Christine to the bar for discipline. Obviously Lee has something personal against Bobby and is blowing a bunch of hot air.

Riverman1

Mack, Lee was pretty clear

I'm not saying Christine is anything, but a pretty good magistrate. From what I heard, he cleaned up a heavy backload on the docket.

But Lee was precise in what he said Christine did wrong. Did Christine do what Lee said or didn't he? Austin turned the discussion into a childish thing with his usual sycophantic vacuum so strong you can feel the whooshing air all over the county with his "smack in the mouth" talk. Don't you develop the same traits.

Now I ask, did Christine stay involved in politics after becoming magistrate? I don't know, but Lee said, "He flat-out endorsed a candidate." True or false?

Riverman1

Mack, About Lee's Vendetta

Again, Lee was pretty specific why he doesn't like Christine. Lee did run against Harbin and he says Christine tried to get him to drop out of the race. That's a political difference and Lee explained it well.

By the way, duh me, I supported Harbin the last time against Lee. What a mistake that was with what's come out about Harbin and Magnolia Trace, plus his testifying FOR Scott Dean.

LBenedict

OK Mack, I thought that I

OK Mack, I thought that I gave a few specific examples and even offered to play the tape, but here:
CANON 7
Judges Shall Refrain from Political Activity Inappropriate to Their Judicial Office.
A. Political Conduct in General.
(1) A judge or a candidate* for public election* to judicial office shall not:
(a) act or hold himself or herself out as a leader or hold any office in a political organization*;
(b) make speeches for a political organization or candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for public office;

Look at Harbin's Campaign Contribution Disclosure Reports for 2008, 2009, 2010, and the first one of 2011 (the ones that have not been altered). Tell me who his campaign committee Chairperson is. It is Bobby Christine.
Bobby Christine made a formal endorsement of Ron Cross and talked of hearing "cannons roaring" and being "faithful stewards" and "we have not lived above our means". He DID NOT simply read a letter as someone contends. He went to the announcement ceremony and was introduced by Ron Cross as "Chief Magistrate Judge".

(c) solicit funds for or pay an assessment or make a contribution to a political organization, or purchase tickets for political party dinners, or other functions, except as authorized in subsection A(2).

When Christine pays for a meal at gatherings of CCGOP and GCCRW, he violates this section. When he paid to be a Courthouse Club Member of the CCGOP, he violates this section.
http://www.gabar.org/handbook/georgia_code_of_judicial_conduct/

With regard to asking me to not run, I have no video or audio of that, but we can each place our hands upon the Bible and give our recollection of the exchange. He may not be afraid of God, but I certainly am. Plus, I told enough about it and they will basically tell you what I told to them.

As far as "proof", there are records showing who paid what and when, and, I heard the tape of his endorsement of Cross and I have immediate access to the tape. And oh by the way, not too long after the endorsement, the CC Commission gave $10,000 to the CC Chamber of Commerce for a membership, and, Christine was on its Board of Directors (he is not for 2012, but when the check was cut, he was). And oh by the way, I did file a formal complaint with the Judicial Qualifications Commission and supplied it with ample evidence.

LBenedict

Mack, I just submitted ample

Mack, I just submitted ample proof for you, but, it is not appearing. Plus, I have information that I am going public with that shows an alteration of official documents.

billcass

I doubt it

I have known Bobby Christine for years, and he is possibly the most ethical man I know. As I understand the law, he is required to run partisan. So in order to do so he is an active member of a political party. Why is this a surprise? As for the other things Mr. Benedict mentions, I can only repeat what I said. Bobby is one of, if not the, most ethical people I know. I have no idea if he did the things you say, but if he did I am confident he did not knowingly violate the canons of ethics. It is simply not in his character.

LBenedict

CANON 7 Judges Shall Refrain

CANON 7
Judges Shall Refrain from Political Activity Inappropriate to Their Judicial Office.

A. Political Conduct in General.

(1) A judge or a candidate* for public election* to judicial office shall not:

(a) act or hold himself or herself out as a leader or hold any office in a political organization*;

(b) make speeches for a political organization or candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for public office;

Christine stood up in front of a crowd at Ron Cross' reelection announcement and spoke on Cross' behalf. For years, Christine was Ben Harbin's campaign Chairperson. If Christine did not know he was violating canon, then he is not fit to serve as judge, period.

(c) solicit funds for or pay an assessment or make a contribution to a political organization, or purchase tickets for political party dinners, or other functions, except as authorized in subsection A(2).

When Christine pays for meals at CCGOP and GCCRW meetings, he violates canon. When Christine pays to be a Courthouse Club Member of the CCGOP, he violates canon. If he honestly had no idea he was violating canon for years, then he is not competent to serve as judge. Seven canons. He must have known about them.

Barry Paschal

And what was the outcome of those complaints?

Lee, why didn't you tell the rest of the story? What was the outcome of your complaints? And did you file those complaints on your own, or at the behest of, or on behalf of, someone else - perhaps the potential candidate whose name you immediately mentioned? (By the way: The commission has paid for chamber membership for years; there is no significance to its dues-paying in the particular year cited. But then, you already know that.)

LBenedict

I submitted the complaint on

I submitted the complaint on my own and of my own volition. The JQC stated that it has discussed campaign involvement with Christine. But, the facts remain that JUDGE Christine formally endorsed Ron Cross and he was Ben Harbin's campaign committee Chairperson for years. If anyone wants to refute such, I'll play the tape and show the disclosures. As far as buying memberships to the CoC, if you say so I'll believe it and we can call it a coincidence that the $10,000 taxpayer-backed check followed the endorsement, which, again, is against judicial canon.

And I'm just asking here, did Judge Bobby Christine EVER, in public, explain why he was Ben Harbin's Chairman and why he made a speech endorsing Ron Cross? We can sit here all day and night and speculate, but, the facts are the facts: Bobby Christine formally endorsed Ron Cross. Bobby Christine was Ben Harbin's Chairperson for years. I can prove it, and I believe that I have, yet, the media seems to still be covering for him. If not "covering", then spinning the facts. Let him do it.

Barry Paschal

Thanks for the answer

So, Lee, just to clarify: "The JQC stated that it has discussed campaign involvement with Christine." "Discussed"? That's it? From the way you have portrayed those "violations," surely they would have issued at least a dainty wrist-slap, or maybe a stern finger-wagging. It's good that you've now cleared that up.

LBenedict

Well gosh Barry, I can only

Well gosh Barry, I can only tell you what the JQC told me.

Did or did not Bobby Christine make an endorsement speech for Ron Cross? Yes. Your paper covered the event (Donnie, I believe wrote the article about the announcement, but he did not mention Christine) and I will with glee play the tape for anyone...shucks, I may post it to Facebook. Now, if we establish that Christine made a speech "for a political organization or candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for public office", something forbidden by the canons of his position, it is clear that he violated Canon 7.

Are you telling us that Judge Bobby Christine DID NOT make a speech/publicly endorse a candidate?

Are you telling us that Judge Bobby Christine DID NOT "solicit funds for or pay an assessment or make a contribution to a political organization, or purchase tickets for political party dinners, or other functions, except as authorized in subsection A(2)"?

Are you telling us that Judge Bobby Christine DID NOT serve as Ben Harbin's campaign committee Chairperson for years which means that he did indeed "endorse a candidate for public office"? Granted, someone is going through the archives and removing Christine's and Saunders' names from the disclosure reports, but I have hard copies if you want them.

Please, if Judge Bobby Christine did not do these things of which I have ample proof, show evidence to the contrary.

I really would like to know why the media is doing all it can to spin things for Christine. Either he did the things I mentioned or he did not. I established that he did. Now if he has an explanation, I would love to hear it FROM HIM, not his media mouthpieces. My guess is that he will not because if he cared to explain, he would have long ago. Oh, the truth is coming out and the establishment's waterboys can spin it all they want, but facts and common sense will trump any spin.

Oops, sorry, my manners...Happy New Year and Go Dawgs!

bclicious

NONE OF YOU ARE WORTH IT!

I don't think Bobby Christine should run for re-election. No, it's not because he would lose to a better candidate; no, it's not because he was a friend to Scott Dean; no, it's not because of his military obligations.

I don't think he should run because Bobby Christine is simply the best there is, and quite frankly none of you deserve him. Quite frankly, I hope you get what you deserve; a judge who could care less about morality. A judge who could really give a hoot about anything.

That's what you all deserve, and I hope that's what ya'll get!

Barry Paschal

Yes, the facts will win out

Lee, you have attempted to portray those incidents as major ethical violations, when the agency policing them found those "violations" to be, at worst, of minimal consequence. Rather than accept that, you continue to treat the issue as if it deserves the death penalty - when, in fact, it didn't even get a warning-ticket.

But we agree: Happy new year, and go Dawgs.

(Sadly, well-said, bclicious.)

LBenedict

Opinions vary. I have

Opinions vary.

I have explained and proven how he for years has done as he pleased. Hey, I am not liking one bit the news/evidence surfacing about what Joe Paterno knew and what he did with what he knew. But if it happened that way, it happened. You may not like the facts that the media has hid for years, and I understand that. However, the truth is just that. That being said, there may be some very good reasons for some things. If Christine has an explanation of why he formally endorsed a candidate, let him give it. If Christine has a reason for being Ben Harbin's campaign Chairperson, let him give it. If Christine has a reason for buying meals at political fundraisers and a Courthouse Club membership, let him give it. If Christine has a reason for speaking with me after Church one Sunday and asking me to not run against Ben Harbin, let him give it.

At the end of the day is this: it happened and he has not been man enough to step up and address things. If he were a Democrat, would all of you be spinning reality for him? Let him prove his alleged integrity and character and step up and address the issues that can be and have been proven.

Riverman1

Is There Paperwork?

I'm curious if there is any paperwork linking Christine as Harbin's campaign Chairperson. That should be fairly easy to prove one way or another. Unless Lee can produce something, there's not much there.

Bclicious, if anyone should learn to be careful criticizing others who question public officials, it's you, after your diatribes against those who went after Scott Dean.

Barry Paschal

You first

Lee: Perhaps when you can show these issues rise to the level of importance of needing to be addressed in the way you describe, they would be. Instead, maybe you should just admit that that you're trying to make a mountain out of an ant-hill.

VickFan

Lee Benedict

Lee Benedict seems to have the skinny on everyone in Columbia County. One thought Mr. Benedict, "he who is without sin cast the first stone."

LBenedict

Very well VickFan hiding

Very well VickFan hiding behind a pseudonym. So why have judges? If we apply your attempt to sway attention away from the facts, then I would like to ask all of those who will appear before Judge Christine to say to him, "he who is without sin cast the first stone". And no, I do not have the skinny on everyone in Columbia County. I will say that I am astute enough to know that when I see disclosure reports with two judges listed as the campaign committee Chairperson and Treasurer, and, when I am told of a campaign announcement that has a judge endorse the candidate, something is not right. Thus, I look at the Code of Judicial Conduct and read it. Now if I know that Christine's actions are against canon, it stands to reason that Christine does too. In fairness to Christine, since he is active in Republican politics and therefore involved in many things in addition to his duties as a husband and father, it is possible that upon being appointed as a judge in (I think) February 2009, he may have very well overlooked his role as Harbin's Chairman. Got it. No problem. But making a speech on Ron Cross' behalf 8-9 months later? Nope. He had ample time to read and understand seven canons.

RM, I do have dislosures, hard copies, indicating that Harbin's Chairman was Christine and Treasurer was Saunders, to include one, two actually, submitted on the same day and time, but with different committee members. Gee, how can that be?

Riverman1

VickFan, Spit it Out

What do you have to say about Lee Benedict? That's a pretty cheesy post unless you are going to back it up. He's thrown out his reasons pretty well even if you don't agree with them.

corazon

Not a good judge

I am happy that you are not going to run, and like some people say that position was giving to you i believed it.
You play with the law, if someone goes to you court and if that person is not white or doesn't have any money they loose the case. You are not a good judge.. what goes around comes around.... you day will come..

kjggfddddd

bclicious

RIVERMAN1

In reference to your comment, "Bclicious, if anyone should learn to be careful criticizing others who question public officials, it's you, after your diatribes against those who went after Scott Dean," I have the following to say.

Riverman, I hate it that it turned out that Scott Dean really did those terrible things. It really hurt the community in more ways than we will ever know. With that, it really hit home for me, and has turned me into a bitter man.

I personnally saw all the sacrifices that he and his family went through to try and make Harlem a better place. Most people don't even try in life, and I am sad to say that I have truly joined those in life who no longer care. Also, after seeing how many ungrateful people threw Scott Dean underneath the bus again and again, it just shows that it pays to watch out for #1 in life.

I will spend the rest of my life being focused on ONLY 2 people (myself and my wife). I will never volunteer to help anyone or anything.

The rest of society can fall apart for all I care.

Riverman1

Bclicious, A Powerful Post

Bclicious, something like that makes us all feel sick in many ways. Thank you for expressing your sadness and anger that I'm sure many other of his former supporters feel. That post took lots of courage. Please don't let it turn you into a negative person. Thanks again.

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