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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)


Lakeside95 Question

So let me get this straight. You are a paid consultant to Dean and Harbin. Mike Sleeper and Ron Cross, too, I assume?


Christine Would Have a Difficult Decision

By being so openly involved in politics, Christine may be leaving himself open to criticism if certain cases appear before him. What if a Columbia County school wasn't paid for running political ads in their publications and because of the nonpayment the matter ended up in court? If the politician were a friend of his, how could he rule on the matter? Or could he just do it anyway and say the heck with public opinion since we all know he's a pretty honest guy?



I'm glad this man won't run again because I had the "pleasure" (after never having seeing him before in my life), sit in on a "trial," which was an absolute Kangaroo court proceeding! He was so totally distracted from the hearing, it was sad to watch for the litigants. In the beginning when the directions were given to the court, HE was the one who TOTALLY disregarded all of the instructions! He allowed the defendant to organize his case DURING THE TRIAL, not only that, he HELPED HIM by saying things like, "well, aren't you trying to say.... ?" He had the patience of JOB for this defendent. The man had papers all over the table, totally disorganized and this JUDGE allowed him to take his time and find info (that clearly wasn't there), he allowed someone to bring him info into the proceedings after it had started, just numerous instances of ridiculous behavior by someone who is supposed to FAIRLY judge a trial. I could not believe it! The woman who had eveything organized, WITH AN ATTORNEY present, was cut short on everything, raked over the coals, etc. I asked her after the trial to call me to let me know how he ruled (she lost), she had total evidence against this man, and she lost! It was just an unbelievable sight to behold. I for one will DEFINITELY rest better knowing this man will NOT be the person making decisions that can so greatly impact the lives of others in such a non-caring, self-serving way. I don't know enough about him to say whether or not he is unethical as a person, but if that trial was any indication...(draw your own conclusion!).


As Marcus Tullius Cicero

As Marcus Tullius Cicero said, "When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff." This is what the establishment crowd (Christine supporters) are doing. They know he did wrong, but they resort to excuses of, the media didn't report it, and, the JQC didn't do anything, and other desperate attempts to salvage their boy's image.

RM, interesting what-if that you mentioned. I wonder if Greenbrier High School was ever paid for advertising for Mike Sleeper. He did put on his disclosure that payment was deferred, but there is no record of payment to GHS...or, no record of being paid within the following 14 months after services were rendered. However, if the expenditure was less than $101.00, he would not have to itemize the expense. But, since the deferred payment was itemized in the report, it stands to reason that the actual payment would be as well. Then again, since this was/is not all over the news, it must be OK and Apache AH-64s are flying around.


Did you notice how we are

Did you notice how we are accused of making a mountain out of an ant hill by the very ones who spent time and resources on ridiculing a private citizen who spelled a word incorrectly on his website? A private citizen spells a word incorrectly...a JUDGE, a law school graduate, does things that his profession's canons prohibit...and look at how both are treated. It's all out there for the world to see.


What's Important and What Isn't

Sure everything is nonsense unless it's a misspelled word by someone bringing up valid points. Columbia County needs a house cleaning worthy of a ticked off Mr. Clean flexing his muscles to clean up the house so dirty it looks like Hoarders is filming here.


Whitcoy, that's out of line

Whitcoy, a post like that isn't fair. If you have info you want to post, go for it, but to drop innuendo about sexual impropriety is dead wrong. Matter of fact, I believe it is illegal. You had best back off of that unless you have the proof to back it up.

Willow Bailey

Interesting comments

Barry, help me understand this; why should there be any canons for Judges, if they are not important? Are we as citizens allowed to say, "Oh yeah, Judge, that was the law, but it doesn't amount to much in my estimation?"


Little Lamb

Ant Hill

These so-called "canons" that Lee brings up remind me of the sunshine laws that apply to legislators, county commissions, and city councils. Yes, there are laws, but they are carefully crafted by the lawmakers to carry no penalties. Have you ever heard of a county commissioner going to jail or paying a fine for violating a sunshine law? Of course not. These judicial canons of conduct must be similar. They are suggestions, not sanctions.

Barry Paschal

Response to Willow Bailey

The "violations" in question were reported to the agency who polices them. That agency investigated and then treated them with the level of severity they believed those complaints deserved. If you went to court, you similarly would be able to raise a defense, but you would not be allowed to dictate the outcome as expressed in your hypothetical.


It appeared to have been a reprimand

Once Lee furnished the proof of what the JQC said and the form that named Christine as Harbin's campaign manager, I believe it called for at least a mention in the CCNT. That's what's wrong to me. If the JQC simply informed Christine of what's proper and improper conduct after learning of his actions, that's still news. They plainly thanked Lee for bringing the matter to their attention and quoted the canon Christine clearly violated.


Should the JQC Be Interviewed?

If I were in the media I'd ask the JQC about the case. If they didn't want to discuss the particular case maybe they will discuss the canons in general and what's usually done to violators.

Little Lamb

Look Above

RM, please re-read my post above titled "Ant Hill." There are no penalties. What is usually done to violators is what Barry described as "finger wagging."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Edited to add: What Barry actually posted was, “. . . a dainty wrist-slap, or maybe a stern finger-wagging.”


LL, I Get That

LL, I do agree with what you said. I have no doubt from what happened that the JQC wasn't about to level a serious punishment, but there was a violation that Lee duly reported. As the JQC thanked him, the media should have simply reported the event and verbal reprimand to Christine. But what does Lee get? He gets Austin saying he smacks people in the mouth who question Christine. Barry implies it wasn't important. It just bothers me. Ya know?

Sure I know what you mean about the Sunshine Law and things like this never being taken seriously. You're insightful about this matter as you usually are.


CC Politics

Ain't local politics just grand? Makes a body want to stay home and not go to vote (locally)!



Non enforcement of judicial rules would be a defense

If Willow were in court and Christine were the magistrate, she would not be unwise to bring up this matter. I mean there must be something in English Common Law or at least discussed at the Finish Line Bar that addresses matters like this. If enough defendants voiced the same concern about Christine violating the discussed canon in court, something would be done.

Law is reasonable and a great determining factor of that is the prevailing people's opinion of the judiciary. The court is eventually going to reflect the prevailing opinion. Judges not adhering to the canons the people have set for them through votes in a democracy won't last long. If I go to court for a DUI, I'm going to scream at Bobby Christine how he violates the canons of the judiciary. Then I'll go to jail peacefully.

Little Lamb


You do have a point, RM.

Barry Paschal

Actually, no.

"Violates" is present tense. The items cited were referred back to Bobby for correction. Past tense. Big difference. And just as the sunshine laws allow fines of up to $500, the JQC has far stronger sanctions at its disposal. In this particular case, with what became clear was a political foe of Bobby filing multiple complaints against him, the JQC - which is the body that decides the seriousness of those allegations - judged them to barely rise to any level of concern. It's important to remember that Lee didn't reveal the outcome of his allegations until prompted to do so, instead leaving an impression that they had been treated far more seriously by the JQC.


Violates or Violated

Okay, so Christine was not violating, but had violated the canons. Is that the defense? Ha. I'll admit Lee was being pretty coy in the way he brought all this out. He gave the forms and letters to me, slowly, and one at a time over the weekend. I didn't quite get that, but I do understand him being ticked about the whole matter. Afterall, he had run against Harbin. How do you expect him to feel?

However, the bottom line is Christine violated the canon. There is no getting around that FACT. If you want to say it's not important because they did nothing but counsel him, that's weak.


For the "smack you in the mouth" crowd if you question

There is simply a right and a wrong here. You may love Bobby Christine and hate Lee Benedict, but this is one of those times when you have to sigh and admit the right thing and stop trying to justify the wrong. Please. I'll think better of you if you do.


Here is the question

I don't know the answer to this, but would like to see the response. Could someone in the media please ask Bobby Christine what the JQC told him if anything in regards to his involvement with the Ben Harbin campaign? Is that fair? Can we even ask a question without his friends in the media threatening us? (and I'm not even one of us)

Barry Paschal

I can answer that, because I asked.

(Lee already knows all this, I'm sure, because he undoubtedly has all the responses from Bobby and the JQC. He's just being - how did you put it, RM? - coy in how he shares that information.)
Check the dates on Bobby's involvement in Harbin's campaign (which amounted to holding an honorific title - not at all uncommon, with high-profile people holding specific titles but the actual work being done by paid staff). Bobby held a title in Harbin's campaign before he was appointed to the court. His error was in failing, after his appointment, to go back and have his name removed - which he did immediately after the complaint was filed. Again: the agency that judges these things found the complaints to be of little consequence; why should anyone else elevate them to a higher level?


I'd elevate it because

About this honorific title, if you note the canon says in so many words it's not even right for it to appear a judge is supporting a candidate. It seems like I've heard the term "honorary chairman" used often and the intent was to make the public believe the person supported the candidate.

Again, I'm not sure about this, but when did Christine give the speech Lee is referring to? The news concern I can't get around is at the very least information is now surfacing that the JQC informed Christine what proper behavior is. Why not report that fact?


Oh, if Lee is Being Coy, Christine is Being Mega Coy

Oh, so Christine finally did realize he was wrong after the JQC counseled him? Now that's news. I did say Lee is being coy about all this, but looking at it objectively, I'd have to say Christine is being Costco coy. He was on the radio the other day with AB and never attempted to explain any of it.


The speech that JUDGE

The speech that JUDGE Christine made endorsing Ron Cross was late-October/early-November 2009. If he became JUDGE in February 2009, then he was a JUDGE for a good solid seven months before giving the Ron Cross speech.

As far as the Harbin campaign Chairman thing, we can probably spin it to say that it was an honorary title with no pay and he really didn't have to do anything. I'll give you that one.

But the Ron Cross endorsement speech, nothing can excuse it, unless, arrogance and "I'm Bobby Christine, how dare you question me" is a valid reason for violating judicial canon.

As soon as I received the letter from JQC in August 2011, I sent it and an explanation to the local media. Was anything done? Apparently not as I read or heard nothing.

With regard to Barry's comment of me undoubtedly having all the responses from Christine, he is incorrect. I received a letter from JQC stating that it has received the complaint, and then the letter that I sent to Barry and RM. I NEVER RECEIVED anything regarding Christine's response. Now, let's ask ourselves, why hasn't he addressed these issues with the media, many of whom are very Christine-friendly? Be a man and step up and explain yourself.

Regarding Willie Saunders, he made a speech endorsing Harbin at a CCGOP breakfast in front of dozens of witnesses.

Barry Paschal

Why "explain" anything?

Lee made his complaints. The JQC asked for Bobby's response (including, in the last one, essentially telling him to respond if he felt it was worth it). He gave his response. The JQC said thanks, go forth and sin no more, and politely thanked Lee. Why do you believe anyone should treat any of this more seriously than the Judicial Qualifications Commission?

ETA: Lee, did you file a similar complaint against Saunders?


Of course he didn't explain

Of course he didn't explain any of it...he is Bobby Christine and is above being called out.

BTW, I submitted two comments today that have not been posted. What's up? Basically, the last one said that I never received a copy of Christine's response as Barry seems to think. The last comment went over other things as well, but it specifically addressed Barry's comment of me undoubtedly having a copy of Christine's response.

As far as when I released what and to whom, what does it matter? I quoted the canon that any person can verify. I cited that JUDGE Christine endorsed Ron Cross at a public gathering covered by The Columbia County News-Times. I cited that JUDGE Christine served as Ben Harbin's Chairperson which any person can verify. I cited that JUDGE Christine is a member of the CCGOP Courthouse Club, a $125 annual membership, and, I quoted the canon that governs that. I trust that all of you can read the canon (I even provided a link) and weigh the evidence.


Are You Talking to Christine?

Barry, have you seen the letters from the JQC to Christine and his responses? Just curious because that would seem to indicate you know more about this than previously thought...even if the information only came very recently.

Barry Paschal

I've seen what Lee is sending around

And I've asked Bobby about these issues. Let's cut to the chase here: Lee got his feelings hurt when Bobby suggested he drop out of a race that he knew he couldn't win. And then he and his pals decided they wanted to help a specific candidate run for magistrate, so Lee set forth - of his own volition, he says - to file multiple complaints against Bobby Christine. No harm to Lee, because he can't win office, which makes him the perfect tool to throw complaints against someone else to see if any of them will stick. The agency judging those complaints treated them exactly the same way the cops treat the old lady down the street griping about her neighbor's dog: "Thank you, ma'am (eyes rolling), we'll let them know. Oh, yes, ma'am, we know you're serious. Thank you for calling." Why, on God's green earth, would anyone in his or her right mind waste their time with politically motivated complaints that the agency policing them treats as near-trivial? Never mind; You already know the answer.


Okay, Why Not Do This?

(Love trying to figure out the subject line, by the way.)

Look, I didn't fall off the Aiken-Augusta Waste Management Company truck and this whole matter draws interest. Why not do a story on it? Then we can hash it out in the comments under it and have the statements from the JQC and Christine to work with?