published Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

Billy Mullinax to be sworn in as Walker County's State Court judge Friday

If you wind up in front of a judge in Walker County, Ga., after Jan. 1, odds are it will be newly elected State Court Judge Billy Mullinax.

His courtroom is the county's busiest because it handles misdemeanor traffic offenses along with civil cases -- except for divorces and property line disputes.

If you don't plan to get in trouble with the law, you can still meet Mullinax on Friday at a swearing-in at 2 p.m. in the main courtroom on the third floor of the historic courthouse in LaFayette.

"I'm looking forward to it," Mullinax said of his new job. The goal, he said, is to "just carry about the duties of the job in a fair and impartial way."

He expects to get down to work right away in the full-time judgeship.

"There's a large calendar right now of cases," he said. "There's always lots of cases."

Pending lawsuits include a few involving mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer usually caused by asbestos exposure.

Mills were where people were exposed, Mullinax said.

Another source of cases for state court is the city courts in Lookout Mountain, Rossville, Chickamauga and LaFayette. If someone who's being tried in one of those four city courts requests it, he or she can have a jury trial at state court.

Mullinax, an attorney with 32 years' experience, said he will not take any cases in his private practice while he serves as judge.

Mullinax received 66 percent of the vote, or 7,358 votes, in July, compared with incumbent Judge Bruce Roberts' 34 percent, or 3,724 votes, in the nonpartisan judge's race. It was Mullinax's first bid for office.

"I think he'll make a good judge -- as most of the people in Walker County said in their votes," Walker County Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said.

After Roberts lost, he filed suit against Heiskell arguing he should have been paid the salary of Judge C. Donald Peppers Sr., whom Roberts was appointed to replace on Oct. 3. Peppers, who had 26 years' experience, earned $163,000 annually.

Heiskell negotiated a $100,000 salary with Roberts.

She said she hasn't reached a salary agreement with Mullinax.

"I'll probably pay him what I was paying Judge Roberts," Heiskell said. "If the courts say I have to pay more, I will."

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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