An organization that works to increase racial diversity on the bench is crying foul after an anonymous flyer landed in mailboxes attacking former Fulton County Juvenile Court Chief Judge Belinda Edwards' handling of a case when she was on the bench, and asserting that Edwards was "fired" when the superior court judges declined to reappoint her at the end of 2012.
Edwards, who is African-American, served as chief judge from 2004 to 2012; she is running in the July 26 runoff against former Fulton Magistrate Sterling Eaves, who is white.
The flyer cited news reports concerning a case in which Edwards overruled an associate juvenile court judge and awarded custody of two children to their mother's family members after the Division of Family and Children Services filed a motion to terminate the mother's parental rights. The earlier order had awarded the children to the foster parents who had raised them since they were infants.
DFACS later filed to withdraw its termination motion because the mother had agreed to allow the family members, an aunt and uncle, to adopt the children—a move that was opposed in court by the office of the Fulton County child advocate.
Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob was drawn into the case when the foster parents filed an adoption petition in that court. Shoob awarded the children to the foster parents, spurring a jurisdictional dispute that ended with the Georgia Court of Appeals ruling that matter had properly been before the juvenile court when Edwards ruled. By that time, Edwards had been replaced as chief judge and the mother had dropped her effort to have the children moved; they remained with the foster parents.
The flyer accused Edwards of "trying to take these foster children away from a loving home," and features a photo of the children and their adoptive parents.
A letter to the Daily Report from Advocacy Action took issue with the "scurrilous, inaccurate and grossly misleading" mailer.
"The truth is Judge Edwards was not reappointed because she refused to compromise in the exercise of her independent judgment to reunify a family and maintaining familial bonds in the best interests of the children" said the letter, signed by former Fulton Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Moore, former Burke County Superior Court Judge Bettianne Hart, and attorneys Charles Johnson, Wayne Kendall and Suzanne Ockleberry.
"The flyer is a gross distortion and contains many inaccuracies and I think it is most telling that no one is taking responsibility for it," said Edwards, declaring it "most unfortunate that the distortions and negativity represented by the flyer have been interjected into the election process."
Eaves said she had heard about the flyer. When asked if she knew where it came from, she replied that she was "blessed that I've got a lot of supporters, and I don't know what everybody's doing."
The children's adoptive father, reached by phone, said he knew nothing about the flyer or its genesis, and asked that a copy be emailed to him, which it was. He did not respond to further requests for comment.
The return address on the flyer belongs to a printing shop, whose proprietor said he knew nothing about the mailer or the case mentioned. He said that he had done some printing work for Eaves' campaign during the general election, and noted that his clients frequently used his mailing address on materials.
Edwards' departure from the juvenile court came after a December 2012 vote by the superior court bench vote not to give her another four-year term. Shortly after that vote, Edwards fired the juvenile court administrator, spurring then-Superior Court Chief Judge Cynthia Wright to issue an order rescinding the termination and forbidding any "adverse actions" against any more juvenile court personnel.
At the time, Wright told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she and her fellow judges felt it was time to take the juvenile court "in another direction."