Valdosta Daily Times

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March 11, 2014

Bender qualifies for Superior Court judge’s race

VALDOSTA — A Moultrie native and Valdosta Municipal Court judge has entered the race for the Superior Court Judge seat left open by retiring Judge Frank Horkan.

Judge Vernita Lee Bender has qualified to run for Superior Court Judge in the Southern Judicial Circuit which covers Lowndes, Echols, Brooks, Colquitt and Thomas counties. Bender will be running against Hahira public defender Jason Cain and Moultrie Assistant District Attorney Brian A. McDaniel.

If elected, Bender said she will be the first woman and the first minority to serve as a superior court judge in the Southern Circuit, but her hometown was behind her motivation to run for the seat.

“The retiring judge is from Moultrie, and I’m a native. It’s my hometown. That was the first consideration,” said Bender. “And I also trust the voters to take into account my experience and to vote on who the best candidate is.”

Bender was appointed to the municipal court in 2006 and had a private practice in Valdosta for about seven years prior where she handled criminal defense and civil litigation cases. She also worked with the district attorney’s office as a prosecutor. She believes her experience will allow her to bring efficiency and know-how to the job.

“There are roughly 400 municipal courts in Georgia, and my court is among the top 20 as far as volume goes,” said Bender. “I think I can transition to superior court rather easily in terms of running a court and overseeing a budget, taking into consideration taxpayer dollars.”

Bender said expediency is important and that judges always hope to address cases in a timely manner. If elected, she said she will “continue to efficiently and fairly handle cases before the court.”

Bender’s initial motivation for getting into the legal profession was the murder of her 19-year-old brother. That tragedy, along with her young son, serve as continuing motivation to be involved with community improvement programs, including the mock trial program she established within the municipal court.

“I look at my 4-year-old son, Ethan, and I want to make sure the world he finds as he grows up is safe and full of promise,” said Bender.

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