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No opposition for Hall Superior Court judges
Gosselin and Oliver assured another term
0628Kathlene Gosselin

Northeastern Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judges Kathlene Gosselin and Bonnie Chessher Oliver each were assured four more years on the bench, as qualifying closed Friday without either facing opposition.

Both judges have won re-election to the nonpartisan post twice before.

Gosselin, 52, was appointed by Gov. Zell Miller to the superior court bench in 1998. Oliver, 51, was appointed superior court judge by Gov. Roy Barnes in 1999.

"I’m thrilled and honored to be able to serve the people of the Northeastern Circuit and have the confidence of the bar," Oliver said Friday.

Said Gosselin: "I am just very grateful for the confidence and support that the communities of both Hall and Dawson counties have shown in me over the years and continue to show, and I hope to continue to do a job that will make folks in the community proud and trust the folks in their courthouse."

Gosselin and Oliver hear felony criminal cases and civil cases in Hall and Dawson counties. There are four full-time superior court judges and one senior judge in the circuit. Judge Jason Deal and Chief Superior Court Judge C. Andrew Fuller are not up for re-election this year.

In addition to their service in the local community, Gosselin and Oliver have held prominent positions on statewide judicial committees.

Gosselin is secretary-treasurer of Georgia’s Council of Superior Court Judges and in line to serve as council president in the 2009-10 term. Oliver is co-chair of the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

"Both are excellent judges," Northeastern Judicial Circuit Senior Judge John Girardeau said.

Steve Ferrell, the court administrator for the Ninth Judicial Administrative District, which has 27 superior court judges, said it didn’t surprise him that neither Gosselin or Oliver faced opposition.

"Judge Oliver and Judge Gosselin are two judges who have consistently shown a tremendous amount of leadership, both locally and on the state level," Ferrell said.

Gosselin, a former Hall County state court judge, will be the first judge in Georgia history to have served as president of both the state Council of State Court Judges and state Council of Superior Court Judges. As president of the council, she will work with the General Assembly in regard to laws that affect the judiciary.

"That’s a very high distinction when you consider there are 205 superior court judges in the state," Ferrell said.

Oliver sits as co-chair on the state committee which hears complaints of misconduct against judges. The Judicial Qualifications Commission has the power to admonish or reprimand a judge or recommend that the state Supreme Court suspend or remove a judge from office.

Both have presided over high-profile criminal cases.

Gosselin has a pending death penalty trial involving a man accused of abducting, assaulting and killing a 4-year-old girl.

Oliver accepted a negotiated plea in the case of suspected serial killer Gary Hilton and sentenced him to life in prison.

Besides felony criminal cases, superior court judges are often called upon to settle domestic disputes involving divorces and child custody arrangements. They hold trials involving lawsuits and may also be asked to grant injunctions in cases involving the local government.

Since 2004, Gosselin has overseen the Hall County HELP court, a treatment and accountability court aimed at helping defendants whose crimes are rooted in mental health problems.

Gosselin, a native of Chicago, is a 1976 graduate of Southern Illinois University and a 1980 graduate of the University of Chicago School of Law.

Gosselin was partner in the law firm of Fockele and Gosselin from 1981 to 1987, when she was elected to the Hall County state court bench.

Oliver graduated from Buford High School and received her undergraduate degree from Shorter College. She received her law degree in 1981 from Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University.

Oliver served as general counsel for a nonprofit organization for four years before opening a trial practice in Gainesville. She spent 13 years as a private practice attorney before being appointed to fill the vacancy created in state court when Gosselin was appointed to superior court.

Gosselin said she enjoyed her job because, "I feel like as a judge that there are opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives and to make a difference in how the community sees the justice system. It’s interesting — every day is different."

The superior court judgeships, along with other nonpartisan races, will be voted on in the Nov. 4 general election. Only partisan races are voted on in the upcoming July 15 primary.

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