Jennifer Wright will be the first to say she’s not a judge and not a politician, but the candidate for Mobile County District Judge Place 1 has years of experience prosecuting cases inside the courtroom.
Wright, who worked 19 years as an assistant district attorney in Mobile County and six years as head of the office’s murder team, spent the majority of her time in district court and believes she is ready to make the transition to judge.
“I’ve spent multiple hours down there with family members who have just lost loved ones,” she said. “I’m the one up there, standing there, begging and fighting and throwing fits asking for the judge to revoke bond, asking for higher bonds, asking for no bonds and people getting lower bonds than they should, and then I’m the one that has to walk out the back of the courtroom with that same family who then is falling apart crying trying to explain to the family why the judge made that decision.”
As a judge, Wright said, she would use her discretion to make bonds higher on a case-by-case basis. For example, she said, previously some judges would not acknowledge a defendant picking up a new charge as a reason to revoke bond. Wright said she would revoke bond for violent charges and determine the rest on a case-by-case basis.
“We certainly had those issues that we would fight out because there were some judges in the past that didn’t believe that bonds could be revoked based on picking up new charges,” she said.
The wife and mother of two said God called her to run for the seat vacated by retiring District Judge George Hardesty.
“I’m running for judge because I felt like God was calling my heart to serve in that way and to bring the experience I’ve had in that courtroom, fighting for victims’ families, fighting for bonds to be higher, fighting for no bonds, fighting for bonds to be revoked, and to bring the experience I’ve had as a prosecutor and to bring the experience I’ve had as a member of the murder team and to bring that experience to the bench to make Mobile better and safer,” she said.
Running for judge was not originally something Wright had thought about.
“I never planned to run for office, never planned to be a politician,” she said. “I really thought I was going to be a prosecutor and stay a prosecutor, but like I said, I really did feel God was calling my heart to use the experience I had and put it on the bench. I feel like it’s time in our community to have strong people on the bench.”
Both of Wright’s opponents in the May 24 Republican primary — Chris Callaghan, a special district judge, and John Williams, a municipal judge — tout judgeships of their own, and Wright admits she’s not a judge. However, Wright believes her experience in the district courtroom is more impressive.
“What I’ve done is going in the courtroom doing the work,” she said. “Municipal judges handle misdemeanors and traffic tickets. I’ve been handling violent crimes.”
The city and county have been rocked by a surge in gun crimes recently. Wright admits there’s not much a district judge can do to prevent crime outside of setting bonds; she said it’s incumbent upon law enforcement agencies to come together.
“I certainly think that it’s going to be something we all need to come together and have a discussion about and come to the table,” she said. “Everyone I’ve talked to across the county, all over, you know, wants the same thing. They want to be safe and they want to feel safe in their homes, feel safe to go to ballparks. I think it’s just a conversation all the groups need to have, but I don’t know if there’s a particular role that judges can play in that.”
As a judge, Wright said, she’ll be “tough but fair.”
“I think anyone you ask that has been in court with me will tell you I’m going to be fair and I’m going to be tough,” she said. “There’s no platform. I’m an honest and ethical person.”
In addition to toughness and fairness, Wright believes a judge needs to have discernment, and that comes in one of two ways.
“I think you get it from your relationship with God and I think you get it from experience,” she said. “I think you get experience being in the courtroom, trying the cases, fighting the fight. That’s why that experience is important because you can discern.
“You’ve seen it and you’ve interviewed a lot of witnesses. You’ve been in the courtroom with witnesses. You have a discernment and a way of telling [if] people might not be telling the whole truth, whether it be a victim or a defendant. I think that’s an extremely important quality for a judge.”
Wright is married to a retired Mobile Police Department detective. They have two daughters.
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