Mobile Municipal Judge Karlos Finley and will face defense attorney Brandy Hambright in the Nov. 6 general election to determine who Mobile County’s next circuit court judge will be.
Hambright, who defeated Harry Satterwhite in a tight runoff race in July, has been a partner at the Hicks, Matranga & Hambright firm since 2006 and has roughly 20 years of courtroom experience under her belt. She has focused much of her practice on criminal defense law.
Despite that, she’s also been endorsed by Mobile Public Safety Director Jim Barber and retired Circuit Judge and former Alabama Attorney General Charles Graddick and several local law enforcement agencies including the local chapter of the Southern States Police Benevolent Association.
Hambright says she’s seen support from law enforcement because she understands issues affecting them including the issuance of criminal bonds — something she said defendants have a right to in most cases. However, according to Hambright, judges also have to keep public safety in mind when determining whether someone should be released ahead of his or her trial.
“The most important job for a judge at any level is to protect the community,” Hambright said. “That’s why you apply the factors like criminal history, family and community ties, employment history and certainly the nature of the charge to determine what’s appropriate.”
Finley is a Partner at the law firm of Boteler Finley & Wolfe and has spent the past three years as a part-time judge on Mobile’s municipal court after being appointed by the Mobile City Council.
While municipal courts only handle misdemeanor crime, Finley believes the experience, combined with his prior work as a state prosecutor, makes him the more qualified of the two candidates. He’s also received public endorsements from former Mobile Mayor Mike Dow and longtime State Rep. James Buskey, D-Mobile.
He told Lagniappe he got into the race for a number of reasons, but primarily because of concerns about the level of crime in the community. He said Mobile County is currently dealing with “an epidemic from criminality perspective.”
“I’m calling it an epidemic because of the number of violent crimes we have in our community and the number of violent criminals who are committing these crimes while out on bonds and bails and things of that nature,” he said. “The Constitution requires that individuals who are not ‘flight risks’ or dangerous to our community have a bond issued, but if they’re out on bond and they commit another crime, that bond can be removed and they can be held.”
Finley said he’d have no problem revoking or withholding a bond in that type of scenario but said in order for all of those constitutional concerns to be met, law enforcement, prosecutors and other courts have to work together to make sure the proper documentation is in place.
A native Mobilian, Finley is a self-proclaimed “law and order” candidate, but also said being a judge is first and foremost about following the rule of law — even if it strains some of the relationships you might have with friends and acquaintances who come into your courtroom.
“A judge is somewhat of a lonely existence,” he said. “You’ve got to be your own person.”
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