Shermela J. Williams

Shermela J. Williams.

Occupation: Attorney, Thomas Kennedy Sampson & Tompkins LLP

Previous elected offices held: None

Other community service experience: Impact United Methodist Church (Worship Facilitator, Experience Team Member, Imprint Group Facilitator, 501(c)(3) Board Co-Chair, College Ministry Mentor, Divine Nine Scholarship Co-Team Lead); Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Junior League of Atlanta, Inc.; Spelman College Adjunct Professor; LeadAtlanta, Class of 2015; Mock Trial Coach; Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation; Girl Scouts of the USA (Gold and Silver Award Recipient); Fulton County Gender Equality Panel; Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Domestic Violence Task Force (former Director).

What is motivating you to run for this office?

I am running for judge to make Fulton County a better, safer place for everyone. My father was murdered when I was 7, but his killer was never held accountable. Though painful and tragic, his murder ignited my desire to become a lawyer and a judge. Competent, qualified judges are essential to the integrity of our justice system. I have seen and experienced firsthand the huge impact of judges’ decisions on our community and our individual lives. I am running to ensure that we have the most qualified and best representation of our community, for our community, on the bench.

What is the biggest issue facing the court system and how will you address it?

Fulton has experienced a huge spike in crime recently. The biggest issue facing the court system is the lack of hands on criminal experience and community awareness of judges. Both make our community vulnerable, create public safety concerns, and allow for the revolving door of repeat offenders. I will work to protect our community against repeat offenders and reduce recidivism. Where practicable and sensible, I will use accountability courts, alternative sentencing, apprenticeships, and diversion programs. I will be fair yet firm while tempering justice with compassion and mercy. I will ensure the balance of public safety and people’s rights.

Why should voters choose you over the incumbent?

My experience makes me the best choice. I was born and raised in Fulton County. I am a graduate of Howard University and Georgetown University Law Center. I have dedicated my life to serving our community, safeguarding our rights, strengthening our families, empowering our youth, and creating a safer Fulton. I have hands-on experience in criminal, civil and family law. I was a prosecutor and defense attorney. I currently represent individuals and businesses in lawsuits. My experience allows me to be balanced and make fair, informed, and legally sound decisions on matters that impact our community.

What strengths and weaknesses have the coronavirus pandemic crisis revealed in the court system?

The Supreme Court and chief judges in Fulton County did a wonderful job of prioritizing people’s safety and well-being during this pandemic by pooling resources to carry out essential court functions. Nonetheless, the pandemic has revealed a need for updated and a more integrated use of technology in the court system. Using secure audiovisual platforms to hold hearings and status conferences allow the court and the lawyers to be more effective and efficient in handling cases. We need to explore ways to better automate the court system without sacrificing the rights of the people or the integrity of the process.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.