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Court of Appeals: Throw a dart, pick a judge 

Congrats if you managed to make it all the way down the ballot to the only contested Georgia Court of Appeals race. We hope you have an easier time than we picking the darling out of this bunch.

The state Court of Appeals doesn't handle constitutional questions, land title disputes, wills, murders, election contests, habeas corpus, among others. Believe it or not, that leaves a heavy caseload for Georgia's second-highest court. The Court of Appeals has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest caseloads in the country — nearly three times the recommended limit by legal associations, according to candidate Christopher McFadden of Decatur.

It may sound like remote level of jurisprudence where you're unlikely to find yourself, but should you contest a decision rendered against you in court, you'd want the most qualified jurist hearing your case. It's another example of why electing judges is so problematic: They become popularity contests not necessarily based on which person will apply the law most fairly.

We hate to say it, but this one's tough not just to call, but even to recommend.

Seven attorneys — each one seemingly knowledgeable in his or her own right — are competing to replace soon-to-retire Judge John H. Ruffin. (Since it's unlikely one of them will garner more than 50 percent of the vote, a Dec. 2 runoff is almost certain.).

Included among the choices: the actual author of the book on appellate law; two former state senators; corporate attorneys and former public defenders.

The statewide race is non-partisan and many candidates can only speak of their qualifications to set themselves apart from one another. Perhaps most telling are their plans for how to improve the office. According to responses to a League of Women Voters questionnaire, Sara Doyle says she would increase technology to streamline case management. McFadden suggests expanding the court.

Perry McGuire, who was a religious right winger in the state Senate during the 1990s, thinks specialized panels to handle specific cases would lighten the caseload.

A current state senator may catch more voters' eyes on the General Election ballot: Michael Meyer von Bremen of Albany. The 25-year legal veteran boasts name recognition as well as a giant campaign billboard near the Spaghetti Junction. Does popularity make a good Court of Appeals judge? Not necessarily.

So the best bet, in the meantime, is to check out the candidate's websites and to contact them with questions here:

∑ Tamela Adkins

∑ Sara Doyle

∑ Bruce Edenfield

∑ Christopher McFadden

∑ Perry McGuire

∑ Michael Shefffield

∑ Michael Meyer von Bremen

Let us know what you know in our comments section. Meanwhile, we'll keep digging.

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