Albany lawyer Ken Hodges breezed to victory Tuesday night in a hotly contested race for an open seat on the Georgia Court of Appeals.
Hodges, a former Dougherty County district attorney, trounced Atlanta plaintiff’s lawyer Ken Shigley, winning more than twice as many votes as Shigley. Hodges will succeed Judge John Ellington, who ran unopposed for an open seat on the state Supreme Court.
“It was humbling, encouraging and I’m grateful for the support,” Hodges, 52, said Wednesday morning, just after dropping off his two children at school. “I’m very happy and looking forward to the new job.”
Hodges will soon be sworn in as the next president of the State Bar of Georgia, meaning he will hold that position when he takes the appeals court bench in January.
The non-partisan judicial race had its share of controversy. The state Judicial Qualifications Commission, which monitors judicial conduct and elections, issued a warning to Shigley for improperly bringing up his affiliation with the Republican Party in ads and on social media.
Shigley’s campaign also took a hit when he admitted he was brought in to assist a “political prosecution” against an African-American man in Douglas County about four decades ago. Shortly before the election, a video surfaced of Shigley speaking at a candidate forum at an Atlanta church, admitting that he should not have prosecuted the case.
The drug prosecution was against a young black man who had been trying to register African-American voters. Shigley, who was an assistant district attorney in Douglas County at the time, said when he finally realized what was happening he tried to lose both the criminal case and then the appeal. But the conviction was upheld.
“It was one of those really moral dilemmas,” Shigley told the forum. “If I’d been a little more mature than I was at 27, I might have dismissed the case in mid-stream and lost my job and gone on. But at that point, I didn’t feel like getting fired that week.”
On Wednesday, Shigley, who made a personal $250,000 loan to his campaign, said his “heart-felt remarks” were severely misinterpreted.
“I used it as an example of the need for judges to be alert to racial bias, but the headlines turned it around to make me look like a monster for handling a case assigned to me as a first-year assistant DA,” Shigley said in a statement.
The chief assistant DA at the time aggressively cross-examined the defendant and gave a passionate closing argument, Shigley added. “I really had no opportunity to do anything to stop the trial after the disturbing facts came out.”