With the appointment of Sam Finster as Chattooga County State Court Judge many have questions as to the status of Carlton Vines.
With the indictment of Judge Vines he was suspended by the judicial qualifications commission. However, he continues to receive his salary. Judge Kristina Cook Connelly issued a ruling saying that Judge Jerry Westbrook was “assigned to carry out the duties of the State Court Judge of said County due to the suspension of the duly elected Judge thereof…” The ruling also said that Westbrook was to be paid “for any future service …at the same salary and pay as the regular state court judge.” (Order of Superior Court for the County of Chattooga, GA – January 3, 2007). With the new appointment by the governor, that pay will now be going to Judge Finster.
Vines is going to stand trial for allegedly mishandling absentee ballots in the 2006 election which resulted in indictments for voter fraud. Vines’ trial is scheduled for March. Should he be found not guilty he would be re-instated to the bench.
With the appointment of Judge Sam Finster, the county commissioner will still be issuing two checks for state court judge salary until the conclusion of the Vines trial.
If Vines is found guilty then Judge Finster would continue to serve and be eligible to run in the next State Court Judge election.