Chief Judge Kristina Cook Graham has announced her reelection campaign for the upcoming May 19 general primary and nonpartisan general election. Judge Cook is one of the circuit judges for the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, which covers Dade as well as Catoosa, Chattooga and Walker counties, serving approximately 177,000 residents across the four-county area.
Judge Graham, a veteran of the Superior Court, has won seven consecutive elections since her appointment by former Governor Zell Miller in 1992. In 2016, she became chief judge upon the retirement of former Judge Jon B. Wood. Since assuming the role, Judge Graham has worked to modernize the local court system by introducing the circuit’s first-ever accountability courts, including drug court, mental health court and parental accountability court.
“The work we are doing is saving lives, reuniting families, and bringing healing to communities,” Judge Graham said.
Accountability courts are alternative sentencing programs available to qualifying individuals that use evidence-based treatments and accountability measures to reduce recidivism, save taxpayer dollars, keep communities safe and restore citizens as healthy and productive members of the community. If an individual qualifies, he or she can avoid incarceration by joining the rigorous 18-24 month program. Program participants must follow strict curfew and sobriety rules, attend regular court appearances, submit to random drug screenings, and maintain full-time employment in order to avoid a long period of incarceration.
Felony drug court and mental health court focus on individuals with addictions and mental health illnesses while parental accountability court helps chronic nonpayers of child support meet their obligations to their children.
“Before my term as chief judge, the Lookout Mountain circuit was one of the few judicial circuits in Georgia without accountability courts,” said Judge Graham. "Individuals with addictions and the mentally ill often had few options other than incarceration. Now we’ve made a path to restoration for those who are willing to work hard and play by the rules.”
According to a study performed by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, Felony Drug Court participants who graduate from the program are 50 percent less likely to reoffend compared to those who terminated their participation in the program. Mental Health Courts have similar success with program graduates, seeing a 40 percent decrease in their chances of reoffending. And according to economic estimates, graduates produce $22,129 in economic benefits to their communities and save taxpayers almost $5,000 in court and prison costs.
“Accountability courts are saving taxpayers thousands of dollars a year,” said Judge Graham. “And while accountability courts aren’t for everyone, the evidence shows that incarceration isn’t always the answer, either."
In addition to instituting the circuit’s accountability courts, Judge Graham administers the day-to-day business of the superior court, including the creation of the court calendar and applying for state grant funding while also hearing cases across all four counties. She frequently travels across the state working with other judicial professionals to gain resources for the Lookout Mountain circuit. This year marks Judge Graham’s 28th year as a superior court judge.
Judge Graham is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and Tulane University School of Law. She lives in Cloudland, Georgia, with her husband, Gordon, who is a cardiologist at Chattanooga Heart Institute, and her dog, Maddie. Judge Graham has two sons, Sutton and Jeffrey Connelly, who are practicing attorneys. Her daughter, Elizabeth Connelly, is a photographer.
The general primary and nonpartisan general election will occur on May 19. The last day for a person to register and be eligible to vote will be April 20. Citizens can early vote Mondays through Fridays beginning April 27 with extended Saturday hours on May 9. Because Superior Court Judges are nonpartisan elected officials, voters may request either a Republican, Democratic or nonpartisan primary ballot in order to vote for Chief Judge Graham.
“I am deeply honored by the continued confidence and support from my fellow citizens,” Judge Graham said. “With another term as your chief judge, I will strengthen these programs and guarantee that they are sustainable in order to better serve our citizens.”
If you’d like to learn more about Judge Graham’s re-election campaign for the Superior Court, feel free to get in touch with the campaign! Use the contact information below.
Need to register to vote? Not sure which precinct you are in? There are two easy ways to get updated on voter information. Visit the My Voter Page from the Georgia Secretary of State: www.mvp.sos.ga.gov
You can also call or visit your local Elections & Voter Registrations Board.
Dade County: http://www.dadecounty-ga.gov/241/Elections-Voting
Chief Judge Graham is one of the four Superior Court Judges for the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit (LMJC). For more information, please visit the following link. http://www.lmjc.net/
For more information on Georgia’s Superior Court system, please visit the following link. https://georgiasuperiorcourts.org/
The LMJC’s Accountability Courts are certified by Council of Accountability Court Judges of Georgia. For more information, follow the link. https://www.gaaccountabilitycourts.org/