Three candidates, two of them Jewish, are vying to replace retiring Judge Wendy Shoob on the Fulton County Superior Court. Andrew Margolis and Gary Alembik, who both attend Ahavath Achim Synagogue, are on the ballot with Eric Dunaway in the nonpartisan primary Tuesday, May 24.
Margolis said he wants the post because presiding over the highest trial court in the state is the best way to help the most people.
“I’ve been on every side of the law. I’ve been a prosecutor. I’ve been a public defender, been a family lawyer. I’ve done civil work. I’ve handled pretty much any type of case you can imagine in a courtroom, and I can appreciate the awesome power of a Supreme Court judge. It’s the potential to directly affect so many people’s lives,” he said.
The owner of an Atlanta law firm, Margolis, 41, is the youngest of the three candidates but said he is the most qualified. “I’m the only candidate who has any experience at all as a judge in criminal and civil cases. It makes me uniquely suited to this position, more so than anybody else who’s running.”
Margolis has served as a magistrate judge in Fulton County since 2012. “You’re balancing so many different factors: the needs of the victims in the case, the component of punishment for bad behavior, and also the component of compassion and mercy,” he said in describing a magistrate’s challenges. “A lot of these defendants are people who want and need help, so when that’s appropriate, you want to do that too. That’s why I’m running.”
An avid musician since childhood, Margolis was planning to host a “Judge Jam” in Sandy Springs on Wednesday, May 18, as part of his campaign to meet voters. “We all reach out to the community in different ways. One of the ways I do that is through music; I’ve been musical since before I could talk — been playing piano since I was 3. Mostly what I do is blues and rock. I play piano, keyboard, bass and drums. I’m a singer also. That’s a lot of what I did in law school and how I supported myself, playing clubs in a blues band. Music is universal.”
Alembik said Shoob herself told him that running for her seat might be a good idea.
“She reached out to me, let me know that she was retiring, gave me a nudge and said I should really consider running. She’s been a friend and a mentor and made a contribution to my campaign, which is permissible. She’s not allowed to endorse,” he said.
Asked to describe his experience, Alembik said: “I’ve sat by designation as a Superior Court judge for the last 10 years and served under 10 judges on the (Fulton) court. I serve in the family division and served in the domestic violence section under the umbrella of the family division.”
Alembik, 52, has been a member of the Georgia Bar for 28 years and said he is active in charities such as the Atlanta Community Food Bank. He is a member of the LGBT committee at the “very progressive” Ahavath Achim, where he said he and Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal have “enhanced social awareness on HIV.”
Regarding Margolis, Alembik said: “Andrew belongs to my synagogue, which is a bit awkward. He has a peppering of experience all over. He’ll suggest that he’s the most well-rounded, but I think he has a little growing to do in terms of legal experience. I think Andrew is a little early in terms of his ambition to be judge. He’s fairly young and doesn’t have the kind of experience I think one needs. That’s not to say he won’t develop that.”
Alembik’s father, a lawyer of Polish origin who died two years ago, hid on a farm in France with his parents for the duration of World War II.
“He was a survivor,” Alembik said. “He was the one who instilled in me the idea of public service. He came here with the shirt on his back and became very successful. He adopted a significant work ethic, worked to make sure his family had what he didn’t. It was the importance of giving back. That’s how I honor my father; it’s a shame he’s not here to see it.”