2 Decatur attorneys search Morgan County judgeship | Morgan County

2 Decatur attorneys seek Morgan County judgeship | Morgan County

Two Decatur attorneys seeking the position of Morgan County District Judge Place 3 each say their court backgrounds have prepared them for the job.

Kevin Kusta, 42, who won the July 14 Republican primary runoff, and Democrat Paul Holland, 55, will face off in the Nov. 3 general election. The winner succeeds incumbent District Judge Charles Langham for a six-year term. Langham is unable to seek reelection because of the state’s age limit for judges.

Kusta has campaigned on his experience in every aspect of district court proceedings. Holland cites the range of cases he’s handled in his legal career in Morgan County, from misdemeanors in district court to felony jury trials in circuit court.

“I bring experience, I bring the ability to listen” Holland said. “You have to be patient and be able to listen and understand what’s going on so that you can apply the law correctly.”

Holland joined Legal Services of North Central Alabama in 1991, handling cases in district and circuit courts, then started his own law practice in Decatur in 2004. Since 2010, he has taken appointments of felony and misdemeanor criminal cases from Morgan County courts and the city of Priceville, and also serves the state of Alabama under contract appointments from Morgan County Circuit Court. He said his private practice still includes juvenile delinquency and dependency cases in juvenile court.

“Since 2004, I’ve done every type of case that you can imagine, from child support cases, which (represent) a bulk of district court cases, to murder cases,” he said.

Kusta said that for the last 16 years, “the majority of my practice is in district court.”

“I can start off day one and handle every type of case a district judge is going to end up hearing,” said Kusta, who handles a variety of juvenile court matters.

“I’ve represented every person possible,” he said. “I’ve represented the grandparents, I’ve represented the parents, I’ve represented the third parties, I’ve represented the foster parents, I’ve represented the children, I’ve represented the plaintiffs. That gives me a unique experience.”

Kusta practices law with the same Decatur firm that hired him in 2004, Ernest W. Ball & Associates, and in 2017 he became a partner of the firm, now Ball & Kusta.

Morgan County District Court includes a civil division for claims up to $20,000, like debt collections and evictions, when a jury is not requested; a criminal division for misdemeanor cases, felony cases through preliminary hearings, and traffic cases; and a family division for child support, juvenile delinquency and juvenile dependency cases.

Holland said he wants to be a judge for the same reason he wanted to be an attorney.

“I want to help people,” he said. “I feel that this business of law, especially being a judge, is one of the ways I can give back to help people, to help the community.

“I believe that by being a district court judge, I can serve the community and do my part in giving back to the people.”

Kusta, the father of two, said that working with juvenile court cases has been a rewarding part of his practice.

“I’ve seen kids benefiting from being in district court,” he said. “I’ve seen juveniles succeed. I’ve seen families adopt and find their forever family.”

In working with children over the years, he said, he’s familiar with what services the juvenile court system can provide “to make sure these kids succeed.”

Kusta and Holland said there are some new programs they’d like to see introduced to the court system here.

“Based on the resources we have, I feel like the district court is doing well,” Kusta said. But he would like to work with other judges to set up a mentor program to give civic organizations and others an opportunity to get involved with juveniles, especially those in delinquency cases, and “encourage them to stay on the right path.”

Holland wants to collaborate with other judges to explore the possibility of launching a mental health court and veterans court in Morgan County and work with members of the local legislative delegation to pursue funding for those programs.

Both candidates acknowledge it’s been challenging to run a judicial race during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Holland, “(a political campaign) is a new experience already, but then taking into account we’re in the middle of a pandemic, it has made it very interesting to say the least. You can’t have gatherings, you can’t have big rallies.”

“You have to do a lot of virtual campaigning,” said Holland, who’s in the process of putting together a virtual rally. Campaigning door to door has been limited because of COVID-19 concerns. And large events like Depot Days in Hartselle and Falkville’s Fall Festival were canceled.

“You have to change the way that you campaign,” Kusta said. So he’s focused more on social media and mailers to share his campaign message.

“It’s been a big game changer,” he said.

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