Georgia Superior Court Judge Ralph Van Pelt, Jr., a twenty-year veteran of the bench, will be opposed for reelection for the first time after a local attorney threatened “blood sport” against him.
In late 2016, prominent local attorney Bobby Lee Cook wrote to Judge Van Pelt: “I want you to finish your two years remaining on your term and to qualify for re-election — if you have the stamina and resolve! There is nothing so interesting as a Northwest Georgia election where politics for generations has been a ‘blood sport.'” Cook was apparently infuriated by Judge Van Pelt’s position that Cook’s daughter–herself a local judge–was not qualified to serve as the circuit’s chief judge.
Cook, a lawyer since 1949, considers himself to be a local power broker. He has represented many prominent Georgia families and was portrayed in the film “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Cook credits himself with placing Van Pelt on the bench in 1996.
Last week, attorney Melissa Hise announced that she would challenge Judge Van Pelt in May’s election. Cook says he supports Hise’s candidacy but has nothing to do with it.
Van Pelt is more suspicious. “As a general rule,” he said, “I don’t believe in coincidences.”