Jason Park, a prosecutor in the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office, is poised to play out his legal visions for Gwinnett citizens as a superior court judge.
By Anna Kim
The Superior Court is a trial court of general jurisdiction. The court has exclusive and constitutional authority over felony cases prosecuted by the District Attorney's Office, regarding title to land, equity, declaratory judgments, habeas corpus, mandamus, quo warranto, prohibition, adoptions, and divorce. The superior courts in Gwinnett County in GA are superb in terms of efficiency and capacity, boasting a 200 year-long deep tradition of judicial excellence.
8 competitive candidates qualified for the Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Election, which will take place on the 22nd of May, in order to uphold the status quo and revamp some portions out of working alignment in the court system.
Jason Park, a son of South Korean immigrant parents and a career prosecutor having devoted his professional life to protecting our families and our rights that we deserve, got off to a great start in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, NY, and went on to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Violent Offender Gang Unit. His current prosecuting phase, since January 2015, is at the Gwinnett District Attorney’s Office.
Having practiced law as a prosecutor for over 13 years, Jason Park has the unbeatable experience and caliber that matter most in superior courts. Jason is firm and fair, as well as understanding of the nuances of the law, and most importantly, he has the courage to do what is right in a legal broadband. He truly comes off as the candidate for judge that Gwinnett citizens seek.
Hereupon, we have a chance to probe his mind toward what the Gwinnett Superior Court judge would be like and his legal convictions through an expressly prepared in-depth interview.
Q. What motivated you to become a prosecutor?
A. My law school was a short distance away from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and their top attorneys would come and teach. One of them, Joe Alexis, not only taught but invited some of us to come see his closing argument in a real murder trial. I saw how he was fighting for justice, how he was the one in court upholding the law, and how passionate he was about the victims. Just as important to me was his position that he was bringing changes from within the criminal justice system as an honest and honorable prosecutor. There and then, I wanted to do what he was doing.
Q. What type of crime have you been prosecuting in the Gwinnett District Attorney’s Office?
A. I prosecute serious gang cases, including murder, armed robbery, home invasion, and complex narcotics trafficking cases developed from wiretap investigations conducted by federal and local law enforcement agencies.
Q. What is the most memorable case you ever had as a prosecutor in Gwinnett County?
A. In State v. Diarra Hood and Tyler Estrada, the defendants lured a young man with the promise of sex and drugs to a location where the victim was ambushed and brutally murdered. They then ran away to DeKalb County where they robbed an innocent elderly gentleman who turned out to be the uncle of another prosecutor. I felt the anguish, the anger, and the frustration the victims went through and I wanted to ensure that justice was achieved in this case. Diarra Hood was convicted after a jury trial and the judge sentenced her to a term of life in jail without the possibility of parole. Tyler Estrada pleads guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in jail for his involvement. The case was memorable not only because the perpetrators of these horrible crimes were brought to justice but also because it reminded me that, if I fail in my job, killers walk free, and that the victims rely on our criminal justice system to seek justice.
Q. How would you describe your campaign pledges/platform in a nutshell?
A. As a prosecutor, my sworn duty in court is to uphold the law and seek justice. I have been faithfully committed to this task as a prosecutor whose main focus has been to keep our community safe and to protect our families. My unmatched trial experience and my values as a person of faith uniquely qualify me as a judge.
Q. If you are elected to be a judge, what factors/errors that you are aware of would you like to rectify regarding the court system?
A. I have a unique perspective of the Gwinnett bench having practiced in courts of New York City and Atlanta, and I can honestly say that the superior courts in Gwinnett are superior, indeed, compared to those mentioned previously in terms of efficiency and aptitude. There is also a deep tradition of judicial excellence that I truly admire. Having said that, it is not perfect and there is a room for improvement. I would like to an implementation of an electronic file system that has been effective in other jurisdictions and management practice that can significantly reduce the waiting time for attorneys and civilians alike.
Q. What qualifications do you think a judge should hold?
A. I believe a judge should realize that he is a servant of the people of the county. This is not a job for a person who feels that he is above others. It is an important job, but a job many can serve chosen by many to serve. As such, a judge should be respectful to all who come into his courtroom, whether they be civilians, law enforcement, or attorneys. Secondly, a judge should be fair and impartial in treating everyone equally. A judge should have the courage to make the right and fair decision irrespective of outer influences or of subsequent repercussions. Thirdly, but not least importantly, a judge should be experienced. A person who has not tried a case in court should not be a judge. An attorney who has not tried a felony trial should not be entrusted with a position of presiding over cases wherein many people’s lives can be affected.
Q. How have you done your best to meet the qualifications?
A. I have tried almost all types of felony cases, from white collar theft cases to armed robberies, to murder and capital murder cases. This is an objective standard for perhaps the most important qualification to be a judge, an attorney who knows what he is doing. In my legal career, having practiced in many circumstances and having prosecuted thousands of cases, I have always been known as a person of integrity and humility who treats even the worst criminals with respect in the court of law. This is perhaps the reason why so many defense attorneys and other prosecutors are supporting my campaign far more than other candidates.
Q. The Korean community has been pitching in for your election, but (with all due respect) some have doubts saying, “Should we have to fully support candidates only because they are of Korean heritage, and not address the candidates’ qualification, personality, or whether they are a natural fit for a certain post?” Please advise.
A. The Korean community is not exclusively inclusive. We do not vote for a candidate just because he is a Korean and I disagree that should be the case. I know they are excited because I am a Korean, but I believe they are supporting me because I am better qualified than other candidates as well.
Q. Please tell us about any community volunteer works that you have been involved in.
A. I have taught Sunday schools in various churches. I have served as a translator during worship services, translating sermons contemporaneously from Korean into English. I have served as a short-term missionary on mission trips to China, Haiti, and Sri Lanka. I have served as a volunteer in soup kitchens for the homeless in NYC and in Atlanta. I have been invited to speak at numerous bar association and other functions to share my experience as a prosecutor with young attorneys and law students interested in public service.
Q. Do you have any hobbies? What do you do for fun? How do you work off the stress that is caused by your tough job?
A. I got rid of all my hobbies so I can spend more time with my kids and wife. We simply enjoy spending time together. We do what all other families with kids aged like ours do: movies, trips, restaurants, chilling at home. My wife and I used to be avid golfers and skiers before my kids arrived, so we are now exploring swimming, soccer, golf, tennis, and badminton for our kids so that they can stay active.
Q. Winding down the interview, any commentary for your supporters you would like to add?
A. As a husband and father, I want Gwinnett County to remain a great and safe place to live, work, and play. As a prosecutor, I know how vital a good judge is to this goal. I am asking for your vote with the promise to take my record of hard work, experience in the law, and commitment to justice to the bench. I will apply the law firmly and fairly, and with integrity as your next Superior Court Judge to preserve our rights and keep our families safe. For that to happen, every vote counts.
Jason Park for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge
Jason Park, a Korean-American candidate for the Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Election.
Jason Park and his family.
Jason Park's campaign logo.