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VOL. 125 | NO. 75 | Monday, April 19, 2010

Son Tries to Succeed Father In Criminal Court Run

By Bill Dries

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For 20 years, the elections for Criminal Court clerk have been among the hardest fought clerks' races in the county.

In 1990, Bill Key, a Juvenile Court administrator and former high school football coach, challenged incumbent Minerva Johnican in what was then a nonpartisan race.

He lost. But four years later he returned as the Republican nominee and upset Johnican following criticism of Johnican's spending and administrative decisions.

Key has held the job ever since, but he is not seeking re-election this year.

His son, Kevin Key, is seeking the GOP nomination in the May primary, facing Michael Porter.

If his son were elected, the elder Key would leave Circuit just as the nine divisions are about to use an e-filing system similar to the U.S. District Court system's.

Kevin Key said he would like to bring the same kind of filing system to the Criminal Court Clerk’s Office.

“We don’t need one system for all of the entities within criminal justice and the courts,” Key said. “But where we can benefit the taxpayers is if we go in together, looking at systems together, we are going to save money.”

The tool for citizens to use would “have one place for county government where, when you go to one court Web site, it’s going to direct you to those other court Web sites – their imaging sites as well.”

Also running in the GOP primary is Michael Porter, an Orange Mound native and former Marine. Porter is also a former Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department officer and served on the California Board of Parole Hearings.

Meanwhile, the elder Key’s decision not to seek re-election has prompted Johnican to come out of political retirement. The former Shelby County commissioner and City Council member is one of three contenders in the May Democratic primary.

She is campaigning with signs urging voters to “re-elect” her to the post.

Also running is Bloomfield Baptist Church Pastor Ralph White, who has been Key's Democratic challenger several times. The third contender is Vernon Johnson Sr., a bail bondsman and political operative.

Johnson was recently the target of an unprecedented action by nine Criminal Court judges.

Last month, the judges denied approval for Johnson to write bail bonds for forging bail certificates for two bonds, and other violations. Those violations include exceeding the bond limits set by the courts.

Six years ago, Johnson was barred from writing bonds in General Sessions, municipal and all state courts in the county.

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