Circuit judge hopefuls have prosecution, defense experience

Published 3:00 am Friday, May 4, 2018

Both candidates seeking to become the newest judge of the 12th Judicial Circuit have seen action as both prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Sonny Reagan and Josh Wilson, both hailing from Coffee County, are seeking to replace Judge Tom Head, who has been sitting as circuit judge for the past 32 years.

Before going into private practice, Reagan worked as a state prosecutor under three different Alabama attorneys general.

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“In that role I travelled the state and tried cases in every judicial circuit,” Reagan said. “I would be assigned as a special prosecutor when the local district attorney would have a conflict of interest, so I’ve tried a lot of capital murder cases and done some public corruption work and tried public officials.”

He then became the legal adviser to Gov. Bob Riley in the governor’s last four years in office, including representing the governor after Riley declared electronic bingo illegal in Alabama.

“That was both professionally and personally difficult for me,” Reagan said. “I was working for someone that set policy and agenda; I didn’t make the decisions, I was just the lawyer. That led to landmark decisions in the Supreme Court that dealt with the constitutional power of two executive offices and dealt with both civil and criminal law.”

After resigning from his role as assistant to Attorney General Luther Strange, Reagan returned home to Enterprise.

“In private practice I handle all kinds of cases including domestic, divorces, child custody and representing businesses in the area,” Reagan said.

Reagan said he has been on both sides of cases as serious as capital murder charges.

Wilson has also had experience as a defense attorney and prosecutor.

Wilson said he always planned to go into law school and started down that path pursuing a master’s of business administration at Troy University. After professors urged him to start in accounting, as well as meeting his future wife, Wilson instead went to work at Jackson Thornton in Dothan, but there was always a plan to return to his hometown of Elba.

So when his family moved, he decided to finally go to law school.

“I went from Elba to Montgomery and finished law school with an expectation to establish private law firm,” Wilson said. “So I set up a small two-man shop and we handled anything and everything that came through the door – juvenile work domestic, civil, indigent defense work – I have a broad experience in small town practice.”

He then got an offer to join the District Attorney’s team, where he has been an assistant D.A. for the last five years.

“As a district attorney, you have to prepare for 50 cases on a docket whereas the defense attorney may have 2 of those,” Wilson said. “It’s a dynamic practice in that respect. You’ve got to be able to think fast and make quick, well-founded decisions. It helps us in evaluating the strength of the case or be flexible in settlement negotiations … From a practice standpoint, there’s no better learning ground with criminal matters in the D.A.’s office.”

Although both have seen both sides of the courtroom during their years of practice, each candidate has a unique and distinct background.

Reagan is in his 22 year in the Army reserves as a Chinook helicopter pilot.

“After 9/11 turned everyone’s world upside down, I left two years on combat employments in Afghanistan and was awarded a bronze star,” Reagan said. “It’s an experience I think matured me beyond my years.”

Wilson said his accounting background will be applicable if elected as circuit judge.

“Nobody can bring what I bring to the table with a discipline such as accounting,” Wilson said. “Accounting is black and white. Law is a gray area. I can take that critical thinking and mesh it with objective thinking; I don’t think anyone else can offer that well-rounded background.”

Reagan and Wilson will square off in the Republican primary on June 5 for the position. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.