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These judges shape our community

Summer 1987 — West Georgia — A boy I knew rather well thought he was smarter than his mother. The 14-year-old had a meticulous plan to sneak out of the house, take the car for a ride, and pick up some friends. As it turned out, he made a critical mistake by leaving the back door a little too open, which created a draft throughout the house. His mother checked the door, his room and the garage. 

Sheriff Jack Bell, who spent many nights at the Carroll County Jail, got a phone call. 

By the end of the night, this boy was spent the night with Sheriff Bell and Tony Reeves hearing about the two roads a man can take.

The next day, he was summoned by Tommy Greer, the juvenile court judge. He received a similar speech, but it was a bit harsher. The judge had known the boy since he was born and had always considered him a son. 

I cannot say that the boy became a saint afterwards. But, his experience seems to have left quite an impression on him. He would never be summoned by the sheriff or juvenile court judge under similar circumstances. 

That was a long time ago. Today, the challenges that children face have grown exponentially.  As a superior court judge once told me, “the juvenile court judge is the most important public servant in the county. An effective judge will lay the foundation for a prosperous community. An ineffective judge will unintentionally lead to the community’s downfall.”

The good news is that in west Georgia, we have some of the top-notch juvenile court judges in the state. I have personally appeared before many of them on juvenile delinquency cases. These are cases that would be considered to be crimes if committed by an adult. 

While the judges I have appeared before share many traits, I have noticed that each have a character attribute that stands out:

  • Judge Thomas Parmer (Carroll) has the calm wisdom to provide a juvenile the chance to change. 
  • Judge Joseph Wyant (Coweta, Heard) has the passion to help children who are walking down the low road in life. 
  • Judge Michael Key (Troup) has the courage to protect juveniles by suppressing illegal evidence during delinquency hearings (trials). 
  • Retired Judge Peggy Walker (Douglas) had the creativity to structure a rehabilitation plan that placed each child in the best position to succeed. 
  • Longtime Juvenile Court Judge Mark Murphy (now a superior court judge) (Haralson, Polk) defined fairness in his courtroom.