Retired Superior Court Judge John Allen was looking on Tuesday as Ron Mullins, his replacement, and Maureen Gottfried and Benjamin S. Richardson, two other Muscogee County judges, were officially sworn in by Gov. Nathan Deal at the state capital.
"It's a big day and I'm very excited," said veteran attorney Ron Mullins, who will fill the judgeship left vacant by Allen. "I will try to treat people fairly, be impartial and treat people the way they want to be treated."
Joining Mullins for the swearing in was Maureen Gottfried, a State Court judge who will fill the new Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit Superior Court judgeship approved by the General Assembly. Benjamin S. Richardson, solicitor general, was appointed to replace Gottfried in State Court.
Allen, who spent two decades as a Muscogee County Superior Court judge before retiring in October, called on Deal to consider gender and racial diversity in his judgeship selections. Allen was the lone black Superior Court judge in the circuit that included no women judges.
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Gottfried on Tuesday became the first woman on the Superior Court bench since
Roxanne Daniel was defeated by Bobby Peters in 2004. Mullins is a white male. Richardson is black.
Mullins, 62, said he never in his wildest dreams thought he would be appointed to the judgeship, but serving has been a goal. He has more than 30 years experience and has served as a partner in Page, Scrantom, Sprouse, Tucker & Ford, P.C.
Mullins and Gottfried will serve the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit that includes Muscogee, Harris, Chattahoochee, Marion, Taylor and Talbot counties.
Neal Callahan, Gottfried's younger brother who is also an attorney, said his sister learned about justice at a young age. She was the oldest girl in a family of 10 children. One of her sisters was disabled.
When their parents were away from the home, Gottfried was in charge of supervising the house and making sure the other siblings stayed in line.
"Some were teenagers and less than model citizens," Callahan said. "Maureen had to settle minor and major family disputes and she had to use her discretion in bringing justice to our indiscretions. I can tell you that her brothers and sisters who are here can tell you she knows justice."
Gottfried, 52, has been in Columbus since 1986, when she was first hired as solicitor general before moving to State Court 17 years ago.
Gottfried, a native of Atlanta, noted that she has spent more than half of her life in Columbus.
"Columbus is a great city," she said.
As a judge, Gottfried said she promises to listen, to judge to the best of her abilities and show mercy and respect. She quoted a Bible scripture from Micah 6:8: "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."
Before Richardson was officially sworn in, his friend, retired Judge Allen, described him as a person who has answered every time his name has been called.
Richardson, a native of Atlanta, was raised by a single mother after his father was killed in Vietnam.
"That is a tribute to his mom," Allen said.
Richardson, who has served as solicitor general since 2003, stopped by the grave of Nancy Richardson, his mom, before the ceremony.
"At the gravesite, I promised her I would do my best," he said.
Allen said Richardson's star has been shining for some time.
He was recognized by Georgia Trend magazine, served on the Charter Review Commission and was president of the Chattahoochee Bar Association.
Richardson, 47, cut his remarks short, choking back tears at times.
"I was overwhelmed," he said after the ceremony.
The new judge warned the crowd of more than 100, including about three dozen family and friends, not to come to his court with the emotional story.
"If you come to my court room, you better not remember this," he said.