A vacant part-time Juvenile Court judgeship in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit has drawn intense interest from attorneys throughout the six-county region.
There are 20 applicants for the $55,000-per-year position vacated late last year by the retirement of Judge Wayne Jernigan. The judge will work primarily in the five counties outside of Columbus, said Chief Superior Court Judge Gil McBride.
"We have been very fortunate to have a strong group of applicants," McBride said last week.
The circuit's seven Superior Court judges will meet Feb. 27 to select Jernigan's replacement.
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Jernigan, who served in the capacity for 11 years, informed McBride in December that he was planning to retire. That started a process where the vacancy was advertised in the legal organs of the various counties, McBride said. The new judge, like Jernigan, will work mainly in Harris, Chattahoochee, Marion, Taylor and Talbot counties.
In addition to the salary the three-day-per-week job offers health insurance benefits and a state retirement.
All of the applicants were interviewed earlier this month in Columbus by a panel of Superior Court judges. McBride, Judge Frank Jordan, Judge Art Smith and Judge Maureen Gottfried sat in on the interviews, McBride said. Juvenile Court Judge Warner Kennon also sat in on the interviews, but will not have a vote in the selection process.
The application packets on those interviewed were forward to the remaining Superior Court judges who will be involved in the selection, McBride said.
Those interviewed were Thomas Tebeau, Edward Berry, Jennifer Dunlap, Richard Mobley, Joan Redmond, Michael Reynolds, Gary Byrd, Alfonza Whitaker, Peter Hoffman, Donna Hix, Robert "Brad" Bickerstaff, Amy Walters, Lois Wilson Boyd, R. Sean McPhail, Eddie Davis, Joey Loudermilk, Dorothy Williams, Danielle Forte, Richard Bunn and Larry Taylor, McBride said.
McBride praised late Judge Aaron Cohn and Kennon for setting up a court and process that attracted such a strong applicant field.
"This is a testament to Judge Cohn, the job he did and the job Judge Kennon has done to have 20 lawyers who want to be a part of this," McBride said.
The list includes a number of attorneys who have had experience in the Juvenile Court. One of those is Hix, who has practiced for 21 years. She said she considered this judgeship an opportunity to "give back to the community."
"I have been very blessed in that I have worked for firms and I have managed to build a successful practice," Hix said. "This is a good opportunity."
Another of those who has applied is Loudermilk, who has recently announced his retirement from Aflac after 30 years, the final 23 as general counsel. Loudermilk is also a Harris County commissioner. He has consulted with the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which oversees the state's judges, to see if he could remain on the county commission and serve as a judge.
"I want the same thing for this job that the judges who will select it want," Loudermilk said. "I want the best qualified person in this job. It's too important for that not to happen. If there is someone who is better suited for this than I am, I want them to have it."