One of my favorite tasks is interviewing our local judges and elected officials. I have interviewed a number of our judges in the past and authored columns based on those interviews. Last Friday, I had the opportunity to speak with one of our newest judges in west Georgia, Judge Bill Hamrick.
As a lifelong resident of west Georgia, I have grown up through the years with many families in the area. However, I have always had a special relationship with the Hamrick family. Judge Hamrick’s first cousins, Swede and Ryan Sullivan, are my lifelong best friends. Hamrick’s brother, Jamie was one grade ahead of me in school. I have hunted with his uncle Jimmy and played golf with his uncle Bobby for many years. The Hamrick and Sullivan families are a key part of my life and part of the backbone of our community.
I say this because I am pleased to have a new superior court judge serving our community who I strongly feel possesses the character needed to be an effective, fair and impartial judge. As my grandfather used to say, he “comes from good stock.”
Before becoming a superior court judge, Hamrick served Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties in the Georgia Senate for 12 years. He rose quickly through the legislative ranks. When he was appointed by the governor last year, he was currently serving as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Judge Hamrick now takes on a new challenge. I asked him a few questions to get an idea of how he views the role of being a superior court judge.
First of all, he loves his new job. He is also grateful for Governor Deal’s strong confidence in him that led to his appointment to the superior court bench.
Judge Hamrick believes that the two most important aspects of being a judge are judicial temperament and following the law.
Hamrick believes that he is vested with the responsibility of making the courtroom as comfortable for the people as possible.
“I think that it is important to treat everyone in court with courtesy. You obviously cannot make everyone happy with rulings in an adversarial proceeding. But, you can still treat the litigants, attorneys and court staff in a professional and respectful manner.”
He also believes in following the law. Being a former legislator, he pays special attention to the plain language of statutes and other legal authority, particularly the U. S. Constitution. On matters where the law is not so clear, he enjoys doing his own research before issuing a ruling on a legal issue.
As many people know, the Coweta Judicial Circuit is going through some changes. We are in the process of moving to a system of judicial assignment. This means that each case will be permanently assigned to a particular judge. With these changes, there are challenges. As a lawyer practicing within the circuit, I am facing those challenges too.
But Judge Hamrick believes that our new judicial assignment system will benefit the community. He pointed out that when a judge is assigned to a case, that judge will stay with the case for its entirety. This is particularly important in cases involving multiple hearings. He also believes that this new system will be more efficient. The more efficient our judicial system operates, the less it will cost taxpayers to fund it.
Judge Hamrick is also proud of the bipartisan criminal justice reforms that were signed by the governor last year. As I wrote in a column this summer, he was instrumental in bringing this legislation to the floor of the Senate and working with prosecutors, defense attorneys, and others in establishing a “right on crime” approach to criminal justice in Georgia. He now gets to work within the system that he assisted in improving.
As Judge Hamrick’s journey as a judge begins, I am celebrating my 10th year of criminal defense practice. The next 10 years can be even better for the west Georgia community if we can all work together to make our court system a shining example in our state.
Swindle is a local attorney at law.