Did This Judge Lose Her Child? The Answer is NO!


UPDATED: 1:10 P.M.
Judge who left child alone at home stays on bench, but can’t handle
child-neglect cases

By STEVE VISSER and CRAIG SCHNEIDER
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writers

Judge Nina Hickson, in her second four-year term, is chief of Fulton County
Juvenile Court.

Related:
• Statement: ‘I … should have known better’
• Atlanta/South Metro community page

Fulton County Superior Court judges Tuesday allowed a juvenile judge to stay on
the bench after she recused herself from handling child-neglect cases.
State social workers found Juvenile Court Judge Nina Hickson had committed
child neglect last November when she left her 4-year-old daughter home alone at
night. After learning about the case last week, Superior Court judges, who
appoint Juvenile Court judges, had convened to discuss whether any action
should be taken against her.

Hickson informed the judges she would only hear juvenile delinquency cases —
not ones involving parenting — until after judicial and police investigations
of her conduct were concluded.

“We’re satisfied with Judge Hickson’s voluntary recusal,” said Chief Superior
Court Judge Elizabeth Long.

Child advocates, lawyers and judges had questioned whether Hickson should hear
neglect cases because of fears she might be seen as biased. Some judges also
were troubled Hickson didn’t report the incident to Superior Court judges nor
to her colleagues on the juvenile bench.

The state Department of Family and Children Services informed Hickson Dec. 5 it
had found she had committed a one-time case of neglect. The state Judicial
Qualifications Commission announced Monday that it was investigating whether
the judge should stay on the bench after learning about the issue from the
media. Atlanta Police have said they are also investigating.

Long refused to elaborate further on the meeting, which was closed to the
public, saying it was a personnel issue. She noted the turnout of 17 of 19
Superior Court judges for the meeting showed they took the issue seriously.

As fellow judges consider case, Fulton jurist said she make mistake in leaving
child alone

By STEVE VISSER and CRAIG SCHNEIDER
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writers

Fulton County Juvenile Court Judge Nina Hickson issued a public apology Monday
as two more inquiries began regarding her leaving her 4-year-old daughter home
alone while she ran a late-night errand.
The state Judicial Qualifications Commission announced Monday that it was
investigating whether Hickson’s behavior in the Nov. 29 incident makes her
unsuitable for the Juvenile Court bench or whether she should be disciplined.

Separately, Fulton County Superior Court judges, who appointed Hickson, will
meet Tuesday to discuss the matter and possible action against her, Chief Judge
Elizabeth Long said.

“Everything will be on the table — people are concerned,” Long said.

A number of lawyers, psychologists and child advocates have raised concerns
about Hickson’s action — with some urging that she be replaced — because she
judges parents charged with neglect in similar cases, Long said.

Hickson, a 43-year-old single parent, acknowledged in a two-page written
statement that she made a mistake in leaving her daughter, Wesley Victoria,
home alone to make a dash back to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to
claim a piece of luggage.

“I, of all people, should have known better,” the judge said.

Hickson said she and her daughter had returned home from a trip about 10:45
p.m. and she thought her daughter was safely asleep for the night when she
decided to go to the airport.

But a passer-by found the girl wandering on an East Point street, looking for
her mother, and called authorities.

East Point police contacted Atlanta police, who returned the girl to her
mother.

Hickson said police called the state Division of Family and Children Services
that evening. On Dec. 1, she said, she called the DFCS deputy administrator for
Fulton County to inform her about her child-neglect case.

‘No history’ of neglect

The state DFCS’ Special Investigation Unit handled the inquiry because county
DFCS officials work closely with Hickson, said Renee Huie, DFCS spokeswoman.

Hickson said investigators interviewed her and her daughter and inspected her
home and determined that the incident represented neglect.

DFCS devised a plan for the judge to keep the child safe and notified her on
Dec. 5 that the case was closed, Huie said.

“If it is a situation in which there is no future risk to the child, as best as
can be determined, the case is closed,” Huie said. “There is no history [of
neglect] involving the judge in the [DFCS] computerized system.”

Fulton County Superior Court judges were to meet at 8 a.m. Tuesday to discuss
Hickson.

Some judges have raised concerns that she didn’t report the Nov. 29 incident to
the Superior Court or to her Juvenile Court colleagues immediately.

Atlanta police also began an investigation recently. Assistant police ChiefAlan
Dreher said the delay occurred because the patrol officers didn’t forward their
report to the Crimes Against Women and Children Unit until after a media
inquiry.

The department now will review its procedures and policies regarding incidents
involving children, he said.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission said a story, first reported in The
Atlanta Journal-Constitution over the weekend, also prompted it to investigate
Hickson. The commission investigates complaints about judges and issues
opinions to the state Supreme Court regarding judicial conduct.

The commission specifically investigates conduct “prejudicial to the
administration of justice which brings the judicial office into disrepute,”
according to its Web site.

The seven-member commission can recommend varying levels of punishment, ranging
from private warnings to suspension to removal.

The commission consists of two judges, three lawyers and two lay members. One
seat is currently vacant.

But the final decision on any discipline rests with the state Supreme Court.

Rick McDevitt, president of the Georgia Alliance for Children, said Hickson
needs to take a voluntary leave of absence until the matter is fully resolved.

“The problem is her credibility, because she hears this kind of cases and
admonishes the parents on poor decision making,” McDevitt said. “I don’t see
how until this cloud of suspicion is resolved she can continue to hear these
types of cases.”

Hickson, who is in her second four-year term, is the chief judge of the
Juvenile Court.

She was first appointed in 1997, and among her supporters for the post were
former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson and Richard Deane and Kent
Alexander, both former U.S. attorneys for the Northern District of Georgia.

A ‘personal failing’

In her public statement Monday, Hickson indicated she wanted to remain on the
bench.

She called the incident a “personal failing” but insisted it in no way
reflected a lack of concern for her child or toward the children and families
who appeared before her in court.

“If I could turn back time, I would,” Hickson said. “I would have wrapped my
daughter up in a blanket and taken her to the airport with me, or waited until
the next day to go there, or had the bag delivered to the house.”

“There are only a handful of things worth breaking one’s neck to have,” Hickson
added. “Tuesday, I know that a missing suitcase is not one of them. But my
daughter is.”

Find this article at:
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/met…4/06judge.html

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DESCRIPTORS; GEORGIA, DFACS, CPS, ADOPTION, FOSTER CARE, JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT,
IMMUNITY, CHILD PROTECTIVE, CHILD ABUSE, IMMUNITY, JUDGES, DFCS,DCF, CHILD
NEGLECT, NEGLECT, FAMILY LAW, OVERSIGHT, ACCOUNTABILITY, GA

About yvonnemason

Background:  The eldest of five children, Yvonne was born May 17, 1951 in Atlanta, Georgia. Raised in East Point, Georgia, she moved to Jackson County, Ga. until 2006 then moved to Port St. Lucie, Florida where she currently makes her home.  Licensed bounty hunter for the state of Georgia. Education:  After a 34 year absence, returned to college in 2004. Graduated with honors in Criminal Justice with an Associate’s degree from Lanier Technical College in 2006. Awards:  Nominated for the prestigious GOAL award in 2005 which encompasses all of the technical colleges. This award is based not only on excellence in academics but also leadership, positive attitude and the willingness to excel in one’s major. Affiliations:  Beta Sigma Phi Sorority  Member of The Florida Writer’s Association – Group Leader for St Lucie County The Dream:  Since learning to write at the age of five, Yvonne has wanted to be an author. She wrote her first novel Stan’s Story beginning in 1974 and completed it in 2006. Publication seemed impossible as rejections grew to 10 years. Determined, she continued adding to the story until her dream came true in 2006. The Inspiration:  Yvonne’s brother Stan has been her inspiration and hero in every facet of her life. He was stricken with Encephalitis at the tender age of nine months. He has defied every roadblock placed in his way and has been the driving force in every one of her accomplishments. He is the one who taught her never to give up The Author: Yvonne is currently the author of several novels, including:  Stan’s Story- the true story of her brother’s accomplishments, it has been compared to the style of Capote, and is currently being rewritten with new information for re-release.  Tangled Minds - a riveting story about a young girl’s bad decision and how it taints everyone’s life around her yet still manages to show that hope is always possible. This novel has been compared to the writing of Steinbeck and is currently being written as a screenplay. This novel will be re-released by Kerlak Publishing in 2009  Brilliant Insanity – released by Kerlak Publishing October 2008  Silent Scream – Released by Lulu.com October 2008- Slated to be made into a movie Yvonne’s Philosophy in Life - “Pay it Forward”: “In this life we all have been helped by others to attain our dreams and goals. We cannot pay it back but what we can do is ‘pay it forward’. It is a simple
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