Judge Guidry “I can terminate “Parental Rights – Even the Supreme Court Can’t Do That”


This article was written in 2000 when the bill was introduced in Georgia to add full time judges.One Judge had only been a lawyer 10 months when she becae a part time Georgia Juvenile Judge. Judge Guidry out of Jackson County made a statement that he holds true to this day. It is highlighted in Bold – There were even law clerks serving as juvenile judges. What is wrong with this picture I will let this article speak for itself.

2000 GEORGIA LEGISLATURE: Bill would add full-time juvenile judges
Ron Martz – Staff
Tuesday • February 15

Jeannie Scott Martin had been a lawyer only 10 months when she became a part-time Georgia Juvenile Court judge for eight largely rural counties southeast of Atlanta.

Although still something of a legal novice, Martin said she suddenly realized that she had been put in a position where her decisions were likely to affect children and their parents for the rest of their lives.

As a juvenile judge she had the power to remove a child from its parents during the crucial formative years because of possible neglect or abuse. Make the wrong decision, she said, and the child and parents could all suffer emotionally or physically for years to come.

“It was a great feeling, but it was a frightening feeling to know I had that power,” said Martin, no longer a judge but now guardian ad litem in Gwinnett County Juvenile Court, appointed to watch out for the interests of children in court.

In Georgia, it is not unusual for law clerks to serve as juvenile judges. Law clerks generally are young lawyers who have recently passed the bar and work for judges researching the law to gain experience.

But a bill now under consideration in the state legislature would provide state funding for each of the 48 judicial circuits to pay for full-time juvenile judges.

Counties would still have to foot the bill for office space, a secretary and a law clerk. The legislation has passed the House and may be considered this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Gov. Roy Barnes has earmarked $6.4 million in his fiscal 2001 budget for the additional judges. Chief Justice Robert Benham of the Georgia Supreme Court has endorsed the proposal following a year-long study in 1996 by the court’s Child Placement Project that showed that the complexity of juvenile cases were increasing beyond the ability of some judicial circuits to handle them.

In a recent speech to the General Assembly, Benham said, “No other budget item would produce the benefits to this state. It would allow us to remove dangerous juveniles from society and provide treatment and rehabilitation for thousands of salvageable young people. The courts must be able to safeguard children when parents cannot or will not.”

Currently, in addition to law clerks serving as juvenile judges, local attorneys and Superior Court judges shoulder juvenile caseload. Counties that have full-time Juvenile Court judges are those around major metropolitan areas, such as Atlanta, Augusta, Macon and Columbus. It is in the rural counties where juvenile justice is seen as a part-time occupation.

According to the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the practice is not that unusual, especially in largely rural states.

In Georgia, the reason for the current system is money, or a lack of it. Counties are responsible for funding juvenile courts because the General Assembly does not. Some of the smaller and poorer counties just don’t have enough money and therefore don’t have their own juvenile judges.

William Prior, chief Superior Court judge in the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, said the problem with the current system is not that major mistakes are made. Instead, he said, it’s a matter of efficiency and providing qualified jurists to juveniles. “The old saying of justice delayed is justice denied is very true when it comes to juvenile courts,” said Prior.

In Georgia, said Eric John, executive director of the state Council of Juvenile Court Judges, “juvenile courts are almost an afterthought.”

But, said Kevin Guidry of Winder, a law clerk in the Piedmont Judicial Circuit and part-time juvenile judge, “juvenile judges in Georgia have a tremendous amount of power. I can terminate parental rights, and a Superior Court judge can’t even do that. It’s like a familial death sentence.” (This is exactly the way he thinks in his courtroom)

Prior said full-time juvenile judges would provide continuity to cases. “It’s hard to deal with the fact that every time you come to court you see a different judge who may react in a different way,” he said.

Full-time juvenile judges also would be able to focus exclusively on juvenile issues, according to Superior Court Judge G. Bryant Culpepper of the Macon Judicial Circuit. “Over the years Juvenile Court law has become rather complicated,” said Culpepper, who handles juvenile cases in two of the counties in his circuit. “It is becoming increasingly difficult for Superior Court judges to devote enough time and resources to Juvenile Court.”

According to John, there are 48 Superior Court judges statewide who exercise juvenile court jurisdiction in 93 of the state’s 159 counties. But, there are only 47 full-time juvenile judges in Georgia and 61 part-timers.

Juvenile courts are not the place for novices, said Jeannie Scott Martin, who had more experience than most law clerks when appointed to the juvenile bench.

“Juvenile Court is completely different and should not be a training ground for anyone, judges or lawyers, because the decisions they are making are so important,” she said.

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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