Magistrate Judge Joan Bloom has announced her retirement after 13 years on the bench in what she calls “the emergency room of the judicial system.”
“Every single day, there’s something different,” she said. Her last day will be Dec. 31.
Bloom, 56, said she doesn’t have firm plans for her next chapter, but she’s not done with the legal life.
“I’d like to be like Jack Mallard and be a role model for someone else and share my experience,” she said, referring to the retired Fulton County prosecutor who handled the high-profile Atlanta child murderer Wayne Williams case and then came to Cobb as an assistant district attorney.
“He and Russ Parker, too, they were our role models, and we looked up to them. They had so much knowledge to share,” she said. “So I don’t know what I’m going to be doing, but I’d like to do something similar.”
Bloom was an assistant district attorney in Cobb for more than a decade, from 1986 to 1998, during Tom Charron’s tenure as District Attorney, and she was the only female on the team that prosecuted Fred Tokars, convicted of arranging the murder of his wife Sara, who was killed 20 years ago this week.
Charron, now the administrator of Superior Court, said Bloom came highly recommended from the Gwinnett County DA’s office when he hired her.
“She’s a very bright lawyer with a tremendous command of the law,” he said. “Now that her children are grown and she has the time, I think the sky’s the limit for Joan. Whatever she does, she’ll be very successful.”
Bloom, who has been married for nearly 30 years to Neil Bloom, a retired Lassiter High School teacher and soccer coach, said the most important part of her job has been hearing requests for temporary protective orders from people who’ve been battered in domestic violence, or are the victim of stalkers.
“Typically, an abused woman will come in here, and many times she’s crying. Sometimes she’s bloody. It’s really sad. She’s homeless, maybe. The TPO is an order to keep (the abuser) away from her, mainly. It might give her custody of the children, and maybe the home, so she has a safe place to stay,” Bloom said. “Doing that, you save lives.
“Then a week later is where you hear from both sides, and sometimes it’s Jerry Springer court,” she said. “You’re taking away this guy’s house, you’re taking away his kids, taking away his money. I take that really seriously. It’s not an automatic rubber stamp for a woman. … You’ve often got to dig through a lot of dysfunction, but somewhere in there, you really do make a difference, I think.”
Bloom grew up in inner-city Miami and came to Atlanta in the early 1980s to attend law school at Emory University. She credits that upbringing with preparing to be a prosecutor, “because you see some ugly stuff.”
“Being an ADA really prepared me for this job, and this job, hopefully, has really prepared me for whatever the next chapter is,” she said.
She was first appointed as a magistrate judge by Chief Magistrate T.O. Sturdivant in 1999, and has since been reappointed to successive four-year terms by current Chief Magistrate Frank Cox. Bloom is also unabashed in her praise for Cobb Police and the Cobb Sheriff’s Office.
“There are great officers in every precinct, but especially in precinct 2, the war zone in south Cobb,” she said. “And there’s no better Sheriff’s Office. I’d like to see any Sheriff’s Office run a jail as efficiently, with no problems and no escapes.” Cobb Police Lt. Tim Brooks, who commands both the VIPER and quality- of-life units, said Bloom “has been marvelous for our county.”
VIPER is an acronym for Violent Incident Prevention and Early Response.
“If we make a mistake, she helps us learn from that,” Brooks said. “She helps teach officers to make better cases for the future. She’s a mentor.”
Bloom and her husband have two adult sons, David, 26, a teacher and soccer coach, and Mark, 25, who is a newlywed and plays professional soccer. Bloom says she’ll likely spend some time traveling to Mark’s games, though she said he could end up playing next season with the Atlanta Silverbacks.
Bloom said retirement will also give her time to do more with her church, Mt. Bethel United Methodist, and as a member of the Marietta Kiwanis club.