MARIETTA— Cobb Superior Court judges Monday named Joyette Holmes, a Cobb assistant district attorney, as chief magistrate court judge.
Holmes is both the first woman and first African American to hold the position, court officials say.
Cobb Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Ben Williams said Holmes' appointment brings hope to the Cobb’s black community.
“I’m excited about the appointment,” Williams said. “It gives some increase to the black presence within the judiciary here in Cobb. Ms. Holmes is known in the community by her work and some of her efforts to support the quality of life for everyone in Cobb, so I’m optimistic and look forward to working with her.”
State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) echoed Williams’ sentiments and said Holmes’ appointment reflected the county’s progress.
“I think she will make a great addition to the bench,” Wilkerson said. “It’s always positive as an African American (to see progress like this). It lets me know that Cobb is becoming more inclusive as time goes on. The appointment overall reflects the growth of Cobb County. She’s a very bright individual with great experience.”
Holmes replaces former Chief Magistrate Judge Frank Cox, who resigned on Feb. 28.
Previous MDJ Around Town columns reported Cox had been “abusive” to lawyers that practiced in his courtroom and made offensive remarks to women and minorities in court. Around Town said Richard Hyde, lead investigator for the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, observed Cox’s courtroom and then threatened an official investigation against Cox if he did not resign from the bench.
The position of chief magistrate judge is an elected one but Cobb Superior Court judges may appoint a replacement to serve the remainder of a term when a vacancy arises. Cobb Superior Court judges chose Holmes from among 24 applicants.
Holmes will serve out the remainder of Cox’s term and run for election in 2016 if she wants to continue in the position, according to Cobb Superior Court Chief Judge Stephen Schuster.
Holmes, who will receive a salary of $147,000, will be sworn in March 13.
Schuster said Holmes will bring a fresh perspective to the position and is excited to work with her.
“We’re very excited and pleased that she accepted the position,” Schuster said. “It’s always good to have a new generation of judges and she will be part of that new generation. The court handles a lot of responsibilities.”
Holmes earned degrees in psychology and criminal justice from the University of Georgia and a law degree from the University of Baltimore. She was admitted to the Georgia Bar in 2005 and began working at the Cobb’s District Attorney’s Office as an assistant district attorney in 2013. She also operates a private practice on Anderson Street.
“I’m super excited,” she said Monday. “I am feeling every emotion you can think of right now. I am excited for the position and humbled to have the consideration from my peers for the appointment. I am definitely hoping to make the magistrate court one that the Cobb community can be proud of.”
The chief magistrate court judge oversees a staff of 50 to 60 people which includes 14 part-time judges and one full-time one.
Schuster said the county’s magistrate court is the court the public encounters most, aside from traffic court.
Holmes’ responsibilities will include presiding over initial and preliminary evidentiary hearings and granting and issuing bonds for criminal cases before they are bound over to the Cobb District Attorney’s office, state court, or Cobb Superior Court. The chief magistrate judge also deals with small claims cases that involve claims of $15,000 or less, dispossessory cases and county ordinance cases. Holmes will also hear narcotics cases from Marietta, Smyrna and Cobb County and will oversee the issue of 10-day temporary protective orders for family violence cases.
Cobb Superior Court Judge Lark Ingram said Holmes’ diverse professional background will serve her well in the new position.
“I’m just thrilled at her appointment,” Ingram said. “I think she’s going to do a great job because of her prior experience. She just has a good perspective on things.”
Cobb Superior Court Judge Robert Leonard seconded Ingram, saying Holmes will be a great asset to the court.
“I think that Joyette is very impressive,” he said. “I think that she possesses all the qualities that will make an outstanding judge, including things that can’t be taught such as judicial temperament and treating litigants, witnesses, attorneys with respect. I’ve known her for a long time and it won’t be an issue with her.”