Chief Judge Edwards to resign within 2 years, will go back to being a ‘jury trial lawyer’

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Christopher Edwards, chief judge of the 4-county Griffin Judicial Circuit. Photo/Submitted.
Christopher Edwards, chief judge of the 4-county Griffin Judicial Circuit. Photo/Submitted.

After 22 years as a superior court judge for Fayette County and the rest of the Griffin Judicial Circuit, Edwards says, ‘I am most fully myself as a trial lawyer’ — 

Griffin Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Christopher Charles Edwards has announced that he will resume practicing law as a jury trial lawyer after departing from his 22-year judgeship at a date not yet determined, before his term ends December 31, 2022. He made the following statement.

“This is my step toward the privilege and honor of resuming my career as a jury trial lawyer. My twenty-two years as a Superior Court judge is two years past the maximum time of twenty years the law encourages a judge to serve. Since a full-time judge cannot also practice law, I must end my service as a judge to practice as a lawyer again. I expect to be talking with interested lawyers about my next role.

“I am told that I have influenced a number of students to become lawyers. I hope describing how I feel about my career may encourage more students to become jury trial lawyers, advancing civilization through the rule of law.

“The month after I turned twenty-six, licensed as a lawyer for only sixty-seven days, I selected my very first jury. I was the only prosecutor in the courtroom all week in trial against two defense lawyers. I was older and more confident four days later, a lawyer for seventy days, when that first jury found the defendant guilty of malice murder on Indictment 7868 in Spalding County Superior Court.

“Since then, I have loved conducting jury trials, in almost every type of criminal and civil case, one after another, for seventeen years as a jury trial lawyer, then for twenty-two years as a Superior Court jury trial judge, totaling hundreds of jury verdicts. My professional life has been punctuated by the moments the verdict is read aloud. I am always eager for the next trial.

“As a jury trial lawyer, I prosecuted murder and defended murder and other serious criminal cases, to jury verdict, as sole counsel. I served as sole counsel in many injury cases and divorces to jury verdict. I was frequently associated by other law firms to handle injury and wrongful death cases. I achieved many substantial published jury verdicts for my injured clients and their families. I wrote and argued many appeals as a prosecutor in criminal cases and defended my verdicts on appeal in many civil injury cases.

“Anyone who knows me as a judge has heard me say I miss being a jury trial lawyer. I am most fully myself as a trial lawyer immersed in the focused intensity of a well prepared jury trial. There is no better feeling than winning a jury verdict for a worthy client. I revere the truth-telling courage of impartial jurors, fearlessly righting wrongs.

“I depart on a high note, after achieving my goals both as a Superior Court judge since 1998 and as chief judge since 2010. I depart the bench leaving the Griffin Circuit second to none in Georgia. Since I became chief judge, thanks to our Superior Court bench, our circuit‘s improved judicial case assignment system has reduced the age of our caseload, reduced the size of trial calendars, and dramatically reduced county jail populations.

“I wrote our circuit’s unique improved fast-track probation violation hearing process, also reducing county jail populations. Thanks to our excellent court clerks, whose support has been instrumental to our progress, the Griffin Circuit was the very first circuit in the state converting to civil e-filing in Superior Court.

“In addition to judge and chief judge duties, I served our children and the bar, and I worked to improve Georgia law.

“To serve our children, I fulfilled my 1998 campaign promise to deter youthful crime by encouraging education. I spoke in schools to over 58,000 children, encouraging reading, math, graduation and college, to increase earnings.

“To teach our children constitutional principles, I created and taught a free annual constitutional law seminar on a series of eight Saturday mornings for high school students, and hosted thousands of students on three occasions to observe live oral arguments of lawyers before the Georgia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals in Fayetteville and Griffin.

“To serve the bar and improve the law, I authored and published many legal articles, two of Georgia’s current pattern jury instructions, and a pending substantial amendment to a uniform rule.

“I taught often at lawyer seminars, and created an annual Fayette Bar seminar still held at Amicalola Falls State Park. I suggested and started the Fayette Bar’s continuing free monthly class on divorce at the Fayette library, to help the public navigate our court. I suggested several new laws that protect and serve Georgians every day.

“I intend to continue serving on the State Bar of Georgia’s Board of Governors and the Board of the General Practice and Trial Section.

“I will never forget my sense of awe, after my first election, the first time I walked into a big conference room to be warmly greeted by all Georgia’s Superior Court judges. I will miss assembling twice each year with the finest, most selfless group of people I have ever known, the Superior Court judges of Georgia.

“I am deeply grateful to the Griffin Circuit bench and bar, to the great people of Fayette, Spalding, Pike and Upson counties for electing me six times, and to my inspiring parents, brilliant daughters, and superb staff. Above all I am grateful to God for the privilege and honor of serving my generation.

“If any excellent student is an exceptional reader, writer and speaker, and cannot resist speaking up for what is true and right, I am delighted to talk anytime about the steps to becoming a jury trial lawyer,” Judge Edwards said.

Judge Edwards received the “Outstanding Service Award” from the Fayette Bar Association, the “Justice Robert Benham Community Service Award” from the State Bar of Georgia, the Fayette County Bar Association “Tireless Efforts to Improve and Strengthen the Bar Association and Community Award”, the “Thomas R. Burnside, Jr. Excellence in Bar Leadership Award” from the State Bar of Georgia, and the Supreme Court of Georgia’s “Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Service to the Court”.

His legal articles have been published in “The Verdict”, published by the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, “The Family Law Journal” and “Calendar Call”, both published by the State Bar of Georgia, “The Georgia Courts Journal” published by the Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts, and “The Champion”, nationally published by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Judge Edwards served on five committees of the Council of Superior Court Judges: Pattern Jury Charge, Benchbook, Uniform Rules, Bench and Bar, and Access to Justice and Fairness in the Courts.

The Griffin Circuit includes four counties: Fayette, Spalding, Pike and Upson. Judge Edwards was elected in a five-candidate race in 1998, and was re-elected without opposition in 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Governor Brian Kemp will be authorized by law to appoint a replacement judge to serve for the remaining period of Judge Edwards’ four-year term. The time for appointment of a replacement judge is at the governor’s discretion. Until a replacement judge is appointed, the state will use the salary that would have been paid to Judge Edwards, to instead pay retired senior judges to handle Judge Edwards’ cases.

Judge Edwards may be reached at ccejsc@gmail.com.

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