Whitfield/Murray Juvenile Court Judge Blaylock Retiring May 31 After 21 Years

Thursday, May 18, 2017
Nearly 21 years of serving as the only full-time juvenile court judge ever for Whitfield and Murray counties will come to a close for Judge Connie Blaylock on May 31.

Judge Blaylock announced recently she will be retiring at the end of this month from the post to which she was appointed by Superior Court judges in 1996.

“I started part-time in July 1996 and went full-time in January 1997,” she said, sitting in her office on the lower floor of the Whitfield County Courthouse, “and I’ve been here ever since.


Judge Blaylock originally earned a master’s degree and worked as a sales rep for Phillip Morris for about 6½ years before deciding to go back to the University of Georgia to earn a law degree. After practicing as an attorney for another 6½ years doing real estate, domestic, and juvenile court-appointed work, she was named part-time associate juvenile court judge, which quickly morphed into a full-time job.

“What had been happening was that the Superior Court judges were taking a week a month and in addition to doing their Superior Court work, they were also covering Juvenile Court,” Judge Blaylock explained. “But the caseload had gotten to the point by 1996 that it just wasn’t feasible for them to do that anymore.”

The caseload has grown so much that Judge Blaylock says she now holds court four days a week every week, three days in Whitfield and one day in Murray. 

She says that part of the duty for the local Juvenile Court  - which has a staff of 13 employees in Whitfield County and three in Murray County – is hearing all of the cases for anybody under age 17 accused of breaking the law, in what are known as delinquent cases.

“We also hear all of the cases for anybody under 18 who is now what we call a child in need of services,” she said. “They may be truant from school or they’re having problems out in the community that wouldn’t bring you or I before the court because of our age but they’re having some sort of school issue or parent authority issue or they need some sort of court intervention, typically for truancy. We also hear all of the traffic violation cases for anybody under 18.”

Ironically, the cases that make up the smallest percentage of the court’s workload take up most of the judge’s time – those involving abuse or neglect to children.

Judge Blaylock described her work as juvenile court judge over the past 21 years as “very frustrating” yet “very rewarding” at times.

“It’s meaningful - I mean you feel like you’re making a difference,” she said. “You hear some really bad things, and it’s very frustrating because there are never enough resources. But it also can be very rewarding. I had an email today from a young lady I’d had before my court, and she told me she’s been in the military, married, got kids, out of the military now, getting her college degree.

“Those kind of stories,” Judge Blaylock says, “are few and far between, unfortunately. We don’t always take people from A to Z; sometimes we’re happy getting them from point A to point F or G. You have to take your successes where you can get them. Sometimes not going to prison is a success. I ran into a young man outside the courthouse a few weeks ago, and he told me he wanted to thank me because I saved his life. I said, I don’t know about that but I’m glad we were able to help. He said he works for one of the mills here and has kept and maintained a steady job and has not been to prison, so that’s a success.”

How to gauge success is a point she stresses when she helps train volunteers with the CASA program (advocates for children) or the citizen’s panel (which reviews foster care cases).

“I always tell the volunteers you have to take your successes where they come,” she said. “You know, everybody’s not going to automatically straighten up and fly right just because they walk through our doors and everybody’s not going to live how we as middle-class Americans would prefer that they live.”

She doesn’t enjoy having to remove children from their homes because of abuse or neglect by their parents but says there is “a basic minimum” standard that society expects all parents to meet, with drug or alcohol abuse usually the culprit for parents failing to meet that minimum.

Those hearings related to parental neglect or abuse are now open to the public by virtue of a 2014 law, and Judge Blaylock says that that public access allows other family members sometimes in the dark to get a more accurate picture of what has gone on to cause their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or others to be involved with the court and a more accurate picture of what Mom and Dad are - or are not - doing to get them back.

With retirement now just days away, Judge Blaylock will soon be turning her caseload over to a new judge, who will be selected by the local Superior Court judges. Applicants must be a licensed attorney with at least six years of practicing law, a resident of the state, and live in the circuit once appointed.

Judge Blaylock will be honored for her service to area children during a retirement party in the vending area on the main floor of the Whitfield County Courthouse on May 31 from 1 to 4 p.m. The public is invited.

While the judge says she is excited and looking forward to her retirement, she adds, “I’ll miss it and I’ll miss the people, but I don’t think I’ll miss the stress.”

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