COVINGTON, Ga. - District Attorney Layla Zon will not seek reelection in 2020, but instead will throw her name in the hat to take the bench after Superior Court Judge Samuel Ozburn announced he would not look to return for another term.
The decision, Zon said, was a difficult one to make.
"I have been so happy in the DA’s office for the past 19 years," she said. "I work with amazing people in both offices that I am very proud to call them not only my colleagues but my work family. The kind of hours and the kind of cases we handle require us to spend a lot of time together.
"Ultimately, I decided that the DA’s office was in very good hands with my Chief Assistant District Attorney Randy McGinley and all of the other great staff in the office.
"I have also very much enjoyed working with law enforcement over the years. From the time I was a rookie ADA and on up through the years they taught me many things and I would like to think they were happy about the way I prosecuted their cases. I will miss those relationships — except maybe, not so much, the 2 a.m. calls.
"Lastly, I will miss the interactions with the people—the victims, the witnesses, the defendants even. However, I have an opportunity to serve the community in a different way from the bench. I will no longer be an advocate, but I will be in a position of service and public trust."
Zon said her experience in the courtroom is a vital tool that she plans to use if elected into the judge position.
"I understand the practical and procedural ins and outs of jury trials and the potential appellate issues that can arise. I have prepared scores of briefs for the trial court and the appellate courts. Judges issue orders not only from the bench orally but often times in written form so legal writing experience is important," she said. "Of course, a judge doesn’t only sit for trials. There are different procedural postures of a case as it travels through the court system for resolution.
"I have learned the importance of efficiency in the courtroom as a prosecutor and as a judge, I would likewise be respectful of the importance of moving cases along without unnecessary delay and expense to the parties or the taxpayers."
Being the lead prosecutor for the circuit, Zon has a unique perspective on some of the responsibilities included in the position of judge.
"Prosecutors exercise discretion as do Judges. As a prosecutor, I have made thousands of sentence recommendations to the judges based upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the prior criminal history of the defendant, and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances. That requires good judgment," she said. "As a prosecutor, I have had to make very difficult and yet, very important, decisions that affect people’s freedoms. Those decisions can weigh on you. Just as I have done as a prosecutor I know that there will be times as a judge that I will have to make difficult decisions, even unpopular decisions, but decisions that must be made nonetheless. I know I have the fortitude to do what is right in those situations because I have had to do that as a prosecutor as well."
If elected, Zon would be the first female judge in the circuit's history, but the honor would be just the opportunity to be a judge, she said.
"There are so many excellent female attorneys who practice in our circuit, in fact, I have a large number of them as attorneys in my office. It is a privilege just to practice as an attorney alongside so many of them," she said. "My mother always taught me that a woman who seeks to be equal with men lacks ambition. I say that with a smile and a wink but there is some truth to it."
Zon said she would be happy to talk with anyone who seeks to fill the position of district attorney after her term expires.
"I would be glad to sit down and discuss lots of things I have learned over the years with any potential candidate but generally speaking the most difficult part of the job is not the trying of the cases," she said. "The two offices combined have now over 60 employees including 20 attorneys. It is a busy office and the district attorney has a lot of administrative and supervisory functions to perform as well if the office is to be led properly."
For more information on Zon's campaign, voters can visit her Facebook page.