Members of the Newton County District Attorney’s office filed out of the courthouse Tuesday morning, as they prepared to travel to Atlanta to see their long-time leader and friend, Ken Wynne, officially sworn in as judge.
A few hours later the transition was complete and Judge Wynne stood in the middle of his new fraternity, posing for pictures underneath the Gold Dome.
Tuesday’s ceremony ended six-months of waiting after Wynne was selected by Governor Sonny Perdue on December 29, but not sworn in because of budget concerns. According to the former Alcovy Circuit District Attorney Alan Cook, Wynne was worth the wait.
"Ken served as my chief district attorney; he was always steady as a rock, loyal and unwavering in the pursuit of justice," Cook said in his introduction of Wynne.
"In our almost 12 years working together in the district attorney’s office, I was able to observe closely Ken’s legal abilities, his courtroom skills and above all his unquestioned integrity and professionalism. He was unflinchingly loyal and a leader and true role model to the legal community and especially my young assistant district attorneys." Cook quoted from a letter he submitted to the Judicial Nominating Commission during their finalist selection process."As a trial lawyer, Ken’s preparation and demeanor demanded the respect of the bench and the bar. Ken had an extraordinary ability to assess what was important and efficiently present the state’s case in a clear, ethical, understandable and convincing manner. Ken’s experience in the district attorney’s office as an assistant district attorney and as the elected district attorney have tested his mettle as a lawyer and as a man. After almost 10 years as a public prosecutor he is battle tested. Now he is ready for a new challenge," he quoted further.
"So let’s get Ken sworn in so he can continue to use his talents to the benefit of the people of Georgia," Cook said.
Wynne then placed his left hand on the Bible, held his right hand in the air and followed Perdue’s lead as he recited the judicial oath of office.
He then spoke to the assembled crowd, which contained many of his friends, including Judges Samuel Ozburn and Horace Johnson, his Chief Assistant District Attorney Layla Zon and other ADAs, Chief Public Defender Anthony Carter and members of his office, Clerk of the Superior Court Linda Hays and other politicians.
In his speech, he personally thanked the several family members in the audience, including his wife Pam, daughters Courtney and Kendall, his brothers Jimmy, Tim and Tony and his sister Debbie.
"The two people who gave the most for me and their other four children are my parents. Though they are no longer with us, their legacies of hard work and giving remains," Wynne said, speaking of their struggles as German World War II refugees and lives as sharecroppers. "Neither of them had the education that I received, but they were bound and determined that if I wanted to be a lawyer, they would see it happen. They wanted a better life for their five children, and they sacrificed to see it happen."
Wynne went on to thank Cook, reminiscing about his days in the DA’s office.
"My friend Alan Cook … trusted me with more responsibility than he probably should have. As I look back on those times in the early 90s, I think that Alan must have been crazy to name me as his chief assistant," Wynne said.
"My brothers and sisters in the defense bar made me a better lawyer and a better prosecutor. By their tenacity, they helped me to redouble my efforts to make sure that I was not wielding the power of the state unfairly and to make sure that I was not prosecuting the innocent."
Wynne said he would miss the DA’s office, but looked forward to his role as judge and knew his former office would be in Zon’s good hands. By law, she will be the acting district attorney until Perdue officially names a replacement.
After the ceremony, Ozburn said he was looking forward to having Wynne join him. Wynne will not be allowed to handle criminal cases at first, until any cases that he would have been involved in have passed through the system. He will handle only civil cases.
"He has great intellect, great common sense and a great knowledge of the law," Ozburn said. "I’m looking forward to working with him."
Wynne will officially take the bench in Newton County Thursday. He will be honored with a local reception from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Friday in his new office in the courthouse.