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Ott to retire from Newton County Superior Court bench Dec. 31
John Ott swearing-in
Chief Superior Court Judge John Ott takes his oath to serve another term on the Alcovy Judicial Circuit bench Dec. 30, 2020, as daughter Izzy and son Richard look on and grandson Herschel holds the Bible at the Walton County Historic Courthouse in Monroe. - photo by File Photo

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County Superior Court Judge John Ott says he will retire Dec. 31 and end a 32-year career on the Alcovy Judicial Circuit bench.

Ott also asked Gov. Brian Kemp to appoint him as a senior judge "so that I can continue to be of some service to the court system and people of Georgia."

The Walton County resident is the chief judge of the Alcovy Judicial Circuit, serving with four other Superior Court judges overseeing criminal and civil cases in Newton and Walton counties.

"For the past 41 years, I have had the privilege, honor and pleasure of serving the people of my circuit and the state of Georgia as an assistant district attorney and district attorney for nine years, and a Superior Court judge for 32 years," Ott said in his letter notifying Kemp of his retirement.

"I have been supported by superior staff, great sheriffs, police chiefs, clerks of court and by county commissions that have always stood ready to meet any needs of the court system.

"I've also enjoyed the many fine lawyers that have practiced before me," he said.

Superior Court judges are elected on a nonpartisan basis. Ott was most recently re-elected in 2020 without opposition and his current term was to end in December 2024.

District Attorney Randy McGinley, who is president of the Newton County Bar Association, said Ott "has faithfully served this circuit for over four decades." 

"By any measure, he had an amazing legal career," McGinley said. "He always ran a fair, efficient, and effective courtroom and his impact on those in both Newton and Walton counties will still be felt for years to come.

"As the president of the Newton County Bar Association, we all wish Judge Ott the best and look forward to still appearing in front of him as a senior judge," McGinley said.

Superior Courts in Georgia have exclusive, constitutional authority over felonies, divorces, equity cases and matters regarding title to land.

According to the Georgia Constitution, the governor will appoint Ott's successor to serve until the next election for the judgeship in 2024. 

Though not required, the governor may appoint someone from Walton County to replace Ott to maintain the traditional split of Superior Court judges from Newton and Walton counties in the Alcovy Circuit.

Traditionally, Newton residents filled a majority of the Superior Court judge seats based on the county having a majority of the population in the two-county judicial circuit. Currently, the circuit's Superior Court judges include Newton residents Cheveda McCamy, Ken Wynne and Layla Zon and Walton residents Ott and Jeffrey Foster.   

If appointed as a senior judge as expected, Ott may hear cases in any judicial circuit at the request of a local judge, administrative judge or the governor, according to information from "The Legislator's Guide to Georgia's Courts."

Ott, a native of Macon, earned his undergraduate degree from UGA in 1976. He worked as a teacher in Bibb County before earning his law degree from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University in 1981. 

He worked as an assistant district attorney in the Alcovy Circuit from 1981 until 1984 when he began serving the remaining three months in former District Attorney John Strauss’ term after Strauss’ resignation to enter private practice. Ott then was elected district attorney in November 1984.

He served as DA until Aug. 16, 1990, when Gov. Joe Frank Harris appointed him to the Superior Court bench to fill a vacancy left open for months by former Judge Greeley Ellis’ decision to seek the Repubican nomination for governor.

At the time, Ott was the second youngest Superior Court judge in Georgia, according to a report in The Covington News.