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Former magistrate judge takes up city court robe

By Ed Brock

Judge Michael Baird says he wears a lot of hats, and on Monday night he added another to his collection.

Baird, formerly the chief judge for Clayton County Magistrate Court, is now the city of Jonesboro's official associate judge for municipal court. That means that whenever full-time Municipal Judge William West cannot make it to court on Thursday Baird will be called on to fill in.

Previously the city judge called whoever was available.

"In the past we had not identified one person as the associate judge," Jonesboro Manager Jon Walker said. "It's just a good opportunity to appoint someone so we have a clear line of succession if Judge West is not available."

Baird filled in for West on two previous occasions, taking time from his duties as a teacher of business law and labor and employment at Clayton College & State University. Last April Baird decided not to run again for chief magistrate judge in order to take that position.

A CCSU alumnus, Baird had been teaching at the college part time for more than 10 years.

Ronald Kinsey of Stockbridge took a class in employment law from Baird last year and currently they are researching a paper on the impact of allocation of resources on the outcome of judicial elections.

"He was probably one of the few teachers I had who could keep the students' attention through the whole class," said 23-year-old Kinsey, a marketing major at CCSU. "We're hoping to be the first student and teacher to publish a paper together at CCSU."

During Baird's eight years as chief magistrate judge the court earned recognition from the Supreme Court of Georgia. When he announced his decision not to run Baird said he was most proud of his "one-stop shopping" child abandonment project.

Baird, now a senior magistrate judge, has donned the black robe in Morgan County Magistrate Court and on Monday, prior to being sworn in at the Jonesboro City Council meeting, Baird was standing in for Clayton County Superior Court Judge Matthew Simmons.

This will be his first time serving officially as a municipal court judge, Baird said, but he has a good idea of what will be expected of him.

"There's a lot of focus on traffic issues," Baird said. "I've experienced many days in traffic court."

He gained that experience as a police officer in Lake City and as a prosecutor in the Clayton County Solicitor General's Office.

Jonesboro holds court hearings one week and arraignments the next, always on Thursdays at 1 p.m., Walker said. The judge who presides at the court received $350 per session.

The city council voted to approve Baird as associate judge during its April meeting.