By Johnny Jackson
Chief Judge Ben Studdard, of the Henry County State Court, was recently named the 2008 recipient of the Ogden Doremus Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Georgia Council of State Court Judges.
The award, given to Studdard at the council's annual meeting at Jekyll Island, honors the state court judge who has made significant contributions to the judiciary, the practice of law, and within his community.
"I'm deeply humbled to receive this award," said Studdard, 47. "These judges taught me much of what I know about being a judge. They are true servants of their communities and their profession, and I hold them in the highest regard."
Studdard, who served as president of the Council of State Court Judges in 2006 and 2007, is highly regarded by his colleagues as well.
"I cannot imagine a better person to receive this award," said Troup County State Court Judge Jeanette Little. "He has been such an asset to the Council of State Court Judges, as well as so many other legal [and other civic] organizations. On a personal level, he has been a tremendous help to me. He is No. 1 on my personal 'call list.' He has an amazing intellect, yet remains down to earth and personable. I am proud to call him a friend."
Studdard is currently in his 10th year on the bench, presiding over cases involving misdemeanors, traffic offenses, divorces, domestic-violence disputes, and other matters. He became Henry County's first State Court Judge after the court was created through an act of the Georgia General Assembly in 1998.
"Ben Studdard exemplifies all attributes of quality judicial service," said Judge Kent Lawrence, of Clarke County State Court. "He exhibits utmost professionalism, outstanding work ethic, leadership skills, appropriate judicial demeanor, great integrity, and incredible humility in fulfilling his judicial duties. Ben Studdard is a genuine role model for all judges."
Studdard, however, attributes most of what he knows, and does as chief judge, to other judges, particularly the late Henry County Probate Court Judge Del Buttrill.
"Judge Buttrill didn't have a law degree, but he taught me that you don't get wisdom in law school," Studdard said. "Training and education are important, but even more important is a desire to do justice for people in a way that looks beyond surface issues and gets to root problems. Judge Buttrill tried to help people find ways to deal with issues in a deeper way to break the cycle of repeated offenses. When people get to the root of their problems, their lives improve and their communities do, too. We all win."
Recognized for his work and achievements with the State Bar of Georgia and the Judicial Council of Georgia, Judge Studdard is, according to Council Executive Director Bob Bray, "one of the busiest and most sought-after judges. His knowledge, advice, and counsel are valued by many in the judicial community."
A native of Henry County, Studdard earned his law degree with honors from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. He credits his success, thus far, to caring about individuals and the community. "The Good Lord tells us [Micah 6:8] to do justice and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God," he said. "I try to put that into practice every day in the courtroom, and I try to help my fellow judges find ways to do it, as well."
He is a long-time adult Sunday School teacher at Harvest Point United Methodist Church. He lives in Locust Grove with his wife, of 25 years, Sherri, and their four daughters.
"I've had many opportunities to work with young people, who've committed minor offenses, and help them find direction in their lives," Studdard said. "A judge has powerful opportunities to do justice, protect rights, and help people find solutions to problems. I've seen kids completely wasted on drugs who, over the months, come alive again. I've seen their parents shed tears of joy as they get to reclaim the son or daughter they once knew. That's worth a lot."