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Deal appoints new Clayton County State Court judge

Gov. Nathan Deal appointed a Forest Park attorney who works in the South Georgia Judicial Circuit to the bench in Clayton County State Court to fill a vacancy left by a judge who retired.

Deal announced the appointment of Michael Tyrone Garrett, 40, Tuesday.

“I am very much honored the governor chose me, listened to my ideas and is giving me this opportunity,” said Garrett.

Garrett said he has lived in Clayton County since 1993. He has been a registered voter in Clayton since September, according to elections records. He said he also lives in an apartment in Bainbridge during the week to avoid the long commute to southwestern Georgia

The youngest of eight kids, Garrett said he grew up in Alabama and moved to Clayton County after graduating from Auburn University in 1993. He left to attend law school at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., and was admitted to the Georgia Bar in 2002.

He returned to Jonesboro, where he practiced law while looking for a job as a prosecutor. He first worked in the South Georgia Circuit in Bainbridge but left for 18 months to work in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. He returned to Bainbridge in 2009. Garrett is single and has no children.

As honored as he is to ascend to the bench, Garrett said he didn’t set out to be a judge.

“When I went to law school, it was just so I could help people,” he said. “I got an even greater opportunity to help people when I worked as a prosecutor. You know, you’re dealing with people going through the worst periods of their lives. I was proud to be a source of strength for them, to give them a chance to know people still cared about them.”

He said his goal is to be “firm but fair.”

“And I will follow the law,” said Garrett. “Everyone deserves their fair day in court. Of course, hopefully, they won’t have to come to court.”

Garrett will be given the oath of office by Deal at the Georgia Capitol.

“I am looking at early next week,” he said. “But no date has been set yet.”

Garrett takes the vacancy left by the recent retirement of Harold Benefield. He joins Chief Judge John Carbo, and judges Morris Braswell, Linda Cowen and Aaron Mason. The State Court is a trial court with limited jurisdiction covering misdemeanor and traffic violations, prosecuted by the Office of the Solicitor General.

The court also hears all civil actions, regardless of the amount, unless the Superior Court has exclusive jurisdiction. The State Court is inside the Harold R. Banke Justice Center in Jonesboro.