Judges appoint new chief magistrate

JONESBORO — A month after Chief Magistrate Judge Daphne Walker left office in mid-term to take a position with a nonprofit organization, a replacement has been tentatively appointed to start Monday.

Clayton County Court Administrator Matt Sorensen said Wanda Dallas of Riverdale will serve out the remainder of the four-year term, which ends Dec. 31, 2016. If she wants to hang on to the post, Dallas will have to run for election.

Sorensen said when a chief magistrate leaves in mid-term, Superior Court judges appoint the replacement. In Clayton County, there are four — Chief Judge Deborah Benefield and judges Matthew Simmons, Albert Collier and Geronda Carter.

Dallas was one of 15 applicants, which were narrowed to five. Those five went through an interview process with the judges.

“Of those five, Wanda Dallas was determined to be best suited to the county,” Sorensen said.

The appointment is tentative, he said, based on the approval of paperwork submitted to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. Once the approval is official, Dallas will be sworn in by Clayton County Probate Judge Pam Ferguson.

Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosley knows Dallas and said she looks forward to working with her.

“She is a great woman,” Mosley said. “Wanda is well-respected in the legal community.”

Dallas got her undergraduate degree in communications and journalism from Georgia State University and her law degree from University of Tulsa Law School. She was admitted to the Georgia bar in 1994.

Her background includes senior assistant district attorney in Fulton County, chief judge in Riverdale Municipal Court, adjunct professor, associate Fulton County Juvenile Court judge, staff attorney in Fulton County and was labor relations manager in the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office at the time of her appointment.

Dallas is also a volunteer in her community and church. Her interests include Rotary Club, Boys and Girls Club, Destiny Family Services and Children’s Ministry leader at Word of Faith Family Worship Center.

It was Walker’s interest in community service that lured her away from the position she’s held since Jan. 1, 2005. Walker was elected the county’s first black female chief magistrate and was re-elected twice without opposition, most recently last year. Prior to that, she was the first black assistant district attorney in the Houston Judicial Circuit.

Walker just began her third term in Clayton County when she was offered a position of president and CEO of the largest nonprofit domestic violence organization in Georgia. Walker is known in metro Atlanta for championing the rights of women and children.

Walker took on the position as leader of Partnership Against Domestic Violence Sept. 9.