Recent News

Date: September 7, 2021

Circuit recently featured on a special addition of the J’s Place Podcast

The Northeastern Judicial Circuit (NEJC) was recently featured on a special addition of the J’s Place Podcast. J’s Place is a recovery center staffed by and created for those suffering from substance use disorder. The mission of J’s Place is “to help ensure the success of people with substance use disorders by connecting them to local resources, addressing unmet community needs and providing a voice for those in recovery.” The locally grown and operated recovery center plays a big part in the lives of individuals who have been sentenced to a term in one or more of the circuit’s Accountability Courts. During this podcast, Jordan Hussey, the center’s executive director talks with Superior Court Judge and Drug Court Leader, Jason J. Deal as well as the circuit’s Accountability Services Director, Jessi Emmett. During the interview Judge Deal commented, “everyone has a failing and my faith tells us we’re supposed to help people who are struggling.” J’s place does exactly that. Follow the link below to learn more about how J’s Place and the NEJC work together to help those in recovery.

Date: August 25, 2021

Two Longtime Staff Members Retire

The Northeastern Judicial Circuit said goodbye to two longtime members of its staff during the months of July and August, Ms. Melva Mendoza and Ms. Shelba Merritt. While the circuit and its judges are saddened to see these wonderful women leave, they are excited for them and all that their next adventures will bring.

Ms. Medonza leaves the circuit after 24 years of dedicated and skillful service as Director of Interpretive Services. “Her time here was a work of love and we are profoundly grateful for her pioneering leadership in establishing the Interpretive Services office,” said Court Administrator, Jason Stephenson.

Ms. Merritt retired the end August, rounding out her nearly 40 year career in Georgia’s justice system. She leaves after having served 16 of those years with the circuit; the lasts five of them as the department’s director. Brad Williams, Pretrial’s new leadership said, “Shelba is an amazing leader and our whole office feels very fortunate to have worked with her. She developed many of the processes for our department, set a remarkable example for professionalism in the workplace, and truly cared for her staff. She will be missed.”

The judges also wish to congratulate Mr. Brad Williams in being selected as Ms. Merritt’s replacement. Superior Court Judge Clint G. Bearden remarked, “It’s hard to replace someone of the caliber of Shelba, but in Brad our Courts believe we have the right person to step in and continue that strong leadership of our Pretrial Services Department on day one. His experience, education and love of his local community in Hall & Dawson Counties is a combination that we believe will serve our judicial circuit very well for many years to come.”

Date: August 10, 2021

Riverside Military Academy visits Hall County Courthouse

On Friday, July 30, 2021, Major Brandon Knox and thirty (30) young men deriving out of Riverside Military Academy met with Judge Deal for an excellent opportunity to learn the key traits of a profound leader. Judge Deal presented the following points to aid in leadership progression:

  1. Make sure you’re right, then push ahead.
  2. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re wrong. If you are wrong, stop and modify your plan.
  3. Never stop learning.
  4. Surround yourself with good people and let them do their job.

The visitation of Hall County Courthouse offered a great contribution to the Summer Leadership Academy program. Judge Deal ended the session with a striking quote from Ronald Reagan; “I don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, I just need to have the smartest people working for me.” The boys had a superb time learning the ‘ins and outs’ of Judge Deal’s courtroom and hope to return in the future!

Date: July 7, 2021

Accountability Courts
20th Anniversary

The Northeastern Judicial Circuit celebrated milestone anniversaries for several of their accountability court programs on July 2, 2021. Hall County Drug Court, the circuit's first accountability court, marked 20 years in operation while Dawson County Treatment Court and Hall County Family Treatment Court celebrated 15 years and Hall County Parental Accountability Court celebrated 10 years. The joint celebration event brought together founding and current team members, program graduates, and community partners. Senator Butch Miller opened the ceremony by presenting the courts with official proclamations outlining numerous accomplishments over the past two decades. Senior Judge John Girardeau who founded Hall County Drug Court in 2001 reflected on the progressive approach to criminal justice reform and treatment that the circuit has prescribed to since the initial vision to start the programs twenty years ago. Senior Judge Cliff Jolliff who first presided over Hall County Family Treatment Court also spoke about the groundbreaking work of these programs and the immense effect they have on the community. Current presiding judges of the circuit's programs, Hon. Kathlene F. Gosselin, Bonnie C. Oliver, Jason J. Deal, Clint G. Bearden, and Alison Toller, also spoke during the ceremony and shared their passion for this work. Guests at the event viewed a short promotional video outlining the origins of the programs and the many successes including a significant economic impact to local tax payers of approximately $55 million and testimonials from program graduates. "The mission of our programs is to disrupt the cycle of criminal offenses whose origins are rooted in substance use or mental health issues. We strive to assist individuals in solving these issues and building productive and fulfilling lives while maintaining personal responsibility and providing a cost-savings to our local communities. From the judges, attorneys, law enforcement, to the treatment staff, it is as honor to work alongside some of the greatest professionals in our fields who all share a passion for making a positive difference" says Treatment Services Director, Jessi Emmett. These programs along with the H.E.L.P. Programs and DUI Court collectively serve between 450-500 participants and fall under the umbrella agency, Treatment Services. Each program offers individual and group therapy, continuous drug testing and judicial oversight with the goal of bringing about a behavioral change that reduces criminal recidivism and provide the tools and resources necessary to address substance abuse and mental health issues. The accountability courts of the Northeastern Judicial Circuit continue to lead the state and serve as role models to other accountability court programs.

Please see the following article, Northeastern Judicial Circuit Celebrates Accountability Court Anniversaries, from the Georgia Courts Journal.

Date: April 2, 2021

Two recent articles in the Georgia Courts Journal

Celebrating Women’s History Month 2021
March 1, 2021, Georgia Courts Journal

Shots in Arms: Collaboration Between Courts, Communities, and Providers are Getting it Done.
March 30, 2021, Georgia Courts Journal