Jim Blanchard Jr. hasn't ordered his robe yet, hasn't looked at his new office or the chambers where he will be serving as the newest Superior Court judge for the Augusta Judicial Circuit.
He doesn't want to jinx it.
"One of the judges asked me to go over and look at my office, go over and look at the courtroom where I would be presiding, but for superstitious reasons, I haven't done anything yet," Blanchard said recently. "I wanted to make sure it was complete before I took any action."
On Wednesday, it became official.
The Columbia County attorney was sworn in at a 1 p.m. ceremony in Governor Roy Barnes office in Atlanta.
Blanchard was one of five nominees for the circuit's eighth judgeship, a position the General Assembly created this year.
"I feel blessed to have represented a wide array of clients where their lives, fortunes and very emotional matters were at stake, particularly in the field of family law," Blanchard said. "I've tried many personal injury cases throughout the years and represented individuals accused of crimes. I understand the perspective from both sides and feel I can be fair."
Barnes announced the appointment Dec. 31. Blanchard, 59, of Martinez, is a partner in the Augusta law firm of Fleming, Blanchard, Jackson, Ingram & Floyd. He will be phasing out his personal law practice.
When he takes the bench, there will be many positions to fill throughout Columbia County. Blanchard, who has practiced law for 33 years, has served as Grovetown's city attorney for the past 26 years. Since 1988 he has served as Columbia County school board attorney, and since 1980 he has served as Columbia County's juvenile court judge.
Blanchard said he had periodically thought about becoming a judge and decided to put his name in the selection process last spring. Making that decision was one he didn't take lightly.
"I ask the Lord to give me direction in making decisions that will affect people's lives," Blanchard said, "and I ask for the prayers of the general public that I will make the proper decisions in these cases."
The 1968 Cumberland Law School graduate is married to Rebecca Vernon Blanchard and they have three children.
The Augusta Judicial Circuit, made up of Burke, Columbia and Richmond counties, is one of four that the state Judicial Council targeted for additional judgeships because of increased workload. The seven-member bench will expand to eight with the appointment, and the new judge will handle domestic and civil cases.
Blanchard's appointment will run through the end of 2002. The election for the first four-year term will be in November.
Blanchard, who has served as Columbia County Commission Chairman, is no stranger to the election process.
His mother Mary June Polatty Blanchard was a school teacher and taught second grade for 20 years. His father James G. Blanchard Sr. was chairman of the Columbia County commission for about 13 years and died in office. Jim Blanchard Jr. ran for office after his father passed away and served as county commission chairman for three years, while continuing to work part-time in his law practice.
"My parents always taught me if you study hard and work hard, you are only limited by your imagination," Blanchard said.
Name: James "Jim" Blanchard Jr.
Family: Wife Rebecca; three children, James Blanchard III, 35, Rebecca Phelan, 34, and Lilli Giles, 28; and four grandchildren.
Education: 1960 graduate of Evans High School;attended Augusta College and Georgia Southern University;graduated in 1965 from Georgia College with a bachelor's degree in history and political science; graduated from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., in 1968.
Work History: After graduating, he began working with the law firm now known as Fleming, Blanchard, Jackson, Ingram & Floyd; has been the }City of Grovetown's attorney for the past 26 years; he has served as Columbia County school board attorney since 1988; and has served as judge of juvenile court of Columbia County since 1980; he is past president of the Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
Things you may not know: Blanchard played piano and saxophone as a child, but traded his musical career to be a high school football player. When the reality sinks in, he will order his new robe from a catalog that all judges receive in the mail.
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