When Neal W. Dickert was approached to run for the position of judge of Superior Court's Augusta Judicial Circuit, he knew the timing was right.
"I think most lawyers at one time or another have an interest in becoming a judge," Dickert said. "I practiced law for 22 years, and I was at a point in my life where I knew that if I was ever going to do anything in the judicial arena, this was the time to do it."
The encouragement of a lawyer friend is what persuaded Dickert to run for the office, even though three other candidates had already begun campaigning.
"It was a tough slot to run for, and it was a tough decision to make," he admitted. "If I didn't offer myself at that time, I wondered if I ever would. So, I left my practice to run for the position."
That was in 1996.
Dickert ran unopposed in the 2000 election for the same position. Now he's one of two Superior Court judges assigned to the Evans Justice Center.
Before becoming a judge, Dickert practiced law at Hull, Towill, Norman and Barrett. He came to the firm fresh out of the University of South Carolina, where he obtained graduate degrees in law and business administration.
His undergraduate years were spent at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., where earned a degree in economics and served as president of the Student Government Association his senior year.
He was also a lieutenant in the Army Medical Service Corps and a former president of the Augusta Bar Association.
It would seem that brains and a sense of civic duty run in the family. Dickert, along with his wife of 33 years, Floride, is very proud of his only son, Neal Dickert Jr., who is pursuing a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.
Dickert puts his education and sense of justice to good use, mostly presiding over domestic cases, such as divorces and child support, in Columbia, Burke and Richmond counties. But he says he has presided over all manner of cases.
"We are the trial court for the state of Georgia," he said. "Essentially, we hear every kind of jury matter there is. I guess you could say that we are a court of general jurisdiction."
As for his role in the Columbia County Courthouse dedication ceremony, Dickert says he is very pleased with the new building and is looking forward to hearing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
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