Eight years ago, I did not know Troup County Solicitor General Markette Baker. One day, after agreeing to represent a client in Troup State Court, where she was the chief prosecutor, we met through email. My client was accused of an act of family violence. There were evidence problems on both sides.
So, I sent Mrs. Baker an email requesting a dismissal.
Well, that did not go over very well. Instead of dismissing the case, Mrs. Baker responded with a detailed, stern, and no-nonsense email. I was admittedly a little taken aback. Wow, she is going to be a challenging adversary. As it turned out, we worked the case out in a way that both sides were very satisfied.
But I learned some things about her during our first encounter; she was a tough, but fair, prosecutor. She defined the legal description of the role of a prosecutor in Georgia: to seek justice.
In 2018, I would get to know her much better. The Coweta Judicial Circuit consists of five counties (Carroll, Coweta, Troup, Heard and Meriwether.) I serve as one of the two members from our circuit representing our attorneys and the public to the State Bar of Georgia. My longtime mentor, Gerry Word, was the other one.
After many years of service, he decided to retire. He was kind enough to wait until we could serve together for one year.
Mrs. Baker entered into a three-person race to replace Gerry. Just like her prior contested elections, she handily won.
From that point forward, I have gotten to know her as a person, attorney, teammate, and now a superior court judge.
In May 2019, she won the approval of Governor Brian Kemp. Markette Baker was appointed as the first female superior court judge in the history of the Coweta Judicial Circuit.
I can say without reservation that the people within the Coweta Circuit and surrounding counties have, and will continue to have, a highly qualified judge serving the public.
Why? These are just some of my personal observations:
- Judge Baker has practiced both civil and criminal law with a high level of integrity and competence;
- Judges are servants of the community. She has a strong desire to be a servant, rather than just possess power; and
- She has character. She is unafraid to make unpopular decisions if she believes the decision is the right thing to do.
Perhaps the most important aspect of her character is her judicial philosophy. Like Chief Supreme Court of the United States Justice John Roberts, she views her role as that of an umpire in a baseball game. She calls balls and strikes. She does not believe in judicial activism.
When I asked her about what she considered important regarding individual cases, she was quick to answer that every person involved must be heard.
As a former prosecutor, she knows the importance of defendants being able to testify, alleged victims speaking out, witness testimony, and other relevant people voicing their concerns about a case.
Superior court judges are tasked with making decisions that result in life sentences, death sentences (to some degree), parental rights being terminated, the level of well being of children of divorce, multi-million dollar verdicts, and more. I have asked almost every judge I know how they can sleep at night without second guessing their decisions.
Judge Baker’s response was simple. “Jason, I may not make a decision that day. In order to make a ruling that I believe is just, I will take the time necessary to be certain that my decision was made to the absolute best of my ability.”
That is one of the best responses I have ever heard to that question.
I look forward to seeing Judge Baker serve our community for many years to come.
Jason Swindle is a criminal defense attorney and serves the Coweta Judicial Circuit on the Board of Governors for the State Bar of Georgia.