Henry County Probate Court to appoint associate judge

By Monro Roark
Times Correspondent

For quite some time Henry County Probate Court has been the sole court in the county with only one judge. That is about to change.

The Henry County Board of Commissioners voted Nov. 3 to approve Probate Judge Kelley Powell’s request for authorization to appoint an associate judge. Powell indicated to the commissioners that Katherine Fagan, currently her staff attorney, would assume that role.

Powell said that Georgia code allows for the creation of an associate judge position with the consent of the county’s governing body, which was the reason for her petition to the Board of Commissioners.

Since she became probate judge a decade ago, Powell said she has essentially been on call around the clock as the court’s only judge.

Henry County’s probate court has jurisdiction over a wide variety of areas that, in some way or another, touch the lives of every single resident.

According to its page on the county website, that includes: “estates; guardianships of incapacitated adults; temporary guardianships of minors; involuntary treatments for drug and alcohol abuse; involuntary commitments; vital records (birth, death and marriage certificates); passports; issuance of handgun permits; and issuance of marriage licenses.”

Georgia law set different requirements for probate judges according to the size of the county. In a county with a population of more than 90,000 the probate judge must be an attorney who has been eligible to practice law in Georgia at least seven years. Henry County has been well above that population threshold since before Powell took office.

Fagan, who Powell said is a native of Henry County and a Stockbridge High School graduate, was to reach the seven-year benchmark the day after Powell addressed the commissioners.

“She is a tremendous asset to the county,” said Powell.

In her new role Fagan will be able to provide opportunities for Powell to be away from the office for training and other things. She will also be able to make emergency decisions, sign emergency orders and perform other official duties when Powell is in court.

There will be a pay increase involved with the move because of Fagan’s additional responsibilities, but Powell said her office has seen some salary savings from retiring employees who were replaced with entry-level positions, so there will be no need to add money to the budget.

“It will serve the county well and it will help me,” Powell said of the move.