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Judge to lead council
Probate group faces challenges
Forsyth County Probate Judge Lynwood D. “Woody” Jordan Jr. hugs outgoing president, Barrow County Probate Judge Tammy Brown, during the annual Council of Probate Court Judges of Georgia banquet Wednesday. - photo by Jennifer Sami
ATHENS — Georgia has 159 counties, each of which has a probate judge.

For the next year, though, 158 of those judges will turn to Forsyth County Probate Judge Lynwood D. “Woody” Jordan Jr. to lead them through what’s expected to be another bumpy year.

Jordan’s name was added Wednesday night to the list of about two dozen judges who have served as president of the Council of Probate Court Judges.

The baton was passed at the University of Georgia, during the council’s annual banquet and awards ceremony, part of its spring conference.

“It’s an honor that all these probate judges ... chose me to lead them for a year,” Jordan said after the event.

“I never thought I’d get a chance to do something like this. And for them to put their trust in me to represent them before the legislature, the judicial council and the governor, it’s humbling.”

Jordan’s wife Susan, daughters Jessica Freeman and Elisabeth Westbrook, son-in-law Slade Westbrook and their four children, Mallory, Madelyn, Lillian and Charlie, attended the event.

Elisabeth Westbrook said she was “so excited,” for her father.

“For years he practiced different types of law, and when he really began to focus on probate, we could just tell he had found something that he loved,” she said. “Now I don’t think he’s ever been happier at his job ... he loves what he does.”

The banquet featured keynote speaker, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein, who also swore in the new officers.

“Our state’s probate judges are dedicated and caring people who serve their communities well,” she said. “Yet today the state of Georgia’s judiciary stands at a crossroad. It is becoming increasingly difficult to do our constitutionally mandated duties.

“In 2009 the judicial branch received less than eight-tenths of 1 percent of total state appropriations. We can’t afford in Georgia to lose the rule of law.”

Hunstein, along with outgoing council president and Barrow County Probate Judge Tammy Brown and Jordan, recommended a united front for appealing to their local legislative delegates.

“Collectively, we stand unified as a family and when one hurts, we all hurt,” said Brown, who was honored with 2009 Outstanding Probate Judge Award.

Jordan told his fellow probate judges, that as the only constitutional judicial officer required to live in the county they serve, “you know your local needs.”

“You have knowledge of your local state House representatives and that makes a big difference,” he said.

“I don’t want you to ever forget what a wonderful group of judges you are, what individual contributions you make in your counties and what statewide power you can muster with individual one-on-one conversations.”

Following the banquet, Jordan said his top priority is to strengthen the council. In addition to funding issues, Jordan said there are other problems the group will address.

In his service, Jordan said he expects to bring more expertise to Forsyth County.

“When you’re around people like this, you absorb so much knowledge,” he said. “You come into contact with so many different ways of doing things and so many innovative ideas, that it helps you run your own court so much better.”