SAVANNAH - Lisa Godbey Wood begins her career today as the first female judge in the Southern District of Georgia.
"I really want to be thought of as a hard-working and fair judge," she told the Savannah Morning News on Wednesday, her last day as the district's U.S. attorney.
She will be sworn in as Judge Wood in the Brunswick chambers of Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony A. Alaimo. A public investiture has yet to be scheduled.
She will be assigned to Augusta where she succeeds now-Senior U.S. District Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. The U.S. Senate last week approved her June nomination to the lifetime appointment by a 97-0 vote.
"It's really not all bad for a federal judge to have to wait for the nomination process to be completed," she said. "It is the last reminder of how litigants in court must feel waiting for a fair and timely hearing."
Besides, she said, "For me, good things come after a nine-month wait."
Recalling that her last such wait was rewarded with twins, Judge Wood said if her new role is half as blessed as that, "then I really do have the job of a lifetime."
Judge Wood, 44, who left a private practice in Brunswick to take the federal prosecutor's job in July 2004, said she thinks her background has given her a well-rounded training for the challenges she'll face as a judge.
"I have seen the federal court from all sides," she said.
Her experience includes time spent behind the bench as a law clerk, as a prosecutor and as a defense lawyer. She began her legal career with a yearlong clerkship for Judge Alaimo, a term she said she cherishes.
"Judge Alaimo is the person who ignited the passion of excellence that I strive for," she said.
Judge Bowen retired to senior status in June 2006 but remains active on the bench. Still to be filled is the judgeship left vacant when Judge B. Avant Edenfield moved to senior judge status Aug. 2. Those changes left only Chief Judge William T. Moore Jr. in Savannah as the remaining active judge in the district.
The Southern District of Georgia encompasses 43 counties and includes Savannah, Statesboro, Augusta, Brunswick, Waycross, and Dublin.
Judges Alaimo, Bowen and Edenfield join John Nangle as senior judges on the court. Each remains active with court dockets.
Becoming a federal judge has been on her mind "for a handful of years," Judge Wood said, but it has been pretty much in the background with her focus on the U.S. attorney's job and her family.
She said her next challenge is "striking the right balance between respecting honored traditions and moving the district forward in reaching future goals."
"I'm going to listen to my colleagues and learn from them, read everything I can get my hands on and put my full energy and attention into it," Judge Wood said.
Reach Jan Skutch at (912) 652-0336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
LISA GODBEY WOOD
Native: Lexington, Ky.; grew up in Atlanta
Education: University of Georgia, summa cum laude, 1985; University of Georgia law school, summa cum laude, 1990
Experience: Law clerk, U.S. District Judge Anthony A. Alaimo, 1991; private practice with the Brunswick firm of Gilbert, Harrell, Sumerford & Martin, 1991-2004; interim U.S. attorney for the 43-county Southern District of Georgia, July 30, 2004; U.S. attorney, November 2004 to Wednesday; U.S. District judge, as of today
Family: Married to retired FBI agent Richard Wood; twin 5-year-olds