Originally created 03/23/06

Judge follows path of family



Susan D. Barrett took the oath of a federal judge Wednesday in the courtroom where her great-grandfather once presided.

Family, friends and colleagues packed the U.S. District Courtroom for Judge Barrett's investiture ceremony. She is the first female judge to serve in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Georgia. She will preside over bankruptcy court cases, the first new bankruptcy court judge in 13 years.

"This is the greatest day in your judicial career," U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. said before turning solemn.

In front of a crowd composed of judicial and political heavyweights and members of some of Augusta's oldest and most privileged families, Judge Bowen urged Judge Barrett to remember that she will serve on a court that is often the last resort for those seeking relief from "the oppression of debt."

Chief Judge J.L. Edmondson of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, whose court appointed Judge Barrett to her 14-year term, called a federal judgeship a calling to public service.

"Let there be no doubt, she took a cut in pay," Judge Edmondson said. "The principal reason is this: They (federal judges) have come to serve the country they love."

In introducing Judge Barrett, Patrick Rice spoke of his former partner as an accomplished attorney who represented her firm's largest corporate clients and a generous and modest human being who never missed a Wednesday dinner with her small nephews and niece.

Mr. Rice urged Judge Barrett, as a fourth-generation lawyer in the Barrett family, to follow in the steps of her great-grandfather William Hale Barrett, who was Augusta's first federal judge. He served from 1922 until his death in 1941.

In an article in The Augusta Chronicle after his death, he was venerated for his leadership after the city's devastating March 22, 1916, fire. He ensured that everyone received some relief before attending to his own loss, Mr. Rice noted.

Taking a lesson from her father, Hale Barrett, who helped her don her first robe Tuesday, Judge Barrett said she will remember the words of his first courtroom opponent: "Character and brains are not necessarily hereditary."

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Lamar W. Davis Jr. estimated that Judge Barrett will have 150 people in court today.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.

Susan D. Barrett



The U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge most recently was a partner in one of the city's largest firms, Hull, Towill, Norman, Barrett & Salley. The 11th U.S. Court of Appeals judges selected her for the new judicial position created by Congress last year.