“Twelve years ago, almost exactly to the day, I made my first trip to Bartow County, a place I had never heard of — ever, and came out of law school, just taking the bar, hoping I had passed the bar the first time, hoping that somebody would be crazy enough to hire me and give me an opportunity and the crazy person was Chris Stahl,” Averett said in her address to the congregation. “When I started law school, I knew I wanted to work with children and families. I did not know what that would entail or how that would play out, but I went into law school knowing that. And, as a low associate, I got kicked out to come to juvenile court, and kind of the rest is history.”
Averett, who replaces departing Associate Judge Shane Haney, was appointed by Juvenile Court Judge Velma Tilley.
“She’ll be a wonderful judge. She is a child welfare law specialist and so this is what she has chosen to do,” Tilley said after swearing in Averett. “... I feel like she is the best qualified person to be an associate juvenile court judge and potentially the next juvenile court judge.”
While being a judge was not in her plans, Averett said child advocacy has become her “niche.”
“As I began my practice of law and started working in juvenile court, I fell in love with working with these kids and their families, which led into me doing guardian work and really just truly focusing on child advocacy which has become my love and my passion and has led to this opportunity,” she said.
A native of Florida and graduate of Georgia State University College of Law, Averett said the Bartow County legal community has grown to become a family of sorts.
“What I have loved about being in Bartow County, our legal community has been the most gracious educators that I’ve had in my career. ... People are always ready to give advice, always ready to offer their opinion about a difficult case, always ready to pass on a template to help you do something,” she said. “... Most of all, in our legal community, we have all had conversations and we have roles to perform, we have to advocate for positions, we have clients that sometimes have positions that we do not agree with but you do that anyway, our judges have to make decisions that are sometimes for us and sometimes against us and that’s all OK because, at the end of the day, I’m still Jamie, I’m still a wife, I’m still a mother, I’m still a friend and everybody here respects that. I appreciate that so much that we are more than just lawyers — we are people and our legal community has embraced that.”
Remarking on her illness while pregnant with her daughter, Averett shared the tale of Bartow County Superior Court Judge Carey Nelson making both attorneys remain seated to compensate for her sickness.
“He set the tone of a courtroom that [the opposing counsel] was not going to be in a different position than I was for no other reason than I was sick,” she said. “If you travel outside Bartow County to practice law, that does not happen every day. That is a thing that I am so overwhelmed and blessed with in this community, is that we actually do like each other most days, and love each other and care about each other, and that is something that words cannot express how much means to me.”
Remarking on the reputation of Bartow County Juvenile Court and Tilley’s guidance, Averett said she hopes to continue the work of the judicial circuit.
“It certainly is going to be my intent to try to continue that reputation of excellency and to have that expectation of the attorneys that come here, the service providers that come here to give the best that we have to our kids and families,” she said. “I’m excited about working with our kids. I’m excited about trying to figure out resources and things that we can do to continue to make this an even better court, but most of all, I’m excited that I am getting to do that in a community that just has completely embraced me and has embraced my family.”