Western Judicial Circuit, which serve Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties,
will retire from active service effective July 31, according to a news
release from the Athens-Clarke County government.
Gov. Nathan Deal will appoint someone to serve for the
remainder of Sweat’s current elected term, which expires on Dec. 31 of
Sweat intends to take Superior Court senior judge
status, where he will continue to assist in the Western Judicial Circuit
and other circuits around the state. He also will conduct private
mediations, judicial settlement conferences and arbitrations.
Sweat was elected in 2002 to the open seat on the
Superior Court bench created when the late Judge Joseph J. Gaines
retired. Before taking the bench, Judge Sweat practiced law in Athens
for 23 years. He won re-election three times.
In his first campaign for the Superior Court office,
Judge Sweat noted that the work of the courts has effects far beyond the
courthouse steps.“During my 14-plus years in
office, I have worked to create court programs and processes that will
improve the lives of people in our community,” Judge Sweat stated in
announcing his retirement, as quoted in the county news release. “I am
very proud of what our courts have accomplished while I have been in
In 2008, Sweat created a Treatment and Accountability
Court, over which he has presided in addition to his regular Superior
Court case docket. The Treatment and Accountability Court ensures that
offenders with serious mental illness, often with concurrent substance
abuse disorders, take responsibility for their criminal conduct.
Participants must comply with a comprehensive long-term treatment plan
while working daily to maintain sobriety and understand and improve
their mental health. The close supervision of Treatment and
Accountability Court has created opportunities for 275 individuals to
break a routine of regular jail stays and use effective tools that
promote stable and crime-free lives.
Sweat became the circuit’s chief judge on Jan. 1, 2013,
and under his leadership, the courts have made substantial advances in
establishing productive alternatives to incarceration, strengthening
community supervision of offenders, and using technology to improve the
court process for all users, according to the county news release.
In 2014, Sweat initiated the process for adding a fourth
Superior Court judgeship to the Western Judicial Circuitt to relieve
pressure brought on by a growing caseload of serious felonies and other
cases. The next year, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation
creating that fourth judgeship.
During his tenure, Judge Sweat has encouraged and
supported the work of other judges to establish or expand four other
accountability courts in the Western Circuit, including Felony Drug
Court, Veterans Court, DUI/Drug Court, and Family Treatment Court. In
2016, he convened a Justice and Mental Health Collaboration made up of
local criminal justice leaders, medical care providers, and mental
health treatment providers. That collaboration has received grant funds
to begin coordinating services to divert individuals in mental health or
substance abuse crisis to appropriate treatment rather than
Sweat worked with other judges to create the
Accountability Courts Foundation of Athens-Clarke County, a designated
fund of the Athens Area Community Foundation.
As chief judge, Sweat chaired the Law Library Board that
renovated the Athens-Clarke County Courthouse Law Library and developed
the library’s Self-Help Center, a resource where self-represented
litigants can turn for assistance, information, and court filing
At the state level, Sweat served on the Council of
Superior Court Judges’ Uniform Rules and Accountability Courts
Committees. In 2013, he became chair of the Uniform Rules Committee. As
chair of the committee, Judge Sweat led the development of procedural
rules and forms for the Superior Courts across the state. In 2015,
Governor Nathan Deal appointed Judge Sweat to the Georgia Commission on
“I give much of the credit for the accomplishments
during my tenure to the work and support of my court staff,” Sweat said
in the county news release. “Donna Stevens has served as my senior staff
attorney, Sophia Smith has served as my judicial assistant, and Jim
Meyer and Charlene Vinson Satterfield have served as my court reporters.
And I recognize the hard work of my courtroom bailiffs in both
counties, who always kept court proceedings running smoothly. I also
greatly appreciate the many years of support and patience from my wife,
former Athens-Clarke County Municipal Court Judge Kay Giese.”
Chief Superior Court Judge David Sweat announces retirement