Saturday May 25th, 2024 11:11AM

Kathlene Gosselin, Hall's first woman elected judge, to retire in 2024, become senior judge

Superior Court Chief Judge Kathlene F. Gosselin, the first woman elected to a judgeship in Hall County, will retire in 2024 when her current term expires, bringing to a close nearly four decades on the bench.

Gosselin currently is the chief judge of the Northeastern Judicial Circuit serving Hall and Dawson counties. She was appointed to the Superior Court bench in 1998 by then-Gov. Zell Miller, and she has been re-elected without opposition eight times. She has been chief judge since 2018.

"I am grateful to the people of Hall and Dawson counties for allowing me to serve as judge, alongside many fine judges and staff, for all these years," Gosselin said in a news release this morning.

Her career on the bench began in 1986 when she was elected Hall County State Court judge, become the first woman ever elected to the bench here. The year was a landmark year for women in Hall County. In addition to Gosselin's election, Jane Hemmer became the first woman to be elected to the county commission and Lydia Sartain became the first woman elected solicitor in Hall County.

"It's certainly something that I'm proud that happened and that 1986 was a banner summer of elections for women," she said. "We all won. … It was really exciting to be part of that because I think it broke a barrier for other women, and so that anybody could run, which is important."

Superior Court Judge Jason J. Deal will succeed her as chief judge of the circuit. Gosselin will accept the position of senior judge when she retires.

Deal, in a statement, said the circuit will build on the foundation that Gosselin's decades of hard work and vision established.

"Judge Gosselin has been a personal mentor and a statewide leader for years," Deal said. "Though small in stature, she leaves very large shoes to fill."

She became interested in law after taking a class in college about helping people who didn't have a voice in the criminal justice system.

As a judge, Gosselin has taken a particular interest in the county's successful accountability courts, which allow defendants to avoid jail by completing a rigorous, highly supervised program. She founded the circuit's first mental health court in 2004 and a veteran's accountability court in 2014. She later served as president of the Council of Accountability Court Judges.

"I continued to see when I started as a judge people that cycled in and out of the criminal justice system, because we weren't addressing why they were in the criminal justice system to begin with,' she said in an interview with WDUN. "Soon as they got out of even if you put them in jail, or if they went to prison, just they got out, they were back to the same behaviors."

She said seeing people successfully complete the accountability court regimen allows her a joy her profession rarely offers.

"When you see somebody making changes in their lives, that they didn't think they could do before, and you see their family and their children or their parents or their brother come to a graduation and talk about how they have their family member back, and this person is now maybe got a job or at least is not getting in trouble anymore. And they've learned how to get along with the people around them. That's really inspiring," she said.

Gosselin said the most challenging time on the bench was the 2020 pandemic, which came two years into her tenure as chief judge. The pandemic created a huge backlog of cases for the circuit.

"It was especially challenging for me because my husband died one month before the pandemic started," she said. "We were so lucky here in this circuit that people pulled together so I felt like all the judges and the other elected officials here in the court system really pulled together to do the best we could to figure out how to keep people safe and still do our jobs. … Unfortunately, this is a problem that is going to be with us for years to come. Because the backlog is still there. And we're still chipping away at it, but it is still definitely there."

As she prepares to retire next year, Gosselin also spoke Gainesville, where spent her entire professional career and raised her family.

"Gainesville has been so wonderful to me," she said. "I mean, the opportunity to do this work all these years has just been something I can't imagine doing anything else. I'm really, really grateful for the opportunity. And it was a wonderful place to raise my kids. Both went to Gainesville, high and I felt really like that was a great experience for them."

She has also been president of the Council of State Court Judges and the Council of Superior Court Judges. She's served on numerous statewide committees dealing with improving the state's court system.

Locally, Gosselin is a member of the Gainesville Rotary Club, and she's served on the boards of Gateway Domestic Violence Center, the North Georgia Community Foundation, Teen Pregnancy Prevention and Good News at Noon.

Her position on the Superior Court will be filled during the 2024 election cycle. It is a nonpartisan position.

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  • Associated Tags: retirement, Judge, Hall County , Superior Court, Kathlene Gosselin, Northeast Circuit Courts
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