Howard Z. Simms was sworn in as the Macon Judicial Circuit’s newest Superior Court judge in a ceremony Monday.
Simms said he knew he’d have plenty to learn on the job, and he expected to spend much of Monday signing judicial orders. He told an audience that he planned to listen to other judges and attorneys in the circuit, which is made up of Bibb, Crawford and Peach counties.
Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Dillard administered the oath to Simms, who kept his left hand on a gilt-edged Bible given to him by his parents when he married, said his wife, Dee, who held the Bible.
After the ceremony, Simms began to address the crowd when Chief Superior Court Judge Martha Christian interrupted.
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“Judge Simms, I believe you have to wear the robe,” she said as she approached with the garment.
“I’m sorry. I got off the program. This is new to me,” Simms said. Moments later: “It feels good to put this on.”
Other judges, political figures, law enforcement leaders and attorneys attended the ceremony. The first floor of Courtroom A in the Bibb County Courthouse was standing room only.
Simms took the reins from Lamar Sizemore, who retired after a decade as a judge. Simms’ office Monday remained essentially a blank canvas, with nothing hanging on the walls, nothing but law books on the shelves and a day planner still turned to Dec. 31.
Simms, the circuit’s former district attorney, was elected with more than two-thirds of the vote in a November runoff that settled what began as a three-way race.
He offered Monday’s audience a candid pronouncement: “I will not always get it right.” Instead, he vowed to be educated by lawyers and to follow two goals: “To be fair to all parties and to follow the law.”
Simms credited Lucile Clark of Macon, an old family friend, with keeping him on the right path during his election. Clark said she has no worries about his judgeship.
“One thing about him, he’ll mind you,” Clark said. “He’ll mind what you say. He’ll be a good listener.”
Simms is expected to begin holding hearings Wednesday, and a trial calendar comes Monday.
“We hit the ground running,” he said.
Bibb County Attorney Virgil Adams told the audience that Simms has done well at almost every job he’s tried, including working as a clerk for Adams directly and working in the same district attorney’s office at another time. Adams described the one exception to Simms’ string of successes.
After graduating from college, Simms worked with Channel 41’s gerbil derby, a promotion on the television station that gave a prize to the person with the fastest gerbil. To the sound of a Kentucky Derby-styled “And they’re off!,” a gate released by an unseen staff member sent gerbils scurrying onto a racetrack. But one particular race started minus one gerbil, for a young Simms dropped a gate too soon and the gerbil met an untimely demise, Adams recalled.
Simms said even that act wouldn’t have been a problem, but a videographer zoomed in just after he’d shut the gate.
Dillard, the appeals court judge with ties to Macon, quipped about that before he administered the oath to Simms.
“Like Judge Sizemore, I didn’t expect to give any remarks,” he said. “And after the gerbil story, I think it’s probably best that I don’t.”
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.