As Gwinnett County's first new Superior Court chief judge in 14 years, Melodie Snell Conner doesn't fit the typical judicial mold.
She's the first female leader of the Gwinnett bench, and she broke the county's gender barrier when she was previously appointed to magistrate, state and superior court positions. Her early background is in private practice criminal defense instead of the more common government prosecutor path toward becoming a judge.
She enjoys her job, and she doesn't mind when people say she's wrong.
"If I don't get it right, I have no problem with the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court correcting it because I know whenever I put pen to paper or announce a decision in court, I'm trying my darnedest to do the right thing," Conner said. "If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, and somebody should tell me that."
Her unpretentious attitude will guide her as the public face of the court, a job she starts Jan. 1 after current Chief Judge K. Dawson Jackson retires. Conner was elected chief judge by a vote of the superior court bench, taking over a post Dawson has held since 1999.
Conner, 51, said she expects she'll face challenges as she advocates for the court to the Gwinnett County Commission and seeks to integrate technology across the county's multiple courts, the clerk's office, the district attorney's office, the solicitor general's office and the sheriff's department.
"I'm a glutton for punishment. What can I say?" Conner said. "It wasn't like I had a burning desire to become chief judge, but I like being involved and I care about what I do."
She'll push for upgrades including e-filing, Internet document retrieval for the public and a reduction of paper filings between judges, police, prosecutors and the clerk's officegoals she supported as former chairwoman of the Gwinnett County Integrated Criminal Justice Information System project.
Police should be able to see outstanding warrants and criminal histories from their patrol cars, she said.
She also wants to expand teleconferencing between jail and courtrooms for probation revocation hearings, a system she instituted because the county lacks enough criminal-capable courtrooms. She said she'll try to get three or four more judges on board.