Undergirding these ambitions is a common sense approach to her job. When Conner oversees cases in court, she combines humility and small-town common sense, said criminal defense lawyer Christine Koehler of Koehler & Riddick.
"She has the absolute worst poker face in history. When someone says something that makes no sense on the witness stand, she's the first one to show it," Koehler said. "She's willing to make very difficult and often unpopular decisions, whether it's throwing out a conviction or reversing a prior decision. Those aren't things that a judge wants to do, but when it's the right thing to do, she's known for making those tough calls."
That doesn't mean Conner isn't hard on criminals; rather, it means Conner gives everyone a fair hearing, Koehler said.
Conner said she prefers criminal cases over civil litigation and domestic disputes, and she reads up on advance sheets of recent decisions from appellate courts.
"I hope that I'm known as a judge who's fair and who's honest and who's intelligent and who strives to do the right thing," Conner said. "I don't do things out of spite or try to second-guess somebody or inflict my own will on how things should be."
Conner, a member of the Snell family that founded Snellville, was the first person in her immediate family to become a lawyer, and her parents didn't attend college. She hated her first year of law school at the University of Georgia, but she didn't want to quit.
She worked in private practice until 1991, when Gwinnett was growing quickly and needed more judges. There were nine judicial appointments made that summer, and all of them went to white men on a bench that was already made up entirely of white men.
"I don't think anyone was actively discriminating or was prejudiced. They were just choosing the people they knew," Conner said.
A group of female lawyers got together for lunch to decide what they could do about it, and several women said they would back her if she sought one of two newly created magistrate positions, she said.
Governor Zell Miller appointed her and Valerie Elbaz Head the next year following interviews with the Judicial Nomination Commission, and he tapped her to serve on state court the next year and superior court in 1998.