Courtroom connection: Swearing in ceremony reunites judge with new lawyer
Love and respect for the law led to a full-circle moment in the courtroom of State Court Judge Jason Thompson. Nearly a decade after Judge Thompson visited Fayette County High to talk to students about the law, one of those very same Tigers was in his courtroom to be sworn in as a lawyer.
Victoria Ward, a 2014 graduate of FCHS, was in AP Government class for Thompson’s visit back in October 2013, and she was in his courtroom recently to be sworn in as a lawyer. She even brought with her a newspaper clipping saved by her mother that commemorated the classroom visit.
“When Judge Thompson came, I remember thinking how cool it was that someone from FCHS had become a judge and was willing to come back and speak with students,” said Ward. “I remember his passion for upholding justice, and it did plant a seed in my mind to pursue a career in the legal field.”
She always enjoyed history and politics, but she started undergrad studying business administration. She realized quickly it wasn’t in her heart, so her dad, Bennett’s Mill Middle Principal JP Ward, planned a trip to Washington, DC to help her find her passion.
“It was when we visited the Supreme Court and I saw the exhibit on the four women Justices I decided I wanted to pursue a law career,” she remembered. “I decided I wanted a career where I could help others navigate the law, especially since the law impacts all of us.”
That night they looked up the steps to getting into law school. It was daunting, but her family encouraged her to take it one step at a time. She completed undergrad in December 2017, and she worked full-time while in Georgia State University’s law program.
She called graduating law school a monumental time in her life, but the journey didn’t feel “complete” until she took and passed the Georgia Bar Exam.
“When Judge Thompson swore me in, I finally could feel I had accomplished something big,” she said. “Judge Thompson made the moment special and encouraged me now it's time to do the good work. I will always keep the mantra of ‘do the good work’ in mind during the rest of my legal career.”
She now does worker’s compensation law.
“I enjoy the fast-paced environment of workers' compensation law.”
Growing up in Fayetteville, Thompson was inspired by his best friend’s dad who was a lawyer.
“He was the one person that people turned to when no one else could help them. Whether it was a criminal matter, a property issue, or any issue where they could not get an answer, they all turned to him,” said Thompson. “I wanted to be that person that could help when no one else could.”
He went to Fayette County Public Schools all the way through, from Hood Avenue Elementary and East Fayette Elementary to Fayette County Junior High and Fayette County High School, so he always relishes the opportunity to give back. Along with internship programs, he visits as many students as possible to be a positive role model in the judicial system.
“There were no opportunities to visit court when I was in school. When I took over as State Court Judge, one of the first relationships I formed was with the school system,” he said. “I want our community to develop trust in our local elected officials. To me, that can start when I visit the schools to talk about my job, the legal system, and how it impacts the community.”
Thompson currently has three kids in the school system, too.
“I want them, and their peers, to have access to every possible occupation so that they can learn more about that possible career.”
The courtroom reunion was a perfect reminder of how many lives you can touch when you care.
“Sometimes life comes full circle. That moment happened for me,” said Thompson. “When I look back at some of the great things that I have been a part of in my time as State Court Judge, this is near the top of the list. I am extremely proud of Victoria, and I am looking forward to following her legal career.”
Not long after the ceremony, Judge Thompson was back at FCHS speaking to another class.
“You know what I was doing when I spoke to the class?” he asked. “Looking for the next Victoria that I could swear in as a lawyer in the future!”