It’s easy to forget when we see black people nominated or elected to prominent positions that there are still a lot of areas of the country and positions where these barriers have yet to be broken. This is the kind of context that adds a whole dimension to the recent election of Ronda Colvin-Leary as a Gwinnett County State Court Judge. Notably, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports that she is the first black person to be elected to any countywide position there.
To clear things up, this doesn’t mean that Colvin-Leary is the first black person to hold a seat, which she won in May. In the past, several black judges have been appointed to positions on magistrate, juvenile and recorders courts. However, she is the first person to specifically win an election for state court, potentially making a statement for those who would doubt the viability of black candidates for similar elections in the future.
A lawyer based in Snellville, Colvin-Leary has been a member of the Georgia bar since 2001, after earning a law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law and an undergraduate degree from Auburn University. Prior to the election, she was the city of Winder’s solicitor and also had her own practice for more than 10 years. In her new role, Colvin-Leary and the Gwinnett County State Court handles civil actions, misdemeanors and traffic violations. After her election, she said that she liked taking these type of cases because it gave her the chance to tackle minor legal issues before they had the chance to escalate.
“I love State Court because, for me, I like to think that … if you come to State Court we can try to address it before something else major happens and you wind up in Superior Court for a more serious offense,” Colvin-Leary said.