Judges celebrate, share a laugh at new court building

Robert Rodatus and Stan Jones were part of the first trial at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center when it opened in 1988.

So the friends, now judges, couldn't help but make a few jokes last week when they opened their second courthouse together, the county's new Gwinnett County Court Annex, which houses Recorder's and Juvenile Court on Stone Mountain Street.

The men even re-enacted a photo taken by the Gwinnett Daily News during the justice center trial, when Jones was county solicitor and Rodatus was a Magistrate Court judge.

"I think that's the same bowtie," Recorder's Court Chief Judge Jones joked after the ceremony, referring to Rodatus's signature neckwear.

"Knowing how cheap you are, I wouldn't be surprised if you had on the same suit" as the photo, Rodatus, now chief Juvenile Court judge, joked back.

During the ceremony, Jones shared the history of courthouses in the county, starting in Elisha Winn's parlor 187 years ago and then moving to Winn's barn.

So, when Rodatus followed him up, he couldn't help but trade a barb.

"If he (Jones) was in charge of building a courthouse, he's so tight we'd probably still be in a barn," Rodatus said.

Seriously, though, both men were excited to finally have enough room for every judge to have a courtroom and a more comfortable environment for the citizens and the children they serve.

"Don't you just love the new courthouse smell?" Rodatus said.

It's better than a barn.

Another kind

of military leave

Gov. Sonny Perdue is trusting Georgia school systems to voluntarily allow teachers with military spouses deployed overseas paid time off to be with them while they're on leave.

But the General Assembly is poised to force school districts to give excused absences to students whose mothers or fathers are in the service.

The House unanimously passed legislation last week sponsored by Rep. Mike Coan, R-Lawrenceville, providing excused absences of up to five days per year to let students spend time with a parent either before they leave for active duty overseas or while they're on furlough.

"We tried to take care of this at the school board level with no luck,'' Coan said.

On the other hand, Perdue is asking school administrators to set up personal leave banks for teachers with military spouses, just as school systems do now to allow teachers to have extra paid time off when they're sick.

"It would be a meaningful way we could show honor to them and their spouses,'' he said Friday during a telephone conference call with school superintendents from across the state.

After the call, the governor said he believes school districts will step up voluntarily without being forced to by law.

"I'm trusting that all our systems will do this in their own way without having to deal with legislation,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Coan's bill is on its way to the Senate.

Staff Writer Dave Williams contributed to this report.

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Camie Young can be reached via e-mail at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.