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Gwinnett Magistrate Court gains two part-time judges

LAWRENCEVILLE - Two local attorneys have been appointed to serve in Gwinnett Magistrate Court, and one of the new magistrates will be the only black judge in the county.

Phyllis Russell of Duluth and Michael D. Thorpe of Atlanta were appointed by Chief Magistrate Warren Davis and Superior Court judges.

Russell, an attorney in private practice who has taught criminal justice at Kennesaw State University, is the second black to be appointed in the Gwinnett Judicial Circuit. The previous black judge was appointed in the 1990s.

Thorpe, who practices law with an Atlanta firm, is a former DeKalb County senior assistant district attorney.

Russell and Thorpe, who will serve part-time, have volunteered to work the difficult "all-night" shifts, Friday and Saturday nights, at the Gwinnett Detention Center, Davis said in a statement.

"As the Gwinnett Magistrate Court is open around the clock, we have encouraged them to get used to really strong coffee," he said.

In 2009, the court will seek more full-time judges to consistently work the difficult weekend shifts. Until that change is approved and funded, part-time judges are relied upon to serve that vital function, Davis said.