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Judge Phinia Aten

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Judge Phinia Aten is the Chief Judge of the Magistrate Court of Rockdale County.  Her election as jurist in 2012, was a natural progression for the veteran trial attorney with over 14 years of experience, primarily in the areas of criminal and family law, and distinguished record of community leadership and involvement.  Judge Aten holds the honor of being the first African-American female judge in Rockdale County’s history.  In 2013, she created an innovative pro se litigant assistance program, the Smart Justice Seminar Series, designed to promote public confidence in, and awareness of, our judicial system.  The Smart Justice Seminar Series is a quarterly-produced, free and public forum that provides general procedural information about the Magistrate Court’s jurisdictional matters.  To-date, the Series has covered elder abuse and exploitation, abandoned motor vehicle lien foreclosures and two seminars on residential landlord-tenant disputes.  In addition, an hour-length interactive play, “the Case of the Dog Owner Who Never Learned,” developed last spring under Judge Aten’s direction, is frequently utilized by the Court as a powerful teaching tool for the local youth groups who visit the Court.  The play has 10 performance roles for the children to assume and learn about legal careers and trial decorum and procedure.  Judge Aten serves on the Executive Committee of the Council of Magistrate Judges as a District Four Representative and through her collaborative work on a pro se litigant assistance project for the Council, a state-wide, free online service to complete an interview, generate the applicable forms and electronically file court forms, via a web-based portal, has been established.  The service is known as the Magistrate Courts Free Forms Generator and affords Georgia’s 159 magistrate courts with the opportunity to offer in-house access to a guided filing process, expanding access to justice across the state for unrepresented litigants.
During the last decade, Judge Aten garnered scores of headlines and media interviews as lead counsel in several high-visibility cases.  From 2004-2012, Judge Aten chaired the Continuing Legal Education at Sea Program for the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys (GABWA), organizing professional legal conferences in a host of countries including Haiti, Belize, Egypt and Brazil.  In addition, she is a former adjunct professor of Herzing University’s Atlanta campus where she taught business law, critical thinking, speech and career development.  As a result of her trial skills, legal scholarship and engaged style, Judge Aten is a frequent guest speaker and lecturer on litigation techniques, substantive legal topics and inspirational matters.
Judge Aten is the recipient of numerous honors, including Outstanding Citizen Recognition by the Georgia Secretary of State, 2012 Top Lawyer Recognition by On Common Ground Newspaper, the 2011 Outstanding Community Service Award from the Conyers Art Conservatory, the 2011 Luminary Business Leadership Award from the Rockdale-Newton Chapter of the Georgia Federation of Democratic Women and C.J. Hicks Elementary School World Class Support Recognition, among others.  Her professional and leadership roles include the Council of Magistrate Judges, Georgia Next Generation Courts Commission, Rockdale County Re-entry Program Steering Committee and Rockdale County Child Abuse Protocol Committee.
Judge Aten is an active community stakeholder.  She is most proud of her tenure as the inaugural president, from 2012-2013, of NewRock Legal Society, a community-focused bar association committed to serving the citizens of Rockdale, Newton and Walton counties.  In this trailblazing role, she spearheaded the launch of the free public legal program-“Know Your Rights”- designed to inform the community about prevalent legal matters such as criminal street gang activity and domestic violence, and participated in many other charitable initiatives.  She currently chairs the Society’s judicial section.  Judge Aten served on the board of directors for ComiziaCare, Inc., a non-profit agency that provides child welfare resources and education to single-parent families in East Metro Atlanta, and was an inaugural mentor of GABWA’s Sister2Sister Mentoring Project, a court-sponsored alliance that pairs teen girls embroiled in Georgia’s juvenile justice system with women attorneys who promote positive teen decision-making and life skills training.   

Judge Aten earned her law degree and a certificate of sports law from Tulane University in New Orleans and a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Wayne State University in Detroit.  She was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 1998.

Chief Magistrate Judge - Rockdale County, Conyers, GA

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