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New judge to bring first law degree to Magistrate Court
3 Associate Magistrate mug

Fresh out of law school and still awaiting his bar exam results, Tony Tarnacki was named Dawson County’s Associate Magistrate Judge last week.


Appointed by Chief Magistrate-elect Lisa Thurmond, who will take office in January, Tarnacki was unanimously approved by the Superior Court Judges of the Northeastern Judicial Circuit Oct. 15.


A graduate of South Forsyth High School and North Georgia College & State University, Tarnacki completed his law degree at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta over the summer.


He is currently employed with the Dawson County District Attorney’s Office as a juvenile investigator and expects to receive the results from his bar exam on Oct. 31.


Tarnaki, 25, admits a judgeship so soon out of law school is unusual.


“I’m excited about being here. Hopefully I’ll bring a team attitude and be productive and help the county and the community as much as I can,” said Tarnacki, who moved to Dawson County from Forsyth County with his parents about two years ago.


Fitting in with the current staff was an important consideration in choosing Tarnacki, Thurmond said.


“It was a difficult choice for me because I knew the individuals had to fit together within the dynamics of this court, but I also had to fit within the community, too. I’m very, very pleased,” she said.


Initially, Tarnacki will focus on criminal warrants and first appearance hearings, but will eventually share all criminal and civil responsibilities with Thurmond, who was elected as Chief Magistrate on July 15.


“In the beginning, of course, I told him I wasn’t going to throw him out there. I’m going to give him a chance to learn everything. We’ll be able to do anything the court needs,” Thurmond said.


Tarnacki’s law degree is the first for Dawson County Magistrate Court and could enable the Magistrate Court to preside over cases presently being heard in Superior Court.


“Magistrate Court is going to move forward and you’ll see some good things come out of the court,” Thurmond said. “Some changes that benefit the community and the court system, and you’ll see that starting in January.”


On Jan. 1, Tarnacki will join the Magistrate Court staff — Thurmond, accountant Ann Grady and Chief Clerk Jennifer Allday.


Thurmond, the county’s current Associate Magistrate, replaces Chief Magistrate Johnny Holtzclaw, who did not seek a second term. Holtzclaw plans to return to his roots with the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office in January.


A formal swearing-in ceremony for Thurmond and Tarnacki will be held in December.


E-mail Michele Hester at