August 2019

In furtherance of its goal to remain knowledgeable about all aspects of Georgia life, the Administrative Court’s judicial staff recently met with Major General Thomas M. Carden, the Adjutant General of the Georgia Department of Defense, to discuss Georgia’s National Guard and its current initiatives.

In addition to an overview of the National Guard, Major General Carden discussed his responsibilities of directing, coordinating, organizing, and stationing more than 11,000 soldiers of the Georgia Army National Guard in order to ensure readiness for state and national missions.

“It was an honor and privilege to have Major General Thomas M. Carden share with us an overview of Georgia’s National Guard and provide us with valuable insights about our state’s military, which is always ready to serve and protect our citizens,” said Chief Judge Michael Malihi.

About the Court

The Office of State Administrative Hearings is the Administrative Court of Georgia, whose mission is to resolve disputes between the public and state agencies in a timely, impartial, courteous, and professional manner. Every year the Court oversees thousands of cases involving dozens of state agencies and hundreds of distinct issues. The Court’s Judges manage the highest caseload per judge in the nation and have the lowest cost per case in the nation.

Administrative Court Hosts Georgia Department of Defense

The Honorable Carol Walker-Russell



Appointed to the Court:


Counties Covered:

Bartow, DeKalb, Gordon, Jasper, Newton, Rockdale and Walton


Bachelor of Science: Criminal Justice – Georgia State University
Juris Doctorate – Georgia State University College of Law



A School Field Trip Sparks a Judicial Dream

Judge Walker-Russell’s dream of becoming a judge began during a third-grade field trip to a courthouse in downtown Atlanta. She vividly remembers walking into the courtroom and being in awe of the beautiful wooden benches and the Judge’s towering bench. “It was love at first sight,” Judge Walker-Russell said.

But it was more than just the impressiveness of the courtroom that inspired her: “When the Judge entered the courtroom and explained that his role was to help people resolve problems – something came alive within me.” According to Judge Walker-Russell, from that very moment, she knew that being a Judge was her true calling. She added, “The next day, my teacher asked the class what we wanted to be when we grew up. I immediately raised my hand and answered, ‘a Judge!’ From that day forward, I never doubted or wavered in my calling of being a Judge.”

First Job Provides Lifelong Lessons

Judge Walker-Russell’s journey to becoming a judge began a few years later when she was just 13 years old. She landed her first job helping her local community as an administrative assistant at the Atlanta Housing Authority’s office. Judge Walker-Russell attributes that experience with helping her prepare for her role as a Judge.

According to Judge Walker-Russell, “Working for the Atlanta Housing Authority was a wonderful experience and taught me how to respect people in positions of authority. I learned the importance of punctuality and reliability in the work force and to follow directions and complete assignments. I also learned the importance of positively interacting with co-workers and maintaining a pleasant attitude and disposition. Further, I learned the importance of dressing appropriately for work. All of these lessons have followed me throughout my career and have served me well as a Judge.”

Wealth of Legal & Judicial Experience

Fast forward to today, Judge Carol Walker-Russell brings an extensive and impressive legal and judicial career to the Georgia Administrative Court. Prior to joining the Court, Judge Walker-Russell served as a law clerk to a DeKalb State Court Judge; Assistant Solicitor General and Chief Assistant Solicitor General; Adjunct Professor of Litigation at Georgia State University, College of Law; State Certified Mediator; and the principal of Russell Law Office, P.C.

Judge Walker-Russell’s successful legal career led her to become a DeKalb County Recorder’s Court Judge and a DeKalb County Magistrate Judge with the designations of Superior Court and State Court Judge. Judge Walker-Russell has served as an Administrative Law Judge for Georgia’s Administrative Court for almost 20 years and has presided over thousands of disputes between members of the public and State agencies.

According to Judge Walker-Russell, “The position of Administrative Law Judge is different, challenging, and certainly rewarding. I have never been bored due to constantly researching and writing decisions on the various laws and policies that are applicable in our cases.”

Judge Walker-Russell’s circuit covers multiple counties including Bartow, DeKalb, Gordon, Jasper, Newton, Rockdale, and Walton. She enjoys engaging with everyone involved in the hearing process – courthouse staff, security personnel, and everyone who appears before her. Judge Walker-Russell said, “Everyone is so kind, professional, respectful, and welcoming to me. It is an honor to serve the citizens of Georgia.”

Committed to Upholding the Honor & Dignity of the Court

Judge Walker-Russell believes Judges should serve their communities by dedicating themselves to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the legal system. She believes in expeditiously scheduling proceedings, issuing orders and rulings, and refraining from engaging in any conduct that would adversely impact the honor and dignity of the court. Judge Walker-Russell ensures she is on time for all of her calendars and promptly issues written decisions.

Advice on How to Prepare for a Hearing

For participants appearing before her, Judge Walker-Russell encourages everyone to read the laws or policies applicable to their cases, gather and bring all the evidence they need to present their case, subpoena witnesses, and be on time. (Remember, Judge Walker-Russell is committed to starting her hearings on time.)

She also recommends, “Write out your thoughts in advance so that you can effectively state your arguments clearly before the court.” Her advice stems from her mission of ensuring everyone has an opportunity to be heard and to present their side of the story.

Judge Walker-Russell also advises that lawyers who appear before her be prepared and “appreciate my expectations of excellence from them. Great lawyers know the facts and applicable laws or policies of their case and are readily prepared to articulate them.”

Devoted to Her Local Community

Judge Walker-Russell’s dedication extends well beyond the courtroom, as she is deeply involved in her local community with multiple community organizations. Growing up in the Atlanta Bowen Homes Housing Projects shaped Judge Walker-Russell’s commitment to giving back. She said, “I fully understand the need, obligation, and duty to reach back and help those less fortunate and remain actively involved in various community service programs.”

Judge Walker-Russell regularly participates in career-day activities and “Journey to Judge Programs” to help encourage and educate elementary school, middle school, high school, and college-aged students about the road to judgeship. Further, she has served on the boards for Our House, Inc.; the State Bar of Georgia; Gate City Bar Association; the Georgia Association of Administrative Law Judges; the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys; and the DeKalb Lawyers Association.

And when Judge Walker-Russell finally takes a moment to slow down, she enjoys spending time with her family, singing, and writing poetry, short stories, and plays.

The Honorable Shakara Barnes


Appointed to the Court:


Counties Covered:

Northern Circuit: Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, and Walker
Southern Circuit: Appling, Bacon, Bleckley, Brantley, Charlton, Clinch, Dodge, Emanuel, Jeff Davis, Johnson, Laurens, Montgomery, Pierce, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Twiggs, Ware, Wheeler, and Wilkinson


Bachelor of Arts: Political Science – Florida A&M University
Bachelor of Arts: French – Florida A&M University
Juris Doctorate – Howard University School of Law


Durham, North Carolina

OSAH’s Newest Judge

Judge Barnes is the Georgia Administrative Court’s newest Judge and brings a wealth of litigation and regulatory experience to the bench. According to Judge Barnes, her role as a judge “is more fulfilling than expected and extremely rewarding. Being a judge is never boring or monotonous. We handle so many case types that there is always something new and interesting to consider.”

A Lifelong Calling

Since an early age, Judge Barnes states she was drawn to the legal profession. According to Judge Barnes, “Early in life, I recognized the impact that a good attorney can make on a person, a family, a business, a city, and even a society. The law plays a central role in so many key aspects of our lives – it affects housing, employment, marriage, government, business, taxes, technology, healthcare, education and more. I felt that I could make a difference by practicing law.”

Extensive Litigation & Regulatory Experience

Prior to joining OSAH in 2018, Judge Barnes first worked with Troutman Sanders’ litigation team and then as legal counsel for Deutsche Bank.

At Troutman Sanders, Judge Barnes was a member of its Business Litigation and Securities Litigation practice groups. According to Judge Barnes, “I was able to cut my teeth and hone my craft with top professionals in the industry.” Judge Barnes’ cases involved allegations of fraud and misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, and a variety of business torts. She also managed cases involving product liability and complex matters involving employment, real estate, contracts, corporate espionage, and misappropriation.

In 2009, Judge Barnes was selected as the Troutman Sanders Fellow for the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. In this role, Judge Barnes successfully handled a high volume of matters, including unemployment benefits appeals, family law disputes, commercial disputes, bankruptcy, dispossessory actions and housing grievances. She also served on Troutman Sanders’ Pro Bono Committee, Recruiting Committee, and Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Following her tenure at Troutman Sanders, Judge Barnes worked at Deutsche Bank as Litigation and Regulatory Enforcement Counsel. There Judge Barnes partnered with outside counsel, developed strategies, and reviewed pleadings concerning the bank and its legal entities. In addition, Judge Barnes served as Deutsche Bank’s Vice-Chair of the global Association of Corporate Counsel’s (ACC) New to In-House Committee and on its Steering Committee.

Covering Georgia’s Diverse Geography

Judge Barnes’s judicial circuit covers the southernmost point of Georgia to the mountains of Northwest Georgia. She presides over hearings in 24 of Georgia’s 159 counties. According to Judge Barnes, “Even though my circuit is geographically diverse, the litigants I encounter throughout the state share many commonalities. I enjoy meeting so many different people and learning about their lives. I am truly fortunate to serve so many people.”

Commitment to Fair Application of the Law

Judge Barnes presides over hundreds of cases every year and believes no two cases are alike. As a result, she takes copious notes during each hearing and conducts extensive research to fully understand the nuanced and novel legal questions that arise in each case. Judge Barnes then pieces together the facts, applies those facts to the law, and reaches a decision. However, before she issues her decision, Judge Barnes always steps away from the decision and returns to it later with fresh eyes to ensure she has considered all the legal questions at hand and fairly applied the law to that particular dispute.

Further, Judge Barnes believes “evidence” and “empathy” are the keys to being a good judge. She explains, “It’s vital that a judge learn the rules and apply them fairly. When I’m presiding over a hearing, I like being able to assure the litigants in my courtroom that I will decide each case impartially, on its merits, and with empathy.”

Advice on How to Prepare for a Hearing

Judge Barnes encourages all participants to visit the Frequently Asked Questions section and review the sample documents on OSAH’s web site before their hearing. She believes the FAQs and sample documents provide a wealth of information that can help participants prepare for their hearings-especially if they do not have an attorney to represent them. Judge Barnes also advises, “Don’t be afraid or intimated. We are independent judges and our primary function is to conduct a fair hearing and reach the correct decision under the law.”

Further, Judge Barnes encourages all attorneys to be prepared and to act with integrity. She said, “It’s important that attorneys understand the law and do not exaggerate the facts to make their case seem stronger than it actually is. Further, attorneys need to conduct themselves ethically at all times.”

Community Minded

Judge Barnes is passionate about serving her local community. She volunteers with her church, as well as the Georgia Association of Black Women and the Gate City Bar Association. She also supports organizations such as the East Atlanta Kids Club. Judge Barnes has also served on a variety of professional and community organizations such as the State Bar of Georgia’s Diversity Program and the Deutsche Bank Multicultural Partnership.

Beyond the Bench

When Judge Barnes is not on the bench, she enjoys volunteering in the community, traveling, bowling, listening to live music, spending time with family and friends, and occasionally binge-watching Netflix. Judge Barnes also enjoys listening to podcasts. She said, “They are informative and entertaining and perfect for a multi-tasker like me, as I can listen to a podcast while doing something else!”