The Honorable Stephanie Howells
Appointed to the Court:
Baldwin, Banks, Barrow, Clayton, Fayette, Forsyth, Hall, Hancock, Jackson, Jones, Putnam, Washington, and Walton
Bachelor of Science: Nursing – Louisiana State University Medical Center
Juris Doctorate (cum laude) – Loyola University School of Law
A Nontraditional Legal Career Path
Growing up in the small town of Arabi, just outside of New Orleans, Judge Howells took a nontraditional career path to becoming a Judge on Georgia’s Administrative Court.
Judge Howells started her career in health care as a cardiac nurse after graduating from Louisiana State University Medical Center. According to Judge Howells, her tenure at the hospital was “pretty intense” and much like the TV drama shows. Although she enjoyed the autonomy and decision-making authority she had in the critical care unit, Judge Howells’ heart was always set on becoming an attorney.
At almost 30 years old, she decided to follow her dream and enrolled in Loyola University’s School of Law. “As a more mature student, I took law school very seriously and worked hard,” she said. While at Loyola, Judge Howells was a member of the esteemed Law Review and Moot Court. Judge Howells’ hard work paid off, as she graduated cum laude and immediately secured a position at Montgomery Barnett, a litigation firm in Louisiana.
Nursing Career Provides Competitive Legal Edge
Judge Howells’ prior career gave her a competitive edge at Montgomery Barnett, whose clients included a national medical device manufacturer. According to Judge Howells, her nursing background is like “being able to speak another language. I was able to speak with and understand the language of the medical experts, review medical records, and find important medically related information because of my nursing background.”
Judge Howells’ litigation and health care expertise next landed her a position with the prestigious international law firm Jones Day in Atlanta. There, she continued to litigate and provide legal counsel in the areas of products and medical liability, as well as toxic torts.
Making A “Real Impact” On The Bench
In 2006, Judge Howells brought her extensive litigation background and health care experience to the Administrative Court. Judge Howells said she enjoys being able to “make a real impact” on the parties who appear before her, and that she takes her role as a Judge very seriously. Her circuit currently includes the counties of Baldwin, Banks, Barrow, Clayton, Fayette, Forsyth, Hall, Hancock, Jackson, Jones, Putnam, Washington, and Walton.
One of the aspects Judge Howells enjoys most about her job is mentoring new Staff Attorneys and Judges. In addition to handling her own caseload, she also supervises Special Assistant Judges who work almost exclusively on child abuse registry cases.
A Straightforward Approach
Judge Howells takes a straightforward approach when deciding cases. She said, “I hear the facts and then figure out where they fall, in whose favor, and then apply the law to the facts.”
She also believes that the “ridiculous number of jobs” she had while growing up has given her incredible perspective when hearing and deciding cases. From serving nachos at the Louisiana Superdome, to selling shoes, to waitressing, to working in a darkroom at a camera shop, to working in hospitals, Judge Howells feels that her physically and emotionally challenging jobs gave her a “strong work ethic and perspective.” Further, these experiences have helped guide her in thoughtfully, fairly, and justly applying the law when deciding cases.
Advice On How To Prepare For A Hearing
Judge Howells’ advice to participants who are not legally represented when appearing before her is also straightforward. “Dress appropriately for court and be respectful to the opposing party,” she said. “If you dress appropriately for court, this tells me that you take the matter seriously.”
She has similar advice for attorneys appearing before her. According to Judge Howells, “Attorneys should be respectful to the opposing party. Nothing annoys Judges more than when lawyers are not civil – and quite frankly, we don’t need the theatrics.”
From The Courtroom To The Outdoors
When Judge Howells is not on the bench, she enjoys photographing wildlife. Her favorite spot to capture animals is in their natural environments, especially in national parks. “I love to take pictures anywhere there is wildlife. However, I am probably the worst wildlife photographer because I’m unwilling to get up early and sit out in the elements,” she said. Despite Judge Howells’ aversion to early mornings in nature, she did venture on a swamp tour back in her home state of Louisiana and captured an amazing still-life picture of an alligator, which you will find hanging on her office wall today.