The Honorable Ana Kennedy
Appointed to the Court:
Clayton, Dawson, Floyd, Fulton, Lumpkin, Towns, Union, and White
Bachelor of Science: Political Science – University of Florida
Juris Doctorate – Georgia State University College of Law
Red Bank, New Jersey
For Judge Kennedy, her career as an attorney and Judge has always been about helping others and making a positive and meaningful difference in her community. Judge Kennedy joined the Georgia Administrative Court in 2002 after serving as counsel with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society (ALAS) for five years. But even before her legal career launched, a strong foundation had been laid for a life in public service.
Encyclopedias & “Matlock” Ignite A Love For The Law
At seven years old, Judge Kennedy’s dream of becoming a lawyer was sparked by a set of encyclopedias titled “Made Simple Self-Teaching Encyclopedia.” She stumbled upon a volume titled “Everyday Law Made Simple” and voraciously began reading about wills, corporations, civil rights, court procedures, and marriage and divorce laws. According to Judge Kennedy, “I was immediately hooked and told my parents then and there that I was going to be a lawyer when I grew up.”
Judge Kennedy’s interest in the law was further fueled by watching television shows like “Matlock” and “Perry Mason,” as well as by reading mystery crime books. “I loved everything I could read or see that involved the law,” she said. “I can’t explain it – it just made me happy. It gave me such an adrenaline rush to talk about the legal profession and to learn about it. In high school, I would get really excited when the TV show ‘Matlock’ would reference a real case – and I knew the case – and then I could tell my parents about it.”
Family History Influences The Future
Another significant influence on Judge Kennedy’s career was her parents’ immigration to the United States. Her mother, an activist fighting against Fidel Castro, sought asylum in the United States after the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961. Her father came from Colombia to the United States in 1962. Both of her parents became U.S. citizens and, according to Judge Kennedy, “instilled in me a pride for America and our government.”
Given her family history, it’s no coincidence that Judge Kennedy earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in criminology from the University of Florida. After graduating cum laude, she went on to Georgia State University College of Law and graduated in the top 20 percent of her class. Judge Kennedy’s academic successes led to her job at ALAS immediately after graduation.
Serving An Underserved Population
While an attorney at ALAS, Judge Kennedy focused on providing low-income individuals access to legal representation and the court system. She helped families in the areas of landlord-tenant, unemployment, family, and public-assistance benefits law. “While at ALAS, I realized how important it was to me to feel that I was performing a service and making a difference, and that my employment had a purpose beyond a paycheck,” she said.
Judge Kennedy added, “What I enjoyed the most working at ALAS was how grateful clients were to know that someone was there to help them through whatever legal issues they found themselves facing.”
Judge Kennedy’s passion for serving others was parlayed to the Georgia Administrative Court, when she was sworn in as a Judge in both English and Spanish at the Latin American Association. Judge Kennedy’s Colombian father and Cuban mother were so proud of their daughter’s accomplishment and that her childhood dream was now a reality.
Ensuring Fair & Equitable Treatment
According to Judge Kennedy, “What I enjoy most about being a Judge is knowing that my employment has purpose. We are the overseers that ensure that the law is followed. I can make sure both parties are treated fairly and have an opportunity to have their day in court. I also thoroughly enjoy the academic side of discussing issues and cases and how they are relevant or apply to a particular set of facts.”
Judge Kennedy takes a holistic approach to her decisions by carefully weighing all the facts, the credibility of the participants and witnesses’ testimony, and reviewing case precedent. Judge Kennedy said, “Ultimately, we have to make a decision that will impact the lives of the parties involved, and sometimes beyond those individuals.”
Advice On How To Prepare For A Hearing
For participants appearing before Judge Kennedy who do not have legal representation, she recommends they have a clear understanding of what they want to say and to be respectful of all involved parties. Further, Judge Kennedy encourages participants to ask questions. She said, “We may not be always able to answer them, but it’s better to ask your question than leave feeling unsure of what is going on with your case.”
Judge Kennedy’s advice for legal counsel appearing before her is similar. She recommends attorneys always be prepared for the hearing and ensure that all the hearing’s participants – including her – have copies of any exhibits. Further, she encourages attorneys to “think ahead on what the key elements are that you must prove to prevail, and think through if you have a witness or document to establish that key element.”
Finding Middle Ground Through Mediation
In addition to presiding over cases, Judge Kennedy plays a key role for the Court as one of its certified, in-house mediators. She said she enjoys mediating cases, as it gives her the opportunity to talk with the involved parties to help them reach an agreeable settlement. According to Judge Kennedy, serving as a mediator is a much different role than presiding as a Judge at a hearing: “With mediation, I’m able to help [the parties] come to an agreement where there’s no real winner or loser. I help individuals involved in disputes find some middle ground, and that’s incredibly satisfying.”
Active In The Judicial Community
Judge Kennedy’s involvement in the judicial system extends beyond the Court, as she’s served as Chair of the State Bar of Georgia’s Administrative Law Section and President of the Georgia Association of Administrative Judiciary. She has also served as a Board member and Secretary of the National Association of Administrative Law Judiciary.
A Love of Nature, Family & Movies
Outside of serving as a Judge and mediator for the Court, Judge Kennedy enjoys spending time in nature. She loves hiking up Kennesaw Mountain and Amicalola Falls, as well as riding her bike on the Atlanta Beltline. Judge Kennedy said, “I love being outside and active. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or sunny outside – nature is just breathtaking.”
When she’s not outside, you can find Judge Kennedy spending time with her family or watching movies. Her favorite movie is “Rise of the Guardians,” and she promises she could watch it “a thousand times and still love it.”