Author: Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings

The Honorable Steven Teate


Steven Teate

Appointed to the Court:


Counties Covered:

Northern Circuit: Murry and Whitfield
Southern Circuit: Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Candler, Chatham, Effingham, Evans, Glynn, Jenkins, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Screven, Tattnall, and Wayne


Bachelor of Arts: History – University of Georgia
Juris Doctorate – Cumberland School of Law, Samford University (J.D. requirements for Samford completed at Emory University School of Law)


Bowdon, Georgia

One Of OSAH’s Longest-Serving Judges

Judge Steven Teate is one of OSAH’s original and longest-serving judges. Prior to joining Georgia’s Administrative Court, Judge Teate worked in private practice and then with a small law firm. He later worked as a hearing officer for the former Office of State Administrative Appeals (Georgia Department of Human Resources) from October 1, 1993, to April 1, 1995. While there, he primarily conducted administrative hearings for cases referred by Child Support Enforcement.

Judge Teate joined OSAH when it was formed in April 1995. “I’ve always been happy to work here and am happy to continue to work here,” he said. Today, he conducts and decides contested administrative cases referred by various state agencies.

One of Judge Teate’s favorite aspects of being a Judge at OSAH is the broad range of cases over which he presides: “The range of cases has always been an attraction for me because it allows me to cover a lot of areas of the law that I may not have otherwise been exposed to.” Judge Teate added that he loves the diversity of the people he meets as he presides over cases across Georgia. “From populous areas like Savannah to smaller towns like Hinesville, each one has its own distinct characteristics, and I truly enjoy that diversity,” he said.

Advice On How To Prepare For A Hearing

According to Judge Teate, one of the most challenging aspects of his job is uninformed parties. “It’s challenging when the litigants are poorly informed and rely on false assumptions,” he said. As a result, Judge Teate recommends that all litigants, including those representing themselves, actively research and obtain pertinent information relevant to their cases.

For example, Judge Teate recommends that parties access the website of the opposing agency and carefully read any regulations relevant to their cases. If a party is unable to access the internet, Judge Teate encourages them to directly contact the agency and ask for a copy of the regulations upon which the agency based its decision. According to Judge Teate, “The better parties understand the rules and regulations they are disputing, the stronger their arguments.”

Judge Teate’s words of judicial wisdom also extend to lawyers who appear before him. In addition to knowing the relevant rules and regulations, he advises that lawyers focus on the law and advocate for their clients within that perspective. Judge Teate said, “When all participants are informed, the Court is better informed, and it assists the Judge in making the best possible decision.”

A Passion For Sharing Knowledge

Judge Teate is passionate about helping others in the legal community and has participated in several professional associations, including the Administrative Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia, the Georgia Association of Administrative Judiciary (GAAJ), the National Association of Administrative Law Judges (NAALJ), and Stonewall Bar Association. He also served as president of GAAJ in 2003 and as an Executive committee member of GAAJ in 2004.

In addition to devoting his time to the judicial community, Judge Teate is active in the academic community. He has taught master’s-level administrative law courses at Kennesaw State University as well as administrative, tort, debtor-creditor, and research courses in the Paralegal Certificate Program at Emory University.

Judge Teate finds teaching “incredibly rewarding and enjoyable because most of the people there are motivated to be there. They want the knowledge you have, and teaching helps me focus and stay current on those laws.” And Emory has a special place in his heart, as he worked as a computer operator at Emory’s hospital both before and during law school.

Early Career Experiences

Before embarking upon his legal journey, Judge Teate worked as a forklift and computer operator at Southwire in Carrollton, as well as an orderly (now called a nursing assistant) at hospitals in Bowdon and Carrollton. Today, those jobs help guide how Judge Teate approaches deciding his cases. “I always try to be rational and exercise compassion as I make legal decisions,” he said. He particularly credits his time as an orderly and his work experience at the hospitals for developing his sense of compassion: “You develop compassion for others because you are dealing with them on a very fundamental level,” he said.

Finding Balance Off The Bench

Finding balance off the bench is something Judge Teate works hard at – literally. Almost every morning, you can find him at the gym by 5 a.m. According to Judge Teate, “Exercise helps me focus and stay physically and mentally centered. If I’m out of balance, exercise helps me fix it.”

Judge Teate also enjoys traveling to culturally diverse and artistic locations. A few of his favorite international destinations include Tuscany and the south of Spain. Domestically, he loves visiting San Francisco, New York City, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, and Boston, as well as various national and state parks for hiking.

Family Is Everything

This Georgia native never loses sight of home or family. When he’s not traveling for work or to “bucket list” destinations, he enjoys spending time with his partner of 37 years and his cat, as well as further travel to spend time with his two sons, three grandsons, a granddaughter, and a great-grandson who are somewhat scattered over the North American continent. He says the accomplishments he’s most proud of are the relationships he’s fostered with his family and friends through the years.

The Honorable Ana Kennedy


Ana Kennedy

Appointed to the Court:


Counties Covered:

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.”

The Honorable Stephanie Howells


Stephanie Howells

Appointed to the Court:


Counties Covered:

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


Arabi, Louisiana

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.

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!”

Every year, OSAH is responsible for tens of thousands of cases involving dozens of state agencies and hundreds of distinct issues. A single week in the life of an OSAH judge may involve interpreting a new environmental regulation, adjudicating a licensing case involving an issue of first impression, and holding calendars involving hundreds of litigants at courthouses hundreds of miles apart.

The work judges are able to accomplish is nothing short of astounding. But, thankfully, they do not have to do it alone. Since 2007, our judges have been able to rely on the invaluable assistance of staff attorneys. The decision to add staff attorneys to our organization is part of the reason OSAH is currently the most effective and efficient administrative court in the nation. Currently, OSAH has six staff attorneys – Lisa Boggs, Dominic Capraro, Megan Long, Bryan Present, Jessica Wang, and Jennifer Williams.

Judges trust their staff attorneys to ensure that every decision they issue is well-written, with thorough analyses and accurate citations.  In many instances, a staff attorney is primarily responsible for writing the decision in a case, with oversight from the judge. “I’m usually very involved in the process of drafting a decision,” says Dominic Capraro, who has been an OSAH staff attorney since 2013, “The judges are also very active in providing feedback on what I’ve written and supplying language that they would like to be in the decision.”

But staff attorneys do much more than write decisions and orders. To give just a few examples, Lisa Boggs and Dominic Capraro, who also serve as OSAH’s General Counsel and Deputy General Counsel, respectively, were instrumental in promulgating amendments to OSAH’s rules this year. Jennifer Williams, who has been an OSAH staff attorney since 2014, took the lead in updating OSAH’s employee handbook. Jessica Wang and Megan Long compile noteworthy OSAH decisions and publish them in the Administrative Law Report, OSAH’s online reporter. Bryan Present, OSAH’s newest staff attorney, tracks bills that affect administrative law during the legislative session.

The staff attorneys are integral to OSAH’s operations both in and out of court, and we are very grateful for their contributions to our organization. Each of them contributes his or her unique life, educational, and work experiences to our organization and I encourage you to read their bios, which appear below.

Lisa Boggs

Lisa Boggs joined OSAH in 2015 as a Staff Attorney.  Chief Judge Malihi named Lisa as OSAH’s first General Counsel in May 2017, and she later became Chief of Staff in January 2018.  Before joining OSAH, Lisa served as a Staff Attorney with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lisa grew up in Georgia and graduated from Berry College, summa cum laude, with a degree in journalism.  After working for newspapers in Georgia and South Carolina for five years, she returned to Atlanta to attend Georgia State University College of Law, where she graduated summa cum laude and was an Associate Research Editor for the Law Review.

Dominic Capraro

Dominic Capraro was raised in Marietta, Georgia, where he graduated from Lassiter High School. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Political Science from Kennesaw State University and later graduated cum laude from Georgia State University College of Law, where he was an Associate Research Editor for the Law Review.  Dominic has been with the Office of State Administrative Hearings since 2013, and was appointed Deputy General Counsel in 2018.  He is also the staff attorney for the Honorable Judge Barbara Brown.

Megan Long

Megan Long graduated magna cum laude from the University of Richmond School of Law, where she served as Lead Articles Editor for the Richmond Public Interest Law Review. At graduation, she received the ABA-Bloomberg BNA Award for Excellence in the Study of Labor and Employment Law. Megan completed her undergraduate degree at Swarthmore College, where she majored in Sociology & Anthropology with a minor in Art History. At the Office of State Administrative Hearings, she serves as the staff attorney for the Honorable Judges Baxter, Beaudrot, and Howells. She is thrilled to be back in her hometown of Atlanta, serving the people of Georgia.

Bryan Present

Bryan Present was raised in Plantation, Florida. He attended Florida State University, where he earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and International Affairs. After completing his undergraduate education, Bryan attended Florida State University College of Law. Following his graduation from law school, Bryan remained in Tallahassee and worked for the Florida Senate for 4 years as an attorney for the Bill Drafting Office and the Committee on Community Affairs. Bryan joined the Office of State Administrative Hearings in 2018 and serves as the staff attorney for the Honorable Judges Fry, Kennedy, and Teate.

Jessica Wang

Jessica Wang graduated from the University of Michigan Law School, where she was an Executive Editor of the Michigan Law Review. After law school, Jessica was a litigator for five years at Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan (now Eversheds Sutherland), then clerked for the Honorable Alan J. Baverman, United States Magistrate Judge. At the Office of State Administrative Hearings, Jessica is the staff attorney for Chief Judge Malihi, Judge Schroer, and Judge Walker.

Jennifer Williams

Jennifer Williams was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She attended Oklahoma State University, where she earned Bachelor of Science degrees in Economics and International Business. After completing her undergraduate education, Jennifer moved to Athens, Georgia to attend the University of Georgia School of Law, where she graduated cum laude and served as a notes editor for the Georgia Journal of Intellectual Property Law. At the Office of State Administrative Hearings, Jennifer is the staff attorney for the Honorable Judges Barnes and Woodard.  She also serves as the staff attorney for the Honorable Judge Larry O’Neal, Chief Judge of the Georgia Tax Tribunal.