Northern Judicial Circuit Juvenile Court Judge Warren Caswell has stacks of papers on the living room floor in his Ila home. He has no office — not yet at least. And those papers, well, they represent the welfare of children around the five-county circuit.
He has a caseload of approximately 240.
“I look at all of them as one of my own,” said Caswell. “I can’t be there to tuck them into bed at night. But I worry about whether they’re being taken care of.”
Caswell is the Northern Judicial Circuit’s first full-time juvenile court judge. He served as a part-time judge, assisting Chris NeSmith, since 2009. The position was made full-time at the beginning of this year. And the five counties in the circuit — Madison, Franklin, Hart, Elbert and Oglethorpe — split the cost of Caswell’s services on a per capita basis.
The job deals with a wide range of children’s issues. If parents are potentially unfit to care for their children, it’s Caswell who makes the call. If a child breaks a law, it’s Caswell who must determine what happens to the child. If a child wants to officially be “emancipated” from their parents and live on their own, they can appeal to the judge. He deals with custody cases, traffic issues, even abortion matters.
“We do not see people on their best day,” said Caswell. “But as a lawyer, you learn really quick that nobody’s life stands up to a microscope. So you have to keep that in the back of your mind.”
Caswell said that his role is to be a team player in helping broken families and children find a better life.
A primary role is determining whether a child is safe in his or her home.
[Full Story »]