Courtroom Connection: Swearing-in ceremony reunites judge with new attorney

Nearly a decade after Judge Jason Thompson visited Fayette County High to speak to her class about the law, Victoria Ward was in his courtroom to be sworn in as an attorney. Judge Thompson during an October 2013 visit to an AP government class at Fayette County High, where he met Ward (front row, white shirt).

Love and respect for the law led to a moment that came full circle in State Court Judge Jason Thompson’s courtroom. Nearly a decade after Judge Thompson visited Fayette County High to speak to students about the law, one of these tigers was in his courtroom to be sworn in as an attorney.

Victoria Ward, a 2014 graduate of FCHS, was in the AP government class during Thompson’s visit in October 2013, and she was recently in his courtroom to be sworn in as an attorney. She even brought a newspaper clipping that her mother had kept, commemorating the class visit.

“When Judge Thompson came in, I thought how cool it was that someone from FCHS had become a judge and was willing to come back and talk to students,” Ward said. “I remember his passion for upholding justice and it put the seed in my head to pursue a career in the legal field.”

She has always enjoyed history and politics, but decided to study business administration. She quickly realized it wasn’t in her heart, so her father, Bennett’s Mill Middle Principal JP Ward, planned a trip to Washington, DC to help her find her passion.

“When we visited the Supreme Court and I saw the exhibition about the four judges, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in law,” she recalls. “I chose a career where I can help others navigate the law, especially since the law affects us all.”

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That night they looked up the steps to get into law school. It was discouraging, but her family encouraged her to take it one step at a time. She graduated in December 2017 and worked full-time while attending law school at Georgia State University.

She described graduating from law school as a monumental time in her life, but the journey didn’t feel “complete” until she took and passed the Georgia Bar Exam.

“When Judge Thompson sworn me in, I finally felt like I had accomplished something great,” she said. “Judge Thompson made the moment special and encouraged me, now is the time to do a good job. I will always keep the “do a good job” mantra in mind for the rest of my legal career.”

She is now making work injury law.

“I like the fast-paced environment of workers’ compensation law.”

Growing up in Fayetteville, Thompson was inspired by his best friend’s father, who was a lawyer.

“He was the only person people turned to when no one else could help them. Whether it was a criminal matter, a property issue, or an issue they didn’t get an answer for, they all turned to him,” Thompson said. “I wanted to be the person who can help when no one else can.”

He attended Fayette County Public Schools throughout, from Hood Avenue Elementary and East Fayette Elementary to Fayette County Junior High and Fayette County High School, so he always welcomes the opportunity to give back. In addition to internship programs, he visits as many students as possible to be a positive role model in the justice system.

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“When I was at school there was no opportunity to go to court. When I accepted the office of state court judge, one of the first relationships I formed was with the school system,” he said. “I want our community to develop trust in our local elected officials. For me, that can start when I visit schools to talk about my job, the legal system and its impact on the community.”

Thompson also currently has three children in the school system.

“I want them and their peers to have access to all sorts of jobs so they can learn more about this potential career.”

The courtroom reunion was a perfect reminder of how many lives you can touch by caring.

“Sometimes life closes. That moment happened for me,” Thompson said. “When I look back at some of the great things I’ve been involved in during my time as a state court judge, this tops the list. I am very proud of Victoria and look forward to following her legal career.”

Not long after the ceremony, Judge Thompson was back at FCHS speaking to a different class.

“Do you know what I was doing when I was talking to the class?” he asked. “I’m looking for the next Victoria to swear as a lawyer in the future!”