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Chief Magistrate Karen Jones announces candidacy for full term in May election
Magistrate Jones
Judge Karen Jones

Judge Karen Riggs Jones, Bulloch County chief magistrate by appointment since last fall, has announced as a candidate for a full four-year elected term as chief magistrate judge in the May 21 nonpartisan general election and general primary.

State and county candidates must complete paperwork and pay fees during the March 4-8 qualifying period to make their candidacies official, but several would-be local candidates have now announced their intentions. Unlike partisan races, which will appear on their parties’ May 21 primary ballots and send nominees forward to the November election, any contests for nonpartisan offices – such as the magistrate’s office and other judgeships – will be decided either May 21 or in a possible June 18 runoff.

Jones, who has more than 35 years of experience in the Magistrate Court office, including previous roles as deputy clerk, chief clerk and deputy magistrate judge, was appointed and sworn in as chief magistrate judge by Chief Superior Court Judge F. Gates Peed upon the Sept. 30, 2023, retirement of previous Chief Magistrate June Bradley Braswell.

In announcing her candidacy this month, Jones noted that she has Braswell’s endorsement. Jones’ printed release to media organizations states that she “worked alongside” Braswell for 23 years. After her previous roles as a clerk in the Bulloch County Magistrate Court office, Jones was appointed deputy magistrate judge Dec. 5, 2000, by the late Chief Superior Court Judge Faye Sanders Martin and since-retired Superior Court Judges William E. Woodrum Jr. and John R. Turner.

In addition to seeing that Jones was recommended to succeed her as chief magistrate, Braswell, before her retirement took effect last fall, announced that Lynn Sapp, previously hearing clerk, had been appointed as a magistrate judge and completed her training. The role formerly known as deputy magistrate is know simply “magistrate,” Braswell explained at the time. Chief magistrate remains the one elected position, but the court has two judges.

“Judge Lynn Sapp and I are available to all branches of law enforcement 24 hours a day and seven days a week,” Jones said in her campaign announcement. “Judge Lynn Sapp and I will continue to work hard to be a service to this community and would appreciate your support in the upcoming election."

As of Braswell’s retirement, the Bulloch County Magistrate Court had 13 employees, including the judges, clerks and constables.


Revamped hearings

Jones “has been busy implementing ways to continue to serve the public by revamping hearings in order to accommodate the volume of cases,” her campaign release stated.

Jones and Sapp conduct civil, county ordinance and probable cause warrant hearings on Mondays through Thursdays and conduct first-appearance hearings on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the county jail, Jones noted.

“One of the biggest changes done so far are that we have also begun the issuance of bonds on individuals who are arrested, when applicable,” she said.

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