The History Of The Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit

The Constitution of Georgia, adopted in 1777, created the judicial system by establishing the Superior and Inferior Courts in each county. Until the creation of the Supreme Court by the legislature in 1845, the Superior Court was the highest court in the state with jurisdiction in divorce, equity, title, appeal over lower court decisions by Certiorari and any criminal cases where the sentence involved incarceration or possible loss of life.  In 1789, the state was divided into two judicial districts, the Eastern and Western districts. Each district had one (1) superior court judge. During this period of time, there were two terms of court. The six month term allowed the judge to ride the circuit and hear cases in each county. Circuit riding is still a common practice for rural judges who sit in several counties during terms of court of varying lengths.

By 1822, there were seven judicial districts in the state and the newly created DeKalb County became part of the Flint Circuit. In 1853, DeKalb County was divided into Fulton and DeKalb counties and they were made a part of the Coweta Circuit. An act of 1885 created the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit that included DeKalb and Clayton counties. This act was originally planned as a temporary measure, but that was changed in 1887 when the Circuit was made permanent and Douglas County was added.

On January 1, 1892 Douglas County was removed from the Circuit and Rockdale and Newton counties were added. The year of 1898 saw the admission of Campbell County and these five counties made up the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit until 1932 when Campbell County was merged with Fulton County. Clayton County was removed in 1956 to form its own Circuit and Newton County was removed in 1972 and added to the newly created Alcovy Circuit.

The Rockdale Circuit was created in 1983, leaving DeKalb County as the only remaining county in the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit

There have been 33 Superior Court judges appointed to the bench in the Stone Mountain Circuit since 1885, including the 10 judges now sitting. The Honorable Richard H. Clark was the first superior court judge to sit in the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit. Judge Clark had 28 criminal indictments during his first term of court, the first criminal filing was:


The State vs. James Hudgins

Mr. Hudgins was indicted for simple larceny or “Cow Stealing”. He was found guilty. The 22 civil cases filed included 4 suits for divorce, of these 4, two were dismissed and two were tried, and as was required then by the law at that time, 2 jury verdicts were returned in favor of each divorce before the final decree was granted. Of the remaining 18 civil cases filed, 10 were settled or dismissed leaving Judge Clark with a caseload of 8 cases to try during the remainder of his first term of court.