Our statewide litigation of wrongful death and catastrophic cases throughout Georgia occasionally takes us home to the courts of Douglas County, where Ken Shigley graduated from high school, returned after law school, served as an Assistant District Attorney and practiced as a young lawyer.
Douglas County is the 17th most populous of Georgia’s 159 counties, with estimated 2018 population of 143,882. Douglasville, the one incorporated municipality, has grown to take in much of the county.
Douglas County was created during Reconstruction in 1870, carved from a portion of Campbell (now part of Fulton) County. Because of the political dynamics of the Reconstruction period, the county was initially named Douglass County after the African American abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass. As soon as former Confederate white Democrats regained political control, the second “s” was dropped and the county was named after Stephen Douglas, an Illinois senator and the Democratic opponent of Abraham Lincoln in the presidential election of 1860. The switch between “two S Douglass” and “one S Douglas” was not on historical markers or official histories for generations, but was revealed in 12th grade American Government classes at Douglas County High School in the 1960’s. Now, a century and a half after its founding, Douglas County has an African American majority and local government is headed largely by African American elected officials.
During the Civil War, the New Manchester Manufacturing Company on Sweetwater Creek was burned by Union troops under General Sherman on July 9, 1864, during skirmishes prior to the final Battle of Atlanta. Built in 1849, by the time of the Civil War its textile products were used to clothe and supply the Confederate Army. The ruins of the mill form a ghostly monument in the middle of Sweetwater Creek State Park.
Douglas County remained mostly rural and agricultural for generations. In the 1960’s, I-20 opened from Atlanta to Highway 5 in Douglasville, and later extended westward to Alabama. Suburban growth began as a trickle but eventually boomed, with population growing from 16,741 in 1960 to 143,882 in 2017.
The courts in Douglas County include the Superior Court of Douglas County, State Court of Douglas County, Juvenile Court of Douglas County, Magistrate Court of Douglas County, and municipal courts of each of the municipalities.
Until recently, Douglas County rarely saw a significant civil jury verdict. Now an exceptionally strong case can result in a strong verdict there, as it would almost anywhere in Georgia. Substantial civil cases are litigated in Superior Court and State Court.
The Superior Court of Douglas County has general jurisdiction in all civil cases with venue in Douglas County, divorce cases, and felony criminal cases punishable by death or imprisonment for one year or more. Because of the heavy criminal and domestic relations dockets in Superior Court, many lawyers choose to go to State Court for civil cases that do not require equity jurisdiction, e.g., injunctions. The judges of Superior Court are David T. Emerson, William H. 'Beau' McClain and Cynthia C. Adams. Douglas Superior Court uses mandatory through .
The James E. “Eddie” Barker and Brian Fortner. Douglas State Court utilizes mandatory through . has jurisdiction over all civil damages cases that do not require equity jurisdiction for injunctions, etc., and misdemeanor criminal cases. Most civil damage suits for serious personal injury and wrongful death are filed in State Court. The judges of Douglas State Court are
Magistrate courts have civil jurisdiction over . We do not handle , or , and do not ordinarily go to Magistrate Courts or municipal courts unless it is to monitor a traffic court proceedings of someone who injured our clients.