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Three judge finalists revealed

COVINGTON -- The city of Covington has released the names of the three finalists for Municipal Court judge.

The city voluntarily released the names Tuesday, in accordance with the Open Records Act, which requires public agencies to release the names of the top three candidates, along with related documents, such as resumes, for an executive or department head position at least 14 days before a final appointment is made. The City Council is expected to make an appointment at its May 7 meeting.

The city received 16 applications for the position, according to a press release issued by Director of Administrative Services Ronnie Cowan.

A review panel consisting of members of the city's human resources staff, legal representatives and the mayor narrowed the applicants down to three candidates: attorneys Brian Ross, Cheryl Fisher Custer and Steven Hathorn.

Brian K. Ross

Ross is an attorney with The Ross Law Firm LLC in Decatur. Ross maintained an office in Covington from 2003 to 2011 and then moved his practice to Decatur, shifting his focus to personal injury matters. In his letter to the city, Ross said his phasing out of criminal work and physical relocation to DeKalb County "would minimize the number of potential conflicts that might occur."

Ross was an assistant district attorney with the Alcovy Judicial Circuit from 2001 to 2003 and was the assistant solicitor for the Office of the Solicitor General, City Court of Atlanta, from 2000 to 2001.

He received his juris doctor from the University of Georgia School of Law and a bachelor of science degree in political science from Florida A&M University.

Ross is a veteran of the U.S. Army and a board member of the YMCA Academies of South DeKalb and a mock trial volunteer coach and judge.

Cheryl Fisher Custer

Custer, a Conyers resident, has 25 years of experience in law and was the first female in the history of the state of Georgia to serve as a district attorney.

She served as the assistant solicitor for the Office of the Solicitor of Gwinnett County in 1986 and as an assistant district attorney in Rockdale County from 1986 to 1991.

Custer was appointed district attorney in Rockdale County by Gov. Zell Miller in 1991 and was elected in 1992 and 1994. Custer served as district attorney in Rockdale from 1991 to 1998.

In 1999, Custer became the executive director of the Judicial Qualifications Commission of the State of Georgia. She relocated the office from Roswell to Covington. In her role there, Custer reviewed cases filed with the commission alleging judicial misconduct, investigated the cases and filed with the Supreme Court of Georgia for prosecution if necessary.

Custer also taught judicial ethics seminars to judges.

Custer stated in her cover letter that she took a sabbatical from work in 2010 after 11 years as executive director of the Judicial Qualifications Commission to spend time with her daughter while she was completing her final year in high school. She continued to teach judicial ethics courses during that time.

Custer received an associate arts degree from Oxford College, a bachelor's degree in political science and a juris doctor from the University of Georgia.

Currently, Custer said she volunteers with her alma maters and teaches seminars.

Steven A. Hathorn

Hathorn, also a Conyers resident, has 30 years of experience as a prosecutor and defense attorney. He has maintained a law office in Covington since 1991 and has been the Municipal Court judge for the city of Oxford for 16 years. Hathorn has also been the Municipal Court judge for the city of Walnut Grove since October 2011.

He has presided as pro hac vice, or temporary, judge of Rockdale State Court on 18 occasions, on multiple occasions for the Porterdale Municipal Court and once for the city of Covington.

Hathorn was an attorney for Alexander and Royston in Covington from 1986 to 1991 and was chief assistant district attorney with the Alcovy Judicial Circuit from 1984 to 1986 and assistant district attorney from 1982 to 1984. He was assistant solicitor in Cobb State Court in 1982.

Hathorn has a juris doctor degree from the University of Georgia School of Law and a degree in journalism from UGA's Grady College of Journalism. He is a member of various civic organizations, including the Rotary Club of Covington and the Covington Elks Club.