This week, I had the opportunity to interview the newest superior court judge of the Coweta Judicial Circuit, Dustin W. “Dusty” Hightower. I have known Hightower for many years. He is an avid hunter, student of the law, and a Christian man. He is married to Christina Hightower, a Bremen High School math teacher, and has been blessed with two children, Stella June and Waylon Knox. Earlier this year, Judge Quillian Baldwin retired after many years of honorable public service. This created an opportunity for the governor to appoint a new superior court judge. Hightower was the choice.
Judge Hightower brings a diverse resume to the bench. During law school, he worked for Jimmy Tuggle in the Carroll County Solicitor’s Office. While working under the Third Year Practice Act, he prosecuted misdemeanor cases. He often tells the story of Tuggle handing him a box of files on Friday to be ready for trials on Monday. Hightower thought that the cases were for him to prepare for Tuggle. He would find out quickly that he, not Tuggle, would be trying those cases on Monday. Soon after passing the bar exam, Hightower would join Mike Miller to form a law firm handling civil and criminal cases. He tried a number of cases in Douglas, Carroll, Coweta, and other counties during this period. He has also served as the prosecuting attorney for two local municipalities. While practicing law, a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives became open. Hightower felt the need to serve his community by seeking the open seat in a contested election. He won the seat and served three terms in the House. While serving in the legislature, he became a voice for conservative, common sense legislation.
His next challenge comes now as a superior court judge.
Well, what type of judge will Hightower be? No one knows for sure. However, some of his closely held values may hold a key in determining this. When asked what the most important qualities a judge should have, Hightower mentioned work ethic, knowledge of the law, and fairness. He also believes that judges should possess a calm and respectful temperament, interpret the law as it is written by lawmakers, and be quick to listen and slow to talk.
Judge Hightower comes from a family of hard working folks. When Hightower was young, his father would sometimes work two jobs to take care of the family. His mother worked, raised two boys, and later went on to college to earn her degree. Hightower’s work ethic has been displayed in courtrooms and with projects that he still helps his father with today.
While Hightower has been successful throughout his legal and legislative careers, the challenge of serving as a superior court judge is a daunting one. You must make decisions that significantly affect the lives of many people on a daily basis. Handing down prison sentences, deciding custody battles, and protecting the rights of the people in criminal and civil matters are just a few of the duties of a judge. Hightower agrees that these are daunting tasks. However, he points out that his strong faith and commitment will provide him the fortitude to make these tough decisions.
For now, Judge Hightower is settling into his new job. But, he is already busy preparing to take the bench next month. He, like the other six judges, will be traveling the circuit hearing cases in Troup, Coweta, Carroll, Heard, and Meriwether counties. Hightower also mentioned that he will provide his calendar to all of the attorneys practicing in our circuit. This is important because lawyers and their clients will know where and when to reach him on days when court is not in session.
Our community has placed its trust in Dusty Hightower as a lawyer and legislator. This trust will be extended as he takes the bench as a superior court judge. I believe that the people of our community will be well served by this balanced, Christian, and honorable man.