I recently had an opportunity to interview the newest judge in the west Georgia area; Judge Meng Lim. I have known Lim since I started practicing law in 2003. He has always been professional, knowledgeable, and possessed a strong desire to serve people. He was also glad to help me with questions when I was a young lawyer. These qualities will serve him well as he takes on his next legal challenge; superior court judge of the Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit (Haralson and Polk counties).
This summer, Lim made history when he was elected Georgia’s first Asian-American superior court judge. But, this achievement was not without a perilous beginning to his life.
Meng Lim was a Chinese-Cambodian refugee whose family had to flee the “killing fields” of the Communist rebels who invaded Cambodia during the 1970’s. These rebels, known as the Khmer Rouge, created a “hell on earth” in the area of Southeast Asia that is known as Cambodia. These left wing Communists committed some of the worst atrocities in the history of the world.
His father, a school principal, fled into the Cambodian jungle before Lim was born to escape the Khmer Rouge, which persecuted intellectuals during their criminal occupation of the land.
Lim’s eldest brother died of malaria. His mother, his surviving brother and his sister were separated in different concentration camps. After Cambodia was liberated, his mother found them and then set out into the jungle toward the Thailand border.
After a year and a half in a refugee camp, Jewish Family and Career Services of Atlanta brought them to the United States.
America would offer a better life, but not without its challenges.
Neither of Lim’s parents spoke English. This made it difficult for them to find work. The family moved to Bremen because his father was offered a job as a custodian for the First Baptist Church of Bremen. His mother, a teacher and nurse in Cambodia, also worked as a custodian.
Lim learned English quickly so his parents took him to stores and appointments to translate for the family. He said he decided to become a lawyer mainly because of his family’s early experiences in America. There were times when his family needed legal help, but could not afford an attorney.
Lim went on to college and earned a law degree from Mercer University. He then returned to Bremen to practice law. I got to know Judge Lim over the years as our law practices grew in the west Georgia area.
Last year, Lim ran in a contested race for the superior court seat that opened as a result of the retirement of Judge Richard Sutton.
When I spoke to Judge Lim today, he said “I knew I should run. That’s not going to happen too many times in my life. The local people (of Polk and Haralson counties) have been extremely nice to me since I immigrated, so I felt it was time to give something back to the community as well.”
I am also impressed with Lim’s view of the role of a judge. He believes that judges should be fair, possess a calm temperament, and interpret the law (as opposed to creating law as some judges often do.) I am pleased to know that his view of judicial review is to first look to the law as it is written and to then apply the law to the facts of a case. This reminds me of how Chief Justice John Roberts of the United States Supreme Court describes the role of a judge as being an umpire in a baseball game.
For now, Judge Lim is settling into his new job. But, he is already busy handling cases. Our interview took place during a lunch break of a civil jury trial this week.
I have not appeared before Judge Lim in a criminal case yet. However, I look forward to many years of law practice in Haralson County with Meng Lim in a leadership role.
I believe that he will serve the people of west Georgia with honor and distinction.