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ATLANTA — It’s a compliment when lawyers and colleagues of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes say he was “un-judgelike.” “He was so unassuming,” said criminal defense attorney Donald Samuel, who handled several high-profile cases before Barnes. The judge, a court reporter and a sheriff’s deputy were shot to death at the Fulton County Courthouse on Friday. Tension is common between judges and lawyers, said Samuel, but that was never the situation with Barnes, a burly, teddy bear of a man. “You’d go back into chambers and have a bagel,” he said. “Judge Barnes was one of the most down-to-earth people you’d ever meet,” said Fulton prosecutor Ronnie Dixon. Even though the issues in court were serious, Dixon added, “you always had fun” in Barnes’ courtroom. “He never had robe-itis,” said former Gov. Roy Barnes, referring to the arrogance attributed to some members of the bench. The former governor, who is not related to the slain judge, testified in a case before the judge and argued before him. The judge joined the Fulton Superior Court bench in 1998, one of the last appointees by then-Gov. Zell Miller. Troutman Sanders’ Mark Cohen, Miller’s executive counsel and adviser on judicial appointments, recalled Barnes’ swearing-in ceremony in which the new judge became emotional in paying tribute to the men and women who had fought for the nation. “It was a very moving ceremony,” said Cohen. According to the Daily Report’s “Georgia Bench Book,” Barnes, 64, was born in Cheyenne, Wyo. A 1962 graduate of Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa., he played on the 1961 Middle Atlantic Conference championship football team, according to the school’s Web site. He attended law school at George Washington University and Emory University, graduating from Emory in 1972. Barnes served in the U.S. Air Force, was an attorney for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and worked in real estate, family law and litigation, mostly as a sole practitioner. His judicial career started in the early 1980s. Several high-profile matters came through Barnes’ courtroom. In 2002, he found that an Atlanta ordinance requiring lawyers to pay an occupation tax amounted to an unconstitutional precondition to practicing law. The Georgia Supreme Court upheld the decision. In 2003, Barnes threw out murder charges against Weldon Wayne Carr, a local nursery owner who had been convicted of setting a 1993 fire that destroyed his home and resulted in the death of his wife. The conviction was overturned in 1997 by the Georgia Supreme Court, which cited “inexcusable” conduct on the part of the prosecutor, Nancy Grace, now a CNN talk-show host. When Fulton prosecutors failed to retry Carr for another six years, Barnes found that Carr’s right to a speedy trial had been violated and threw out the case. The state high court upheld his decision. Jonathan Ringel is a reporter with Fulton County Daily Report, a Recorder affiliate based in Atlanta. Daily Report copy editor Karri Fox and Legal Times ‘ Tony Mauro contributed to this story.

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