Judge Janice Thigpen, Warren County chief magistrate and probate judge, earlier this week was counting the days down to retirement. She has been on the bench 16 years and worked with Judge Lucy Bryant for four-and-a-half years before that. Thigpen’s office handles a lot in Warren County including probate, magistrate, elections, traffic court, and vital records. She, for 16 years, has basically worn two hats. “It’s really kind of a draw between magistrate and probate. We stay pretty busy with both of them,” she said. Before becoming a judge, Thigpen was the bookkeeper at Briarwood Academy for almost 14 years. “I woke up at 50 years old and rolled over and told my husband I was going to run for probate judge. And, it worked,” Thigpen said. “The people have been so good to me, so good to me in this county.” As she enters retirement, Thigpen is looking forward to playing some golf, having time for reading, traveling, and says she loves doing yard work. “I’m ready for him to come in here,” Thigpen said Monday as she gestured out the doorway to Jeremy Rachels, who has worked under Thigpen and was elected as her replacement as judge. During her time on the bench, Thigpen has heard and seen a lot. “We’ve had every excuse on why they were speeding, every excuse on why they were drinking,” said Thigpen. “ I had one guy tell me I’d drink too if I were trapped in the car with his sister-in-law. I’ve had a DUI on a lawnmower. We’ve just had all kinds of stories.” She said she listens and helps those she can. Thigpen said she still gets calls from two or three individuals who gave up drinking after a DUI. “That’s a joy to think that it was a little bit of help with them,” she said. “It’s been fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, but it’s just time to go home,” the judge said. Thigpen was well respected by peers in the area, including Toombs Judicial Circuit District Attorney Bill Doupé and Warren County Sheriff Joe Peebles. “I think when you talk about the criminal justice system, this is really it at the ground level. It starts with law enforcement, Sheriff Joe Peebles and the law enforcement agencies of the county, and then it is the magistrate or probate judges that are the gatekeepers on what comes into the criminal justice system and what doesn’t, and who gets arrested and who doesn’t. It’s a very important function.” “I’ve enjoyed working with Judge Thigpen over the years — high energy all the time and a very caring person,” said Doupé. “She was a very caring person. She was honest. She was honest to the people she was dealing with. She was honest to her beliefs. She was honest to the law and she treated everybody fairly,” said Peebles. “It was an honor for me to have worked with her.”
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