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Judge Michael E. McLaughlin and Sonja N. Brown, Esq. Appointed as Full-time Magistrate Judges

Judges Murphy, Judge McLaughlin and Sonja N. Brown Esq.
October 12, 2020

Chief Magistrate Judge Brendan F. Murphy has appointed Judge Michael E. McLaughlin and Sonja N. Brown, Esq. to serve as full-time Magistrate Judges. Judge McLaughlin and Judge-designate Brown were selected after an open application and interview process from a competitive field of over thirty well-qualified candidates. The Cobb Superior Court judges unanimously confirmed Judge Murphy’s appointments, effective January 1, 2021. 

“Both Mike and Sonja have the keen intellect, heart, and work ethic needed to thrive on the fast-paced Magistrate Court bench," said Judge Murphy. "Their demeanor and character will ensure that people are truly heard and respected when it’s time for their day in court."

He went on to emphasize how the two new full-time judges will strengthen the Magistrate Court team.

“Judge McLaughlin has been an important part of the Court’s firm foundation, and Judge-designate Brown’s experience will bring a fresh perspective to ensuring access to justice at the People’s Court. This is the hard-working and caring team our community needs, especially during this difficult time of pandemic and economic disruption.” 

Judge McLaughlin and Judge-designate Brown will fill the vacancies created by Judge Kellie S. Hill’s recent election to the Superior Court bench and Judge Gerald Moore’s decision to leave the bench at the end of the year to pursue a new opportunity to serve.

The Magistrate Court operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year with a heavy criminal and civil caseload. Known as the People’s Court, the Magistrate Court provides an easily accessible forum to resolve disputes for tens of thousands of self-represented litigants each year.

Judge Michael E. McLaughlin

Judge Michael McLaughlin is the Dean of the Cobb County Magistrate Court bench. After first being appointed in 1985, he has served continuously with six different Chief Magistrates. Judge McLaughlin has heard every type of case filed in Magistrate Court and routinely handles the Court’s busy civil calendars. 

"I have been a part of the Cobb County Magistrate Court family for many years,” said Judge McLaughlin, “To be able to serve as a full-time judge is truly the pinnacle of my legal career. I so appreciate Judge Murphy's confidence in allowing me to serve in this capacity."

In addition to his service on the bench, Judge McLaughlin has run a successful law firm for over 35 years. He has extensive experience in criminal law and his practice currently focuses on family law and representing injured people. Judge McLaughlin is the author of Admissibility of Evidence in Civil Cases, which is updated and published annually. He has taught other judges through the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education and aspiring paralegals at Kennesaw State University. 

Judge McLaughlin is a member of the Cobb County Bar Association and the Council of Magistrate Court Judges. He is a graduate of Florida State University and John Marshall Law School. He has resided in East Cobb with his wife Michelle for over 30 years. The McLaughlins have two adult children and attend Johnson Ferry Baptist Church and the Catholic Church of St. Ann.

Judge-designate Sonja N. Brown

Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Sonja. N. Brown currently serves as the Director of Community Affairs at the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office. There, she built and leads the Crime Strategies and Community Partnerships Unit. 

“I am extremely humbled and honored to join this dynamic team,” said Judge-designate Brown, “I thank Chief Judge Murphy for entrusting me with this opportunity to serve my Cobb County neighbors.”

Prior to her service at the DeKalb County DA’s Office, Ms. Brown was the Deputy Chief Assistant Solicitor-General in the DeKalb County Solicitor-General’s Office where she headed up the Special Victims Unit and was responsible for community outreach. Ms. Brown has also served as Chief Senior Assistant District Attorney in the Atlanta Judicial Circuit where she prosecuted in the Crimes Against Women and Children Unit after serving as a Community Prosecutor and Director of the Offender Re-entry Program. Before entering public service, Ms. Brown began her legal career as an in-house corporate attorney.

Judge-designate Brown has an extensive record of leadership in the legal profession and community at-large. A member of several bar associations, she is past President of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys (GABWA), the GABWA Foundation, Inc., and the National Black Prosecutors Association Foundation. Ms. Brown is also the current Chaplain of the National Bar Association, the Nation’s oldest and largest African-American Bar association, representing the interests of over 66,000 attorneys and judges. She has co-Chaired the DeKalb County Domestic Violence Task Force and sits on the Board of Trustees of the North Georgia United Methodist Conference and Board of Directors of Georgia Piedmont Technical College. 

A member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Ms. Brown is an alumna of Clark Atlanta University and Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School. A resident of Cobb County for over 20 years and a proud aunt, she resides with her family in Kennesaw and attends Central United Methodist Church in Atlanta.  

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Ross Cavitt | Communications Director |