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She had spent time in the Vidalia area with Daniel’s family, and soon found there was an opening in the District Attorney’s Office, in which she was soon hired to work. She served as a prosecutor in the Toombs and Emanuel County courts before being appointed to the Chief Magistrate Judge position in November 2013 by Chief Superior Court Judge Kathy Palmer and Superior Court Judge Robert Reeves. “I actually don’t think Daniel had plans to come back to the area where he grew up,” she commented. “I loved the area and I wanted to be here, so he followed. It has definitely been a wonderful decision because I cannot imagine anywhere better to raise our kids.” O’Connor has thrived in her life as Chief Magistrate Judge in Toombs County, and said she has enjoyed her time working with the public. “We are the people’s court. “We are face-to-face with people every day helping steer them in the right direction,” she emphasized. “Doing this for eight years, every single day, was different. You never knew what to expect. I was on the front lines with law enforcement, signing arrest warrants and search warrants as things were going on. On the other hand, I saw a lot of sad things and conflict where people could not get along. No one is ever filing anything because they can resolve the issue themselves.” The job was difficult, but it had many special moments that O’Connor will not soon forget. “I think the most satisfying part of being Chief Magistrate Judge has been that I saw things from the treetops. I took each case and each situation and evaluated what I thought was within the law, but also in the best interest within the parties,” she commented. “I do not know if the parties always saw that, but I walked in each day and prayed that I made the right decision. Every day, I just tried to resolve things so that conflict was resolved but also that it was in the best interest of each party.”
“I think my favorite day — because it does not happen very often — was when I had two people in conflict, but they ended up hugging at the end of the hearing,” she said. “It happened twice back-to-back with two different cases. I have seen other cases where people in the community give grace that others may not deserve. Moments like that are why I do what I do.”
Not only does the judge succeed at performing her job, she excels at it. She is a past secretary and president of the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar, recipient of the acclaimed Young Alumnus Award from Mercer University, and was named a Rising Star in the Daily Report.
The Filipino-American also continues to break barriers for Asian Americans, as she is recognized as both the first Filipino-American judge in Georgia, as well as the youngest Asian American to serve as a judge. She has also won several awards, such as the Best Under 40 Award from the National Asian Pacific Bar Association and the 25 Most Influential Asians in Georgia Award from the Georgia Asian Times. O’Connor believes it is her passion for helping and serving others that guides her in her career, especially now as she begins a new chapter at her husband’s law firm. “I have had people investing in me throughout my youth, whether it was teachers, administrators, or people in the community, so that has become a passion for me,” she said. “I’m so thankful for what I have been given because of the support along the way here in America, and I just really want to do the same for others. I truly have a heart for mentoring young people, and helping people in general.”