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franklin county times

Hester prepares to hang up her robes

By Staff
Melissa Dozier-Cason, FCT Writer
The room is almost empty. All that remains is a desk and empty shelves. The large walls remain bare with the exception of the Alabama Seal over the desk.
The room is the chambers of Circuit Judge Sharon Hindman Hester, and for her, a 12-year journey is coming to a close as the days of her administration slip away.
Hester's term in office will expire at midnight January 15, and the new circuit judge-elect Terry Dempsey will take office on Tuesday, Jan. 16. For Hester, that day will be a new chapter in her life.
"I feel like a kid just out of college," Hester said. "I am not sure what the future holds."
Hester plans to focus on spending time with her family and getting back on track with other things before deciding what road to take professionally.
Hester has a law degree from the University of Alabama Law School. She worked as a general practice attorney before being elected to district judge in 1995. Hester remained district judge until 2001,when she was elected to circuit judge.
In those 12-years of public service, Hester helped form several programs including the C.I.T.Y. program, drug court, community corrections and anger management classes.
"I am proud of these accomplishments in the past 12 years, and am thankful for everyone who made these programs successful in our community," Hester said.
With the cost of holding inmates quickly rising, Hester feels these programs will help keep non-violent offenders out of trouble and out of prison.
In addition to these programs, Hester also helped improve the law library at the courthouse. The library was in the red by $11,000 when Hester took office, but is now operating at $15,000 to the good. The library is now computerized, and is more accessible to the public, Hester said.
Two dollars from each case goes to fund the library fund, which is used to purchase new books or other supplies for the courtroom, Hester added.
"I did not accomplish any of this [the library and programs] alone," Hester said. "Many people helped with these accomplishments."
During her time as Circuit Judge, Hester resided over three murder cases, but finds the hardest thing about being a judge in a small community is making sure that her impartiality was not questioned.
For Hester, that meant giving up civic organizations.
"I am not saying that all judges should give up their civic organizations but for me, I had to," Hester said.
Hester said that she could not sit beside someone socially knowing that she would have to make a ruling about them while in court.
Hester was once president of the Rotary Club.
At the end of the day, Hester said that knowing her rulings were impartial, and followed Alabama law was what made it easier to impose the appropriate sentence for each case whatever the sentence may be.
For now, Hester is looking forward to spending time with her family, and getting her life back.