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Joe Diaz sworn in as new Juvenile Court judge
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Juvenile Court Judge Joe Diaz is sworn in Thursday morning by Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver at the Hall County Courthouse in Gainesville. Diaz is the first person of Latino descent to serve as a judge in the Northeastern Judicial Circuit. - photo by Erin O. Smith

In a packed courtroom, Joe Diaz took the oath and pledged to work the long hours needed as a Juvenile Court judge.

“I hope to make you proud, and I hope to make the judges thankful that they appointed me to this position,” Diaz said.

Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver administered the oath Thursday morning to Diaz, who is the first judge of Latino descent in the Northeastern Judicial Circuit.

When announced Dec. 7 as the judge to replace Bo Weber, Diaz started the process of closing his Green Street law practice.

“I had three weeks to dismantle what it took me 23 years to build,” he said. “It was a very difficult process, an emotional process, but it is one that I can stand here today and say I completed.”

Upstairs at the Green Street office is Blair Diaz, certified public accountant. Joe Diaz said he met his wife through mutual friends at the University of Georgia.

“It’s nice to be this close to her,” Joe Diaz said. “We see each other all the time.”

Since the first day of his practice, Joe Diaz said he wanted to have a bilingual staff to serve clients.

“Back when I came out in 1992, there weren’t even court interpreters. People would bring their children to interpret for them at court or friends. I was one of the first lawyers to cater to that community,” he said.

Diaz estimated in early December that roughly 50 percent of his clients spoke Spanish.

Diaz thanked his associates and family for the long journey that brought the seasoned Gainesville attorney to this point.

He will join Chief Juvenile Court Judge Lindsay Burton and Juvenile Court Judge Alison Toller on Monday.

“Children are our greatest asset, our greatest responsibility and our great hope for the future,” Diaz said.