Liberty County Superior Court Chief Judge David Cavender presided as incoming Assistant District Attorney Isabel Pauley took her oath of office, sealing her commitment to the Atlantic Judicial Circuit.
“That was more intense than my wedding vows,” she joked as she left the courtroom.
Previously, Pauley served 11 years as an assistant district attorney in the Eastern Judicial Court, which serves Chatham County. Prior to that, she did some private-sector work in civil litigation.
“We are pleased to have her,” Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden said. “She brings with her a lot of experience that we’re sure will help us handle the cases that are common in the Atlantic Judicial Circuit.”
Pauley’s work in Chatham included a specialization in family violence, sexual assaults against adults and serious vehicular offenses, and she was one of two attorneys in her circuit to offer continuing legal-education training to law-enforcement officials. She also was a staff attorney for Superior Court Judge Penny Haas Freesemann.
“I just felt like I needed a change,” Pauley said about her decision to leave Chatham County. She also said that Durden’s positive reputation drove her decision to join the Atlantic circuit.
While her role in the Atlantic circuit calls for a more general focus on felony cases within Liberty and Long counties, Pauley is confident that she will make the transition with ease. And, she added, when the cases come up that tug at her heartstrings, she’ll be especially eager to jump in.
For the mother of two and wife of a 20-year Marine fighter pilot, working as a prosecutor is a higher calling.
She recalled a time when opposing counsel came to congratulate her on her work while embroiled in a tense trial in her last job — and he encouraged her to move to the other bench.
“He said, ‘You’d make a hell of a lot in private practice,’” Pauley said. “And I looked at him, and I said, ‘You know, there are more important things than money.’”
When her daughters were younger and asked what their mother did, she told them that her job was to “keep the community safe,” she said.
Pauley credits her upbringing with cementing her dedication to serving the community.
Her mother worked in school guidance counseling, and her father is a retired Army JAG prosecutor and judge, a role that inspired her to pursue an education in law.
Though she moved frequently as a child, Pauley lived for the longest time in Fairfax, Va., and attended the University of Virginia for her undergraduate degree and the College of William and Mary for law school.
The entirety of Pauley’s 19-year career in law has been in Georgia, the only state where she took the bar exam.
“I fell in love with it,” she said. “I loved the South; the people were so friendly and welcoming.”
Recently, Pauley was one of five finalists for a vacant governor-appointed judgeship in the Court of Chatham County.
Though she was not tapped for the role, being a judge is still an idea on her horizon. But she’s not quick to call it a “goal” per se, she added.
“Other than being a prosecutor, the only thing I see myself is as a judge,” Pauley said.