He speaks little, but when he does, there is a firmness in his voice — a voice of authority. After more than a decade as a Superior Court judge, the Cartersville native oversees courtroom C at the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center with the same quiet authority.
After graduating from Cartersville High School in 1966, Nelson enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve, later entering the Reserve Officer Candidate program.
“I received my commission in 1970 and served for three years as a line officer — surface warfare — aboard the USS MOALE (DD693),” Nelson said. “I resigned my commission in 1976.”
After serving as county attorney, Nelson was appointed to the Superior Court bench for the Cherokee Judicial Circuit in 2002, where he has served since.
Last year, Nelson presided over more than 1,200 hearings with the system seeing more than 5,000 cases.
“In 2012 I conducted over 1,256 nonjury hearings and presided over 25 jury trials as well as a number of matters decided without a hearing,” Nelson said. “Each of the judges heard a similar number of cases, so more than 5,000 nonjury cases were resolved last year and more than 100 jury trials were conducted.”
Name: G. Carey Nelson III
Occupation: Superior Court judge
Family: Married for 41 years to Theresa “Terry” Nelson from Presque Isle, Maine; two children: Carey IV (Kelly) IT manager, Soft Intelligence Inc. and co-owner of IT4; Patrick (Bree), a certified personal trainer and owner of Georgia Fitness Academy, LLC, and director of Training and Marketing for Cair Plus Fitness; one grandson, Colin, and another on the way, Hollis.
Education: Attended Cartersville High School, graduated from Admiral Farragut Academy, St. Petersburg, Fla.; Mercer University (AB ‘70); and Stetson University College of Law (JD ‘77)
Tell me about your career in law. How did you come to be a Superior Court judge?
A: [I] returned to Cartersville in 1977 to start a general law practice, [and] formed a partnership with Steve Bradley in 1981 during which time we served as co-county attorneys until he moved on to greener pastures. In 1995 Frank Jenkins and I formed a partnership during which I continued to serve as county attorney until appointed to the bench in 2002 following the untimely death of Judge Jefferson Davis Jr. and won a contested election for a full term thereafter. Fortunately, I have been re-elected since without opposition.
What do you see as the most important role of the judicial system?
A: To preserve the rights and liberties of all citizens by maintaining a legal system whereby our citizens can resolve their disputes fairly and peacefully and not in the streets as we see happening in countries around this world.
What is the largest issue facing the law and judicial branch today?
A: The attempts by some to politicize the judicial system. The Founding Fathers established a nation governed by the rule of law and created an independent judiciary to maintain the rule of law. Also, the lack of sufficient funding both on the state and national level is having a profoundly negative effect upon the judiciary and the timely administration of justice.
Is there a case that impacted your life — good or bad? How?
A: All cases have an impact upon the judge presiding because each case involves the trials and tribulations of human beings. The most stressful cases are those which directly impact the lives of children.
You, I have picked up on, have a sense of humor … Is there a particularly funny moment or humorous incident in the courtroom that you recall?
A: Shortly after coming on the bench, I sentenced a young man for a very serious offense, which carried a very long maximum sentence. During the sentencing, when I advised him of the maximum time in the penitentiary, I told him if I sentenced him to the maximum he would be as old as I was when he was released. He simply hung his head, and under his breath mumbled, “Oh my God, that’s old!”
What makes Bartow County special?
A: The citizens who are always willing to give of their time to serve as jurors for their fellow citizens. Very few of our citizens express a disdain for jury duty, understanding that next to military service, there is no higher duty we have as Americans than to serve as jurors for our fellow citizens. It has also been my experience that we come together as a community when it is necessary for the greater good of all.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: If I told you, it would no longer be surprising.
A: Philippine curry as prepared by Terry from the recipe the stewards used while I was in the Navy.
If they made a movie — John Grisham-esque — who would play Superior Court Judge Carey Nelson? Why?
A: No idea. I did have the opportunity to play clerk of court in a Ricky Schroder movie filmed in the old courthouse back in the 1980s. My scene lasted approximately 2 1/2 seconds.
If not a judge, what would be your dream job?
A: Be a beach bum in Buxton.