By Judge Terrinee L. Gundy, Municipal Court of Atlanta
In 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Eleanor L. Ross to serve on the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia, a court on which no African-American woman had ever served. Judge Ross appeared before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for a confirmation hearing and subsequently was confirmed by the U..S Senate on November 18, 2014.
If you had to live your life over again, what is one thing you would never change?
I would never change the decision I made to marry my best friend, Brian (head of the Crimes Against Women Section at the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office). Some folks expressed concerns about two lawyers making a go at it, warning that we would always be engaged in a debate or bogging each other down with our legal war stories. None of that has been the case … Well, okay, we do sometimes debate, but in a very healthy and constructive way. In the privacy of our home, Brian and I also occasionally do pretty good impersonations of some of our favorite lawyers and judges. Having someone whom I click with and that happens to be in my same profession has been great.
What is your greatest achievement outside of work?
As any good parent would have to say, it is my two beautiful daughters. They are sweet, smart, very athletic and a handful. There is no instruction manual for being a good parent. You just do the best you can, which is what my husband and I have always strived to do. Seeing the young women they are blossoming into motivates me to keep living my best life every day.
Is there one person or occurrence that truly made a difference in your professional career?
Yes, Fulton County District Attorney, Paul L. Howard Jr. I first came to his office in early 1998, without any real felony experience. Not long before, I had relocated from Texas and could not even get other local district attorneys to give me an interview, whereas Mr. Howard gave me an interview and a shot by hiring me. The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office will always have a special place in my heart because the opportunities I got there were invaluable and definitely put me on the path that led me to where I am today. I will always be grateful to Mr. Howard for just taking a chance on me.
What is the most extraordinary thing about yourself that no one else would know?
Outside of my family and friends, the most extraordinary thing about myself that no one would know is how absolutely simplistic and low maintenance I am. Atlanta is filled with many great and talented people, but at times, it seems that quite a few are wearing themselves out by trying to impress others with a lot of “stuff” — including many material things. I think because I am a judge, people are sometimes surprised to hear me say I have gotten part of my outfit at the good will, but the truth is I could not care less about what someone drives, wears, where they shop nor vacation. Give me my family, a few close friends, good health, and a sunny day on my back porch with a cold drink and I am good to go.
What is your personal mission statement?
To demonstrate to others that with integrity, hard work, prayer and the support of a few loved ones that strongholds can be torn down, hurdles overcome and feats beyond one’s own dreams achieved; then, to turn around and create opportunities for others to realize the same. Mayor Kasim Reed recently stated “this is the century of women.”
Do you believe your recent historic appointment supports his prediction?
I believe this century has seen enormous strides by women and minorities in general. My having made history as the first African-American female on the U.S. Federal District Court in Atlanta, and one of the first two in the entire state, just continues to blow my mind. There are so many well-rounded, qualified candidates whom are ready to also jump in, if provided with the right opportunity. I think it is crucial that those of us already appointed and elected continue to work together to keep making history until it is not history anymore. It just is! AT