Wheale takes over as new Juvenile Court Judge
Attorney and actress Laura Lundy Wheale will be taking on a new role in Polk County after her appointment as the new Chief Judge for the Tallapoosa Circuit Juvenile Court, and started on the bench at the beginning of the week.
The appointment comes from Superior Court Chief Judge Meng Lim to replace the recently seated Superior Court Judge Mark Murphy. He was appointed to the seat by Gov. Nathan Deal in late 2018 following the retirement of Judge Michael Murphy from the Tallapoosa Circuit bench last fall.
The new Juvenile Court Chief Judge for the circuit was officially sworn in on Friday in a ceremony at Polk County Courthouse No. 1. Judge Meng Lim announced ahead of the swearing-in that Wheale was the first female Juvenile Court Judge to serve in the circuit.
He also added that with Wheale’s appointment, he hoped to continue a goal of making the court system in the Tallapoosa Circuit work at a efficient pace.
“I’m so proud to have to have a new energy and fresh people in this circuit who is going to try to get some of these things done for our community,” Lim said. “The one thing I know about Laura is that she has compassion. and that in itself is going to be huge. That is the one thing that you can’t teach. You either have it or you’re just going to have to work through it. She is smart, and hard- working, and she’s thoroughly prepared whenever she is ready to do something with the court. So I look forward to working with her and to help her in our judicial system.”
Wheale thanked the crowd of friends and family who came to watch the ceremony last week, which included her babysitter when she was young, her college tennis coach from Jacksonville State University, and several friends from the legal community in Cedartown.
“I can only hope to be a judge that helps shape the lives of children in the same way that you have shaped mine,” Wheale said. “I thank you all so much for being here, as I was walking out and I walked out from here and saw so many people sitting in the room.”
She added that when she first applied for the position, she felt hesitant about the potential she would have to shape a child’s life, but that the support from her husband Patrick helped her push forward on the new path she finds herself. Wheale hoped to also have the continued support of colleagues, friends, family and the community as a whole as she begins her time on the bench.
“I will certainly be leaning on you all as Juvenile Judge,” she said.
Wheale added that it was her goal to “be a part of shaping children’s lives” for the positive.
Prior to the end of the week swearing-in, Wheale spent time visiting the various partners she’ll be working with in both Polk and Haralson counties, like the Court Appointed Special Advocate program for the circuit, staff in the courthouses in Polk and Haralson Counties, and also with the area Department of Family and Children’s Services staff.
She said she was grateful for the opportunity to serve in the new role.
“I don’t know if I could be more excited, but also humbled by the whole aspect of the opportunity,” Wheale said. “I very much look forward to working with the children of our community that I grew up in.”
Wheale, who earned her Juris Doctorate from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, and continues to practice with her parents Bill and Catherine Lundy at Parker and Lundy, along with her work at the tort firm of Childers, Schleutter, and Smith in Atlanta. She married Patrick Wheale in 2013, who is also an attorney.
Her father Bill Lundy thanked the crowd in the courtroom last week for being a part of the start of Wheale’s new position on the bench.
“We all want our children to do better than us,” he said during brief remarks at the end of the ceremony. “I couldn’t be prouder of the life she’s led, and everything that brings her to this point.”
He thanked Lim as well for the appointment and added that “it humbles our family.”
During this time, she also found her footing in a career in film with appearances in “Sully” as a reporter in the 2016 feature film, in “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” the same year, and “A Larger Life” in 2015.
She also took on a producing role in “Reckoning,” which is in postproduction at the time.
For now, Wheale said she will be taking on her new job on the bench full time.
“This is my number one priority, I’ve always been practicing law. I lucked into some roles that I got to audition for, and now I’m moving into a new role,” she said.
Wheale, a graduate of Lundy Chrisitan Academy in 2006, got her undergraduate education at Jacksonville State University where she also played NCAA Division I women’s tennis for the Lady Gamecocks, and was a two-time OVC champion.
She said she looked forward to the new challenge in a release last week. Wheale was chosen from 11 different candidates for the job.
“I have spent my entire life here and am very humbled to receive this appointment from Judge Lim,” she said. “I want to do everything I can to help our county and our circuit be a better place to raise our families and work and live. I will do my best to serve our circuit with honor and fairness to all.”
Her first full day of service on the bench was this past Monday, March 11.
Laura Lundy Wheale was surrounded by her family as she thanked attendees of her swearing-in on Friday, March 8, 2019.
Laura Lundy Wheale, the new Juvenile Court Chief Judge for the Tallapoosa Circuit, stands with Mark Murphy, recently appointed out of Wheale’s new seat into a Superior Court seat.
A crowd gave Laura Lundy Wheale a round of applause after she was officially sworn into her new job as the Juvenile Court Chief Judge of the Tallapoosa Circuit.