VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) - Municipal Court Judge Vernita Bender has died, according to Valdosta city leaders.
Valdosta officials say they are heartbroken to hear of Bender’s passing.
“Judge Bender leaves behind a legacy of outstanding leadership, public service, and memories that we will always cherish. She was a friend and mentor for City employees, as well as many Valdosta residents,” said City Manager Mark Barber. “Judge Bender had a huge heart for the community’s young people and was always a positive example in both her professional and personal life. Judge Bender loved her community and that was reflected in her work. Words are never enough in moments like this, but we want the Bender family to know that we are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers.”
Bender was appointed to serve as judge of the Municipal Court for Valdosta in August 2006. Before that, she served as a judicial clerk, legal counsel to a housing authority, solicitor of the Valdosta Municipal Court and assistant district attorney. She even had her own law practice before taking the bench.
According to the city’s press release, Bender created a Mock Trial Program in Valdosta, which was used as a teaching tool for students and lets them act as a jury in determining the guilt or innocence of the accused. In 2015, Bender was honored with a Special Recognition Award by the council of Municipal Court Judges for her work on the mock trial program.
In 2016, Bender was featured as one of the most influential Black judges in the state by the Judicial Council of Georgia, the release says.
“We are saddened to learn of the death of Judge Vernita Bender. On behalf of the City of Valdosta, City Councilmembers, and the residents of Valdosta, I want to extend sympathy and prayers to Judge Bender’s family,” said Mayor Scott James Matheson. “The Valdosta community was fortunate to have Judge Bender. She cared deeply about our community and strived to make it better each day. We will sincerely miss Judge Bender and all that she brought to our court. Her model was compassion and empathy.”
Bender was born and raised in Moultrie, Georgia. She is survived by her husband of 14 years, Tonero Bender, and her two sons, 10-year-old Ethan and 6-year-old Aiden.