By Tim Darnell

For a court that deals every day with feuding families, contested wills and swindled assets, the recession seems to have made things worse.

“It’s a wicked world out there,” DeKalb County Probate Judge Jeryl Debra Rosh told the Jan. 15 quarterly meeting of the Drew Valley Civic Association (DVCA). “We live in an isolative society, in neighborhoods that don’t watch out for each other. We hear about hard cases, like a grandmother who lives in her home’s basement, on a cot, eating dog food, while her family is using her teacher’s pension to buy drugs.

“You have to love working for the Probate Court. You shouldn’t work there unless you do, because we deal with some very sad things.”

Rosh has been involved with the court since 1985 when, fresh from Georgia State University’s inaugural class of law graduates, she joined the office as a clerk. After seven years in the office and as a member of the bar, she was eligible to sit on the bench in the judge’s absence. She later won the position and was re-elected without opposition last year.

Heading up an office that issues marriage licenses as well as gun permits, Rosh said she’s charged with “protecting the people who are unable to protect themselves. The old, the sick, the young. … We’re there to make sure their everyday rights as well as their property rights are protected.”

The current economy may be bringing out the worst in people whose cases are winding up before the Probate Court. “Money does funny things to people,” Rosh said. “We see more and more families coming to court over contested wills, guardianship issues and the like. And their dirty laundry comes out as well, things like what some siblings did to each other as kids.

“Some of these cases make my family look like ‘Father Knows Best.’ ”

She said families are stealing from their parents “and not just among the poor and poverty-stricken. And there are so many scams and rackets being perpetrated on the elderly and lonely. We’ve seen elderly women who have long paid for their own home swindled out of their money for a basement remodeling, a driveway repair or a roof replacement. And there are people who are falling for proposals like, ‘Give us your assets in the bank and we’ll double them.’ ”

In other Drew Valley news:

• The DVCA has created a green space committee that is exploring a partnership with Trees Atlanta. Several green spaces were created in the community during a recent county buyout of homes that had suffered repeated flooding.

• The DVCA’s zoning committee is requesting that when the county rewrites DeKalb’s development code, the neighborhood maintain its R-75 residential designation.

• The DVCA met last fall with Commissioner Jeff Rader about a 2000 master plan to revitalize Briarwood Park. Rader and new DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis want to revisit the issue.