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An Insider’s Game at The Supreme Court and GA Court of Appeals

Burdine & Brown March 27, 2020

Georgia has a system whereby we, the people, vote for who we want to serve on the Georgia Supreme Court and on the Georgia Court of Appeals. We have a non-partisan election in May of every other year and anyone with 5 years of law practice experience can run for any of the vacancies.

I'll bet you did not know that what really happens is when a Judge or Justice wants to retire from the Court where they serve, they announce they are leaving earlier than the end of their term. This allows the sitting Governor of the State of Georgia to appoint a replacement to fill the balance of the term. Then the appointed person runs for a new term as an incumbent. The statistics over the last 30 years demonstrates that the incumbent ALWAYS wins.

A pretty slick deal, I say. So what happened to the voters' right to elect their judges for these courts (including State and Superior Courts, too)? The right has virtually been eliminated.

Now, if you like the governor who does the appointing, well…I guess you will or should be happy with the appointment. But still, this is not right. This process has circumvented the voters who should be choosing their judges. Some call this “the good old boys' system”. This label clearly applies.

There are two candidates for a vacancy who want to run for an open seat on the Georgia Supreme Court, John Barrow and Beth Beskin, one a Democrat and one a Republican. But the Secretary of State of Georgia has informed them that they cannot run for this office because the Justice is retiring early, thus giving Governor Kemp the right to appoint the successor and fill the position.

These two candidates filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of Fulton County to force the election. The Judge who heard the case was also appointed by the Governor of Georgia.

The lawyer for Barrow argued the following:

There's been a systematic manipulation of the Constitution (of Georgia) and a gross abuse of power to rob the citizens of their right to vote….they have conspired to deprive the citizens of Georgia their voice.” These are some pretty strong words about this good old boy system but they are true.

Just this week the lawsuit was dismissed, giving the Governor the green light to appoint his choice, not the people's choice. I hope this decision is appealed! Stay tuned!