ATLANTA — Judge Carla Wong McMillian never made it her goal to sit on the Georgia Supreme Court, but she was honored and excited by the opportunity nonetheless Monday.
And the Augusta native made history when she became the first Asian-American to sit on the state’s top court bench – even if it was temporary.
“I really never thought I would be in this position,” she said. “I can’t say it’s a goal, because I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do it.”
McMillian, a state appeals court judge, sat in for Justice David Nahmias, who recused himself from the case, which involved a boundary dispute between Bibb and Monroe counties.
Her family was not able to be in the courtroom Monday because her children were recently in a serious car accident. She said they are doing OK today but could not make it to the hearing.
And McMillian is no novice to making history. She became the first Asian-American state appellate judge in the Southeast, when appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2013 to the Georgia Court of Appeals. And when elected to that seat in 2014, she became the first Asian-American to be elected to a statewide Georgia office.
“I don’t think my parents or my grandparents when they immigrated here had any idea they would have a granddaughter who would be a lawyer, much less a judge,” she said. “It was an honor for me to be able to sit, as the first Asian American, on our Supreme Court.”
With her appellate courtroom just down the hall and plenty of experience hearing oral arguments under her belt, McMillian said the Georgia Supreme Court hearing felt like home.
“You’re sitting with all these esteemed judges, all the lawyers and the spectators in the courtroom, and on such an important case. It was overwhelming almost, in that sense,” she said, soon after the hearing concluded on Monday. “But we’ve all prepared, and the lawyers did a very fine job outlining the issues for us. So once we got into it and the arguments started, it just felt like home.”