Friday (Aug. 26) was the last day for a member of the Georgia Bar who is a citizen of this state with at least seven years experience to apply to become a member of the Georgia Supreme Court. Gov. Nathan Deal and the 2016 Georgia Legislature expanded the current seven-member court to the Constitutionally authorized nine members in House Bill 927.

Current Chief Justice Hugh Thompson’s recently announced retirement has now created a third vacancy on the court. The two new justices appointed as a result of House Bill 927 will take office on Jan. 1. Chief Justice Thompson’s replacement will take office on Jan. 2.

Already, more than 135 attorneys have been nominated for what can only be described in the legal community as one of Georgia’s most coveted positions. Georgia’s Supreme Court justices, much like the U.S. Supreme Court justices, have enormous power to make, create, and even change law with the stroke of a pen.

Nomination is, however, only the first step in the process toward appointment by Gov. Deal. The second step involves the completion of a lengthy application covering a variety of topics from background to work product. The application and related materials can be found at

The number of attorneys who actually complete the application is generally much smaller than the number nominated. Still, it will be a big number and it is likely that the Judicial Nominating Commission will create a sub-committee to generate the interview list.

Currently, the Judicial Nominating Commission is scheduled to conduct interviews of applicants for the three vacancies on Sept. 29 and 30 at the offices of the State Bar of Georgia. Needless to say, the interviews are lengthy and expansive.

Even though the appointees will eventually have to stand for re-election, Georgia Supreme Court justices rarely have opposition and even when they do they typically win re-election. For example, in this election cycle, none of Georgia’s appellate court judges had any opposition at all.

So, even though they must stand for re-election (unlike U.S. Supreme Court justices who receive lifetime appointments), Georgia Supreme Court justices inevitably serve until they decide to retire. As a result, selections made now will have implications for decades to come.

At the end of its interviews, the Judicial Nominating Commission will deliberate and then submit a “short list” of names for consideration by Gov. Deal. With three vacancies, the list could contain as many as nine to 12 names or three to four nominees for each position.

Unlike prior judicial nominating commissions, those serving since Gov. Deal took office have welcomed input from anyone. Indeed, the Judicial Nominating Commission interview process typically begins with reports from a variety of organizations offering their input on the applicants and providing ratings of “well-qualified,” “qualified,” “not-qualified,” or “not well known enough to evaluate.”

However, input is not limited to those organizations. Instead, anyone is welcome to provide input on any single applicant or even the entire list. Next week, a complete list of the applicants will be made available to the public. So, this is the time to provide input either by email, letter or phone call.

The current Judicial Nominating Commission was recently reconstituted by executive order of Gov. Deal. A complete list of its current members with each one’s contact information can be found at

It is generally best to send a communication to either of the co-chairs listed under “Contact Us” which can be found at Those communications will then be forwarded to the full Judicial Nominating Commission for inclusion in the interview notebooks.

For one-third of the court to be appointed at one time is both historic and critically important to Georgia. Consequently, the more input folks provide, the better choices will be made. Importantly, you do not have to be an attorney to provide input on the applicants.

Once the Judicial Nominating Commission has sent its “short list,” the governor will then personally meet with each of the recommended applicants. Having been a judge himself, and with a son serving as a Superior Court judge, Gov. Deal has a good sense of the qualities he is looking for in new judges.

Sometime before the end of this year, he will appoint the three new justices to Georgia’s Supreme Court, thereby leaving his imprint on Georgia law for years, if not decades, to come. So far, not one of his appellate appointees has drawn opposition. It is a good indication of the quality of the appellate judges he has appointed so far.

Please consider being a part of the process and review the list for any attorneys you may know. Then provide whatever insights might be helpful in evaluating the applicants. Except for voting, it is the best chance you will get to help influence and decide who serves on Georgia’s highest court.


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