The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Gov. Nathan Deal on Friday named his short list of candidates to fill the seat of outgoing state Supreme Court Chief Justice George Carley.
The list includes DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Cynthia J. Becker, Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Keith Blackwell, Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge William Ray II, Bibb County Superior Court Judge Tillman Self III and Henry County State Court Chief Judge Ben W. Studdard III.
A pair of Atlanta-based nonjurists, former federal prosecutor Michael L. Brown and governmental affairs lawyer Elizabeth L. Branch, round out the list.
“It reflects a diversity of practice and perspective and background, and will give the governor a variety of options to select from,” state Judicial Nominating Commission member Robert Highsmith, one of the attorneys charged with making the selection, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Commission co-chairman Pete Robinson said numerous qualifications are considered.
“Everybody brings a different skill set,” Robinson said. “Some people bring it through tenure and service on the bench. Some people bring it through their practice.”
Deal will have his work cut out for him, spokesman Brian Robinson said.
“It’s a strong list,” he said. “It will be a tough decision.”
The Judicial Nominating Committee began with 31 applicants, of which 30 were interviewed before the 19 commission members met this week in Savannah to winnow the choices.
Deal will take the current list and set his own criteria for selecting the candidate who will take the justice seat left vacant when Carley steps down in July.
University of Georgia law professor Ronald Carlson said that based upon history, the five sitting judges stand a better chance of being chosen.
“Traditionally, there’s been some slight advantage to having judicial branches,” Carlson said. “Still, you can get excellent judges from the private practice.”