Meet Nathan Deal's three new appointments to the Court of Appeals

Our AJC colleague Bill Rankin sends the following report:

The appointments are: Brian Rickman, district attorney of the three-county Mountain Judicial Circuit; Nels Peterson, vice chancellor for legal affairs and secretary to the Board of Regents; and Superior Court Judge Amanda Mercier of the three-county Appalachian Judicial Circuit.The new appointments take effect Jan. 1, when the appeals court expands from 12 to 15 members.

A little biographical information to go with each:

-- Brian Rickman has served as district attorney for the northeastern Georgia circuit since 2008. During that time, he assisted the state Judicial Qualifications Commission and prosecuted two judges - Grady County State Court Judge William Bass, who was suspended from office, and Camden County Probate Judge Shirley Wise, who resigned and pleaded guilty to theft.

Rickman obtained his law degree from the University of Georgia and served as a district attorney's office investigator before becoming a prosecutor and private attorney. More recently, he represented prosecutors statewide on the Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis.

-- Nels Peterson once served as solicitor general for

Nels Peterson, AJC file

Attorney General Sam Olens. At the AG's office, Peterson oversaw the tri-state "water wars" case involving Alabama and Florida and other high-profile litigation. Early this year, he accepted his current job at the Board of Regents.

Peterson, who obtained his law degree from Harvard Law School, served as a law clerk for U.S. Appeals Court Judge Bill Pryor, worked for the Atlanta law firm King & Spalding and served as former Gov. Sonny Perdue's executive counsel.

-- Amanda Mercier was appointed to the Superior Court bench in 2010 by Perdue. Before that, she was in private practice for almost a decade, during which she was a law partner of

Amanda Mercier

House Speaker David Ralston. Two years ago, Deal appointed Mercier to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence. She currently serves as the presiding judge for the Appalachian Judicial Circuit's Mental Health Court. Mercier obtained her law degree from Syracuse University .

One of Deal's legacies when he leaves office will be his transformation of the state's legal system with sweeping criminal justice reform. But he will also have made a profound impact on the state's judiciary.

Deal has already appointed four judges to the state Court of Appeals and with the court's upcoming expansion he will have appointed seven of the court's 15 judges. The governor has appointed one justice on the Georgia Supreme Court but will soon be able to replace two of that's court's justices, who are expected to retire before the end of Deal's term as governor.

And Deal is also considering expanding the seven-member state Supreme Court to nine justices.

All told, that means Deal could have the chance to appoint a majority of the top court's judges and nearly a majority of the Court of Appeals bench.

House Speaker David Ralston's office sends along this statement about Mercier:

"Georgians should be proud to have such a capable and experienced judge joining the Court of Appeals.  I offer her my heartfelt congratulations on this well-deserved appointment."