AJC file

The Jolt: Brian Kemp named a high-clout judicial commission. Here’s the law firm that won

On Thursday, Gov. Brian Kemp announced his selected 25 attorneys who will make up one of the most influential bodies under his oversight -- the Judicial Nominating Commission, which builds short lists for vacancies on court benches throughout the state.

It’s fair to say that the Robbins Firm, former home to executive counsel David Dove, came out on top. Vincent Russo, a current member of the Robbins Firm, was appointed one of three co-chairs. Also named to the commission was Ryan Teague, who served as counsel to former Gov. Nathan Deal and is also a member of the Robbins Firm.

Here’s one of the more interesting passages about the Robbins Firm’s approach, drawn from its website:

“We know how and when to disorient and disarm the competition, making traditional playbook moves increasingly irrelevant.

“We look at all aspects your business and legal problem with a creative perspective, not just the facts or the law. We find leverage points we can effectively use against the other side.

“We understand opposing counsel, the judge, and the judge’s track record in similar matters. Where appropriate, we also look for regulatory or legislative solutions.”

Other notable members named to the commission:

  • Derek Bottoms, a Home Depot vice president and husband of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms;
  • Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap;
  • Robert Highsmith, who served on the JNC for more than a decade; under both governors Nathan Deal and Sonny Perdue;
  • Darrell Sutton, president-elect of the State Bar of Georgia;
  • Former House member Beth Beskin, R-Atlanta;
  • Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn LaGrua;
  • And Georgia Supreme Court Justice Michael Boggs. 

 

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On Thursday, our AJC colleague Mark Niesse bumped into Colton Moore, R-Trenton, the freshman House member who a day earlier had cast one of only two votes against a measure proposed by Speaker David Ralston, naming the state’s new judicial complex after former Gov. Nathan Deal.

Moore said he didn’t want Deal to become “the symbol of justice in Georgia.”

The 25-year-old lawmaker, sworn in last month, denounced Deal’s criminal justice reform efforts, a hallmark of the governor’s eight years in office reactionary and inadequate.

“Georgians all across our state are feeling injustices as they enter into the criminal justice system,” Moore said. “So I don’t think we should just automatically name the most expensive building in the state of Georgia, at $110 million, after someone just because they were the former governor and just because they were forced to take on criminal reforms.”

Moore said injustices should be addressed before defendants are convicted.

“In order to help the poor, the broke and the damned in our society, we’ve got to focus on those issues and not just create big government,” Moore said.

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Last month, the Journal-Constitution published a statewide poll that surveyed the attitudes of registered voters on several issues before this year’s Legislature, including the purchase of new voting machines in preparation for the 2020 presidential election. The desire for some form of paper back-up was assumed.

Fifty-four percent said they would prefer a system that employed “a paper ballot that would be filled in by the voter.”

Thirty-four percent said they would rather have “a paper ballot that would be filled in by a computer.” Click here for the crosstabs.

On Thursday, Mark Rountree of Landmark Communications sent us a poll he conducted this week of 500 active voters on the same issue. Check out his crosstabs here. His survey came to a different conclusion, but note that the phrasing of the question is significantly different:

“Georgia is considering upgrading its election voting machines. Generally speaking, which of the following options do you prefer?”

The choices were “a paper-only ballot marked by pencil” (14.6 percent) or “a touch screen electronic voting machine with a verifiable printed ballot” (79.3 percent).

That word “pencil” apparently made all the difference – although we’re sure some might disagree with that description of the alternative.

It should be noted that Rountree’s firm was a part of Republican Brad Raffensperger’s successful campaign for secretary of state. Jordan Fuchs, a Landmark vice president, is now Raffensperger’s deputy.

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In case there was any mystery, both of Georgia's Republican U.S. senators appear poised to support William Barr, President Donald Trump's choice to lead the U.S. Justice Department. Johnny Isakson's office confirmed he'll back the nominee, while David Perdue called Barr a "well-rounded choice." Both have met privately with Barr in recent days. 

A party-line confirmation vote is expected next week. 

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Over at the Cook Political Report, U.S. House editor Dave Wasserman has a prediction for what could happen in Georgia's north Atlanta House districts should Democrats flip retiring U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall's Seventh District seat and Republicans hold the state Legislature in 2020. "It's easy to imagine GA Republicans merging them into one super-Dem 'vote sink' district in the northern ATL burbs & creating a safe new seat for themselves in 2021," he tweeted

Both the Sixth and the Seventh were drawn as safe Republican districts during the last redistricting period. But that was before the arrival of Donald Trump. 

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Is this the first State of the Union prep involving Doctor Who? 

Stacey Abrams told Buzzfeed that, in order to relax in the hours before her State of the Union rebuttal on Tuesday, she watched several episodes of BBC “Doctor Who.” 

Abrams is apparently a big fan of the long-running British sci-fi show and has been marathoning it over the last several weeks. 

After the speech, she said she stayed up late watching cable news feedback with her sister, a federal judge, and former campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo, before making ground beef stew. “I was too wound up to go to sleep until about 3:30 in the morning,” she said.

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Abrams also responded to President Trump’s comment to one of your Insiders that it would be a “mistake” for her to challenge David Perdue in 2020. “I do not take political advice from Donald Trump,” she said. 

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Abrams also offered kind words - but no endorsement yet - to Carolyn Bourdeaux shortly after she announced she would run again for the soon-to-be vacated Seventh District congressional seat. 

“Carolyn Bourdeaux ran an incredible campaign in the 7th district in 2018 and helped make it a competitive district,” Stacey Abrams said. “I congratulate her on announcing her candidacy again for this seat, and I look forward to watching this seat flip in 2020.”

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