Champion of criminal justice reform to be state’s next chief justice

Michael Boggs, who championed sweeping criminal justice reforms for former Gov. Nathan Deal, will be the next chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court.

Boggs was next in line based on his seniority on the court. He was recently elected by his eight colleagues to succeed Chief Justice David Nahmias, who has announced he will resign from the court on July 17.

“I’m honored to have been selected by my colleagues to serve,” Boggs said Thursday. He added that he was “especially appreciative for the excellent leadership provided to our entire state judiciary during very challenging times” by Nahmias and Harold Melton, who preceded Nahmias as chief justice.

During the Deal administration, Boggs co-chaired the governor’s Criminal Justice Reform Council. During that time, the legislature poured money into accountability courts, which take in drug addicts, the mentally ill, veterans and defendants charged with DUI. The programs allow participants to avoid prison time if they stay sober, get treatment and find a job.

The reforms also lessened punishments for certain nonviolent offenses, which saved taxpayers a bundle and dropped prison admissions of Black people to historic lows.

Boggs is a former legislator and Superior Court Judge from the Waycross Judicial Circuit, where he presided over its drug court program. Before being appointed by Deal to the state Supreme Court in 2016, Boggs served on the Georgia Court of Appeals.

He is currently a member of Gov. Brian Kemp’s Behavioral Health Reform and Innovations Commission, chairing its mental health and corrections subcommittee.

Nels Peterson, appointed to the state Supreme Court by Deal in 2017, was also voted by his colleagues to be the court’s next presiding justice. Peterson previously served on the state Court of Appeals and was Georgia’s first solicitor general in the Attorney General’s Office.