Chief Justice Nahmias to resign from state Supreme Court in July

Chief Justice David Nahmias has informed Gov. Brian Kemp he will resign from the Georgia Supreme Court on July 17, the last day of its current term.

Nahmias, who has served 12 years on the high court and seven months as its chief justice, said it is time to move on.

“After several months of reflection and prayer, I have decided that it is time for me to spend more time with my new fiancee, my children and the rest of my family,” Nahmias wrote in his letter to the governor. He also said it will allow him “to start a new (and perhaps final) chapter of my legal career.”

Kemp will appoint Nahmias’ successor. Justice Michael Boggs is in line to become the court’s next chief justice based on his seniority on the court.

Nahmias, a former federal prosecutor and U.S. Attorney in Atlanta, was appointed to the Supreme Court bench by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2009. He won reelection in 2010 and 2016.

In his letter, Nahmias, 57, indicated he is ready to step down now. But he said it would be better for the court if he continues working on the cases assigned to him, limit any period of time without a full complement of the court’s nine justices and to allow for an orderly transition to new leadership.

Atlanta lawyer Linda Klein, past president of the State Bar of Georgia, said Nahmias made his mark as a justice.

“Chief Justice Nahmias is a student of the law,” she said. “He carefully crafts his opinions to assure they are instructive to lawyers who will rely on them.”

Atlanta criminal defense lawyer Don Samuel said one aspect of Nahmias’ legal career as a prosecutor and justice has never wavered: allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.

“Chief Justice Nahmias has been among the most intellectual justices on the court in the past half century,” he said. “He does not always rule in my favor – in fact, he often does not. But I have never read a decision that he wrote that left me with any thought other than, ‘That is a brilliant analysis.’”

On the bench, Nahmias has routinely been one of the most prepared justices during the court’s oral argument sessions. He is often extremely inquisitive, peppering lawyers with questions and often backing them into corners when it’s clear he disagrees with them.

“This has been challenging but rewarding work, particularly during the past two years as we have responded to the COVID pandemic,” Nahmias wrote. “I will always cherish the honor I was given to serve the people of our great state.”

The son of immigrants from Egypt and Germany, Nahmias was born in Atlanta and graduated from Briarcliff High School as the state’s STAR student in 1982. He attended Duke University, finishing second in his class. He then attended Harvard University law school and served on the esteemed Law Review with future President Barack Obama.

Six years ago, Nahmias experienced tragedy. His wife, 53-year-old Atlanta lawyer Cathy O’Neil, herself a former federal prosecutor, died after a 13-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

In his letter to Kemp, Nahmias noted that one of his sons will start playing college football this fall and his other son is a rising junior in high school. He said he has not yet decided what he will do next in his legal career.

Of his work on the court, Nahmias told Kemp, “I believe that I have contributed to making the decisional law of Georgia clearer, more consistent and more faithful to the text and original understanding of our state’s Constitution and statutes.”