Michael Boggs, one of the nation’s leading advocates for criminal justice reform, was sworn in Monday as the state’s new chief justice.
Boggs was administered the oath in the House chambers by outgoing Chief Justice David Nahmias, who is stepping down from the Georgia Supreme Court.
“As chief justice, please know I’m committed to helping our courts in ways that ensure they’re prepared to meet the needs of Georgia’s citizens,” Boggs said. “Our judicial system will continue to need resources, even patience from everyone, as we work through the long-term consequences of the pandemic.”
Boggs thanked many in the House gallery who had helped and inspired him over the years, including former Georgia Tech football coach Bill Curry. A star football player from Waycross, Boggs played defensive tackle in college until a leg injury ended his career.
After Boggs lost his football scholarship, he worked nights and weekends to pay his way through college and Mercer University law school. He held various jobs, ranging from convenience store clerk to gravedigger.
Boggs, a former legislator, served as a trial judge in the Waycross Judicial Circuit, where he presided over its drug court program.
During the administration of former Gov. Nathan Deal, Boggs co-chaired the state’s Criminal Justice Reform Council. At Boggs’ urging, the legislature poured money into accountability courts and lessened punishments for certain nonviolent offenses.
More recently, Boggs has been a member of Gov. Brian Kemp’s Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission, chairing the mental health courts and corrections subcommittee.
Before being sworn in, Boggs was introduced by his “lunch buddy,” former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton. Melton noted that, at Boggs’ request, he was keeping his remarks brief.
“In doing that, I do not want to be mistaken for not fully conveying the depth of admiration and appreciation and respect I have for Michael Boggs,” Melton said. “I could go at length and talk about who this great man is.”
Melton lauded Boggs for his commitment to criminal justice reform.
“I’m talking about work that has reduced incarceration rates among African-Americans by 25 percent,” Melton said. “I’m talking about work that has brought lives back together and that has restored families, that has changed communities. I’m talking about work that has done all this while reducing recidivism.”
Also on Monday, Justice Nels Peterson was sworn in as the court’s presiding justice, making him next in line to be the court’s chief justice when Boggs’ term ends.