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Deal gets three new names for Supreme Court vacancy

The state’s Judicial Nominating Commission has submitted three new candidates to Gov. Nathan Deal to fill a vacancy on the state’s highest court.

The nominees are House Majority Whip Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, and Appeals Court judges Charlie Bethel and Sara Doyle. They bring to 10 the number of people Deal could choose from to replace Harris Hines, who recently retired from the Georgia Supreme Court.

Coomer serves as a U.S. Air Force judge advocate general and sponsored legislation in 2016 to expand the Supreme Court from seven to nine justices. Bethel was put on the Appeals Court by Deal at the beginning of 2017 and previously served four terms as a state senator from Dalton. Doyle won election to the Appeals Court in 2008 and has served as the court’s chief judge.

Last month, Deal named Sarah Hawkins Warren, the state’s chief appellate lawyer, to replace Britt Grant, who became a judge on the federal appeals court in Atlanta.

Deal chose Warren from a list of nine names submitted by his nominating panel. The governor could have simply picked Hines’ successor from the remaining names, but Deal instead asked the panel to send him more candidates.

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Coomer, Bethel and Doyle join the remaining candidates from that initial list for Deal’s appointment to the high court bench. (DeKalb County Superior Court Judge J.P. Boulee, one of the initial candidates, was recently nominated by President Donald Trump to the U.S District Court in Atlanta.)

The other candidates are: DeKalb Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson; Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert, R-Athens; Superior Court Judge Melanie Cross of the Tifton Judicial Circuit; Cobb County Superior Court Judge Tain Kell; Fulton Superior Court judges Shawn LaGrua and Paige Reese Whitaker; and Rep. Andy Welch, R-McDonough.

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