Georgia’s top appellate lawyer tapped as next Ga. Supreme Court justice

Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday picked the state’s chief appellate lawyer to fill a vacancy on the Georgia Supreme Court.

At age 36, Sarah Hawkins Warren will become the youngest member of the nine-justice court when she's sworn in. She will replace Britt Grant, President Donald Trump's nominee who recently became a judge on the federal appeals court in Atlanta.

Warren, who declined to comment on her appointment, appeared to be an ideal candidate to replace Grant on the state’s highest court.

Sarah Hawkins Warren, Gov. Nathan Deal’s pick for the Georgia Supreme Court. (Handout)

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Both grew up in Atlanta, attended The Westminster Schools and graduated from their law schools with honors. Both once worked in President George W. Bush’s administration, were attorneys in Kirkland & Ellis’s Washington law office and served as state solicitor general — the Attorney General’s top appellate lawyer. And both are members of The Federalist Society, which plays an influential role in putting conservative judges on the bench.

In a statement, state Attorney General Chris Carr called Warren one of the state’s top legal minds. “We have full confidence that Sarah will continue to uphold the rule of law and serve the people of Georgia well in this important role,” he said.

Warren received a number glowing recommendations from lawyers she had worked with and judges for whom she once served as a law clerk.

“I have learned first-hand that she is a natural born leader who possess all the qualities we should expect in our Supreme Court justices: intelligence, integrity, honesty, diligence, collegiality and an even temperament,” Atlanta lawyer Charles Henn Jr. wrote to Deal’s Judicial Nominating Commission.

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U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington said Warren was one of the finest young lawyers he’d had the pleasure to work with during his 43-year career.

“Sarah is a legal force of nature who will shine brilliantly for years to come,” Leon wrote. “I recommend Sarah to you without reservation and with every confidence that she will bring unmatched intellect and energy to your state’s highest court.”

Chief Justice Harris Hines congratulated Deal for making an “outstanding” selection.

Deal picked Warren from a list of nine people recommended to him by his Judicial Nominating Commission. The governor must still announce his appointee to replace Hines, who is retiring at the end of this month. Deal could pick Hines' successor from the short list of nominees, although he is not required to do so.

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

Sarah Hawkins Warren

Age: 36

Education: Duke University, bachelor of arts in public policy and Spanish, magna cum laude (2004) and Duke University School of law, magna cum laude (2008)

Experience: Bush-Cheney ‘04 Inc. and Presidential Inaugural Committee (June 2004-January 2005); deputy press secretary, White House Office of Management and Budget (January-August 2005); law clerk for Judge J.L. Edmondson on the federal appeals court in Atlanta (August 2008-August 2009); law clerk for U.S. District Judge Richard Leon on the District of Columbia; associate and partner, Kirkland & Ellis (January 2012-August 2015 and November 2009-September 2010); and Georgia Attorney General’s Office (August 2015-present).