Hugh Thompson (right) chuckles before being sworn in as the Georgia Supreme Court’s chief justice during an Aug. 15, 2013, ceremony in the House chamber of the State Capitol. Justice Harris Hines, who will succeed Thompson as chief, is seated next to him on the left. (Photo: Phil Skinner/AJC file)

Gov. Deal considers 13 for 3 seats on Georgia Supreme Court

Gov. Nathan Deal is reviewing a list of 13 jurists nominated for the Georgia Supreme Court, including two positions the Legislature created this year and a third slot that will be vacated in January when the chief justice retires.

The list, released Monday, was compiled by the Judicial Nominating Commission from 130 men and women who applied for the jobs. The list of prospective state justices includes seven Georgia Court of Appeals judges, two Superior Court judges, a State Court judge, a state senator who holds a University of Georgia law degree, an assistant district attorney, and the solicitor general in the Georgia Attorney General’s Office.

In addition to the two new spots, Deal must name a replacement for retiring Chief Justice Hugh Thompson, whom former Gov. Zell Miller appointed to the Supreme Court in 1994.

In little more than a year, Deal will have at least one more opportunity to name a justice to the state Supreme Court, which the Legislature expanded from seven members to nine this year. Presiding Justice Harris Hines, who will become chief justice on Jan. 6, plans to retire when he turns 75 in 2018.

Deal, a former district attorney and juvenile court judge, will have named at least five members to the Supreme Court by the time he leaves the Governor’s Office. He named Justice Keith Blackwell to the court in June 2012.

Deal’s imprint on Georgia’s judiciary is extensive.

The 2015 Legislature expanded the Georgia Court of Appeals from 12 jurists to 15, and Deal appointed the three new judges.

Deal has also stocked lower courts with more than 70 new judges.

The nominees to the Georgia Supreme Court are:

» State Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton

» Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael P. Boggs

» Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Elizabeth L. (Lisa) Branch

» Georgia Court of Appeals Presiding Judge John J. Ellington

» Dougherty Judicial Circuit Judge Stephen S. Goss

» Georgia Solicitor General Britt Grant

» Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Carla Wong McMillian

» Georgia Court of Appeals Presiding Judge M. Yvette Miller

» Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Nels S.D. Peterson

» Georgia Court of Appeals Judge William M. (Billy) Ray II

» Fulton County State Court Judge Eric Richardson

» Western Judicial Circuit Judge Lawton E. Stephens

» Fulton County Deputy District Attorney Paige Reese Whitaker.

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