Senate confirms former Gwinnett judge Ray for federal bench

Judge Billy Ray, after Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him to the Georgia Court of Appeals in 2012. (VINO WONG / VWONG@AJC.COM)

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Judge Billy Ray, after Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him to the Georgia Court of Appeals in 2012. (VINO WONG / VWONG@AJC.COM)

Billy Ray, a former state legislator and Gwinnett County judge, is the latest of President Donald Trump's nominees to win confirmation to the federal bench in Atlanta.

Late Thursday, Ray was approved by the U.S. Senate for a seat on the U.S. District Court in Atlanta. Since 2012, Ray has served as a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals.

“I’ve greatly enjoyed my time on the Court of Appeals,” Ray, 55, said Friday. “But I’m excited to get back to serving on a trial court, like I did in Gwinnett County for 10 years. I’ve missed my time as a trial judge.”

Ray joins former Atlanta lawyer Michael Brown as the second Trump appointee on the busy Atlanta court. The court, which has 11 judges, presides over 46 counties, including the metro area, across northwest Georgia.

Ray, who obtained his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Georgia, won a seat in the state Senate in 1996 and served there for six years. One of his legislative achievements was the passage of “Heidi’s Law,” which toughened penalties for drunk drivers.

In 2002, Ray became a judge in Gwinnett, where he started the county’s first drug court. He presided there until Gov. Nathan Deal put him on the state appeals court.

“Judge Billy Ray is a lifelong Georgian who has served our state well throughout his distinguished career on the bench and in the state legislature,” Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., said. “President Trump has selected an exceptional Georgian to fill this seat on the federal bench, and I congratulate Judge Ray on his confirmation.”