Fulton County has a diverse population. That fact should be reflected in its institutions, including the courts. Like every other community in Georgia, Fulton County is entitled to courts that are inclusive and reflective of the community being served. When a representative judiciary does not occur through the appointment process, we can collectively do three things:
- First, minority judges should not resign before the end of their term. There have been several minority judges – some who were firsts – who were appointed to seats and resigned prior to the end of the term. In each instance, the resignation resulted in a dilution of the number of minority judges on that court. The power to appoint judges to vacant seats is conditional. Until there is a change in the philosophy of the official making the appointments, let the voters decide who serves on the bench in their communities.
- Second, minority lawyers must be willing to run for the judiciary. That mindset of securing a judgeship only through appointment must change. In 2018, there were vacancies on the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. Not one minority attorney qualified to run for either position. A successful campaign for a judgeship is certainly possible. But it will not happen if minority candidates fail to run for judgeships.
- Minority attorneys must participate in the appointment process, if only to highlight its flaws. But, running for office should not be foreclosed. Indeed, strategically, having more people willing to run is the probably the best way to increase the likelihood of diverse appointments. Every experienced trial lawyer knows the best way to settle a case is to prepare for trial.
Last, communities must be educated and mobilized. Lawyers alone do not elect judges; but they do play a powerful role in educating communities about judges and the courts. .
Change is not dependent upon who makes the judicial appointments: change in our judiciary is dependent upon all of us who are willing to stand up and do something.
Judge Thelma Wyatt Moore is president of Advocacy For Action Inc. Suzy Ockleberry is co-convenor of Advocacy For Action PAC, and Wayne Kendall is its treasurer. Bettianne Hart, vice president of Advocacy For Action Inc., and
Charles Johnson, co-convenor of the Advocacy For Action PAC, contributed to this piece.