House Bill 21 creates an 11th Superior Court judgeship for Gwinnett County.

Senate approves new Gwinnett judge - after partisan debate

The state Senate on Thursday approved a bill adding another judge to the Gwinnett County Superior Court – but only after rejecting a proposal to have voters – not the governor – choose the first judge.

House Bill 21 creates an 11th Superior Court judgeship for Georgia’s second-largest county. With Gwinnett’s population approaching a million residents, a judicial council found the position is needed to keep up with a growing caseload.

The bill passed by an overwhelming vote of 52 to 1. Under the bill, Gov. Brian Kemp will appoint the new judge, who will begin serving next January and be up for election for a full four-year term in 2022.

The Senate rejected a Democratic proposal to have the first judge elected by voters in 2020, rather than appointed by the governor.

Democrats noted that Gwinnett County – which is just 37 percent white – has no minority Superior Court judges – a fact they suggested could be remedied by allowing voters to pick the new judge, rather than a Republican governor.

“We need to elect somebody the people want,” said Sen. Sheikh Rahman, D-Lawrenceville, who sponsored the amendment. “People in the county should have the ability to vote for whoever they want to be judge.”

Republicans argued the governor has traditionally appointed new judges. And they noted the new judge will be up for election in 2022.

“This is the way it’s worked in the past 20 years,” said Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville. “The appointment for these (positions) is done by the governor.”

Rahman’s amendment failed by a vote of 20 to 34.

The bill now awaits Kemp’s signature.

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/news/georgia-government/.

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