In his second opportunity to appoint a justice to the state Supreme Court, Gov. Sonny Perdue picked David E. G. Nahmias, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

Nahmias, a 44-year-old Atlanta native, was selected from a group of nine candidates submitted to Perdue in June by the Judicial Nominating Commission, following the group’s vetting of 38 candidates who were nominated by the public. The seat became open when Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears stepped down from the court in June. Perdue appointed Justice Harold D. Melton to the high court in 2005.

Sears’ uncompleted term will expire on Dec. 31, 2010. Nahmias faces election for a six-year term in November 2010.

In his introduction of Nahmias during a Thursday morning news conference at the State Capitol, Perdue praised the new justice’s “passion for justice and the strict adherence to the law as it written and as it is constructed by the Legislature.”

Nahmias has a sterling rsum. The U.S. attorney in Atlanta since 2004, Nahmias is a former law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin G. Scalia. Nahmias graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he served on the Law Review with Barack Obama. After graduation, Nahmias was recruited by now-Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., then a partner in the Washington office of Hogan & Hartson. Nahmias also clerked for Laurence H. Silberman, now a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Roberts, Scalia and Silberman, along with former Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, all sent Perdue letters of recommendation for Nahmias. “He’s been around some pretty neat guys on the bench,” Perdue said.

The selection of Nahmias comes a day after his office obtained a conviction of a 23-year-old Georgia man for aiding terrorist groups and plotting to support “violent jihad.” Among Nahmias’ more notable cases while serving as U.S. attorney were the prosecution of Centennial Park bomber Eric Rudolph, former Atlanta mayor Bill Campbell and the police shooting of Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old woman.

During comments he made at the Capitol as he accepted the nomination to the Supreme Court, Nahmias briefly began to tear up, as he became emotional discussing his parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Egypt and Germany.

“They came to the United States after the second World War with almost nothing,” Nahmias said. “The fact that I will be able to serve as a justice on the highest court in this state is proof once again of the remarkable opportunities that this state and this country provide.”

Nahmias is married to King & Spalding partner Catherine M. “Cathy” O’Neil, a former Justice Department deputy attorney general. The couple has two sons. Nahmias said that his mission as a Supreme Court justice will be “to protect the rule of law and equal justice for all.”

“This is a position that is so important to protecting the rule of law and the democratic system of government in our state,” he said. “Decisions by the Supreme Court that properly apply the laws as they are enacted through the democratic process are vital to preserving the safety and prosperity of all our citizens.”

Nahmias’ candidacy for the Supreme Court was bolstered by additional letters of support from a number of influential attorneys. Among those who endorsed Nahmias were Macon lawyer Frank C. Jones, the former King & Spalding partner who helped the state’s Republican senators recommend federal judicial appointees in recent years; and PepsiCo General Counsel Larry D. Thompson, who was the deputy U.S. attorney general during the early years of President George W. Bush’s administration.

“We are delighted with the appointment of David Nahmias to the Supreme Court of Georgia,” Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein said in a statement. “We congratulate him and Governor Perdue for making such an excellent choice.”

Bryan M. Cavan, president of the State Bar of Georgia, said the bar had “the opportunity to have some input this year. I’m delighted the governor has utilized the Judicial Nominating Commission. I think it’s a good tool for him.” Cavan also said Nahmias “is a great choice.”

Shortly after the news conference announcing his selection, Nahmias left the Capitol building and walked across the street to the Justice Building. Asked by the Daily Report when he’ll begin his new job, Nahmias responded that he did not know and that he was about to meet with Hunstein to discuss his appointment. Nahmias declined to answer any other questions.

The Supreme Court on Sept. 8 is scheduled to begin a busy month of oral arguments in about 40 cases, including challenges to the 2005 tort reform law.