The slate of candidates for a rare vacancy on the state Supreme Court has been set.
Governor Nathan Deal’s Judicial Nominating Commission stopped taking applications at 5 p.m. on Friday, as the Daily Report was preparing to go to press. The JNC reported receiving 31 applications.
All the flurry of paper is about replacing George Carley, who announced in October that he will retire from the court on July 17. Carley, who has been serving as the court’s presiding justice, is scheduled to be sworn in today for a brief term as the court’s chief justice.
Here is the list of applicants:
• Cynthia “C.J.” Becker, a DeKalb County Superior Court judge and a finalist for a Supreme Court opening in 2005
• Dennis Blackmon, a Coweta Circuit Superior Court judge
• Keith Blackwell, a Court of Appeals judge who chaired the “Lawyers for Deal” committee during Deal’s gubernatorial campaign before Governor Sonny Perdue appointed him to the bench in the fall of 2010
• Elizabeth “Lisa” Branch, a litigation partner at Smith, Gambrell & Russell and a finalist for an opening on the state Court of Appeals last year
• Veronica Brinson, a lawyer in Macon who has served as a municipal court judge
• Michael Brown, co-leader of Alston & Bird’s government & internal investigations group and a former federal prosecutor
• John Burdges, an attorney in Buford
• Kenneth Calhoun, a lawyer in Savannah
• David Darden, a Cobb County State Court judge
• William Davison, family law attorney in Evans
• Edgar Ennis Jr., a superior court judge in the Macon Judicial Circuit
• Donald Geary, chief assistant district attorney in DeKalb County
• Shannon Goessling, executive director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation and the 2002 Republican nominee for state attorney general
• John Larkins Jr., a partner at Chilivis, Cochran, Larkins & Bever in Atlanta
• Heather Smith Michael, a partner at Arnall Golden Gregory
• Peter Muller, managing partner of Goodman, McGuffey, Lindsay & Johnson’s Savannah office
• Robert Persons, a civil defense lawyer with Smith Moore Leatherwood in Atlanta
• William Ray II, a Gwinnett County Superior Court judge who was on the shortlist for a 2009 Supreme Court vacancy
• Tilman “Tripp” Self III, a superior court judge in the Macon Judicial Circuit
• Kenneth Shigley, outgoing president of the State Bar of Georgia and of counsel at Chambers, Aholt & Rickard in Atlanta
• David K. Smith, a superior court judge for the Cherokee Judicial Circuit
• Mary Staley, a Cobb County Superior Court judge who was on shortlists for both the 2009 Supreme Court vacancy and last year’s Court of Appeals opening
• Benjamin Studdard III, chief judge of the Henry County State Court and a finalist for those same openings
• Jeffrey Stump, a lawyer with the state Law Department
• Kathryn Tanksley, a Cobb County State Court judge
• Gail Tusan, a Fulton County Superior Court judge
• Peggy Walker, a juvenile court judge in Douglas County
• L. Matt Wilson, a lawyer in Atlanta who made an unsuccessful challenge to Justice David Nahmias for his seat on the Supreme Court in 2010
• Thomas Wilson, chief judge of the Towaliga Circuit Superior Court
• Alvin Wong, a DeKalb County State Court judge
• Mark Wortham, a civil defense lawyer who is of counsel in the Columbus office of Hall Booth Smith & Slover.
Among the more than 20 lawyers who were nominated for the position but declined to pursue it by completing an application were Court of Appeals Presiding Judge Anne Barnes and Atlanta lawyer Scott Bonder. Bonder had launched a brief campaign to run for Carley’s seat when it appeared the justice would serve out his term, creating an open election, and Barnes considered mounting a campaign herself.
Randolph Evans of McKenna Long & Aldridge and Pete Robinson of Troutman Sanders Strategies co-chair the commission. Robinson said the JNC plans to interview all applicants on Thursday at the state bar’s annual meeting in Savannah.
The other members of the JNC are Mary Paige Adams of Green & Sapp in Atlanta; Brunswick lawyer James Bishop; Thomas Bishop, general counsel for Georgia Power Co.; Christopher Carr, chief of staff for Senator Johnny Isakson; Cornelia trial lawyer Dennis Cathey; King & Spalding partner Dwight Davis; Atlanta plaintiffs lawyer Scott Delius; lobbyist and former state Senator Arthur “Skin” Edge IV; Statesboro litigator James Franklin; Robert Highsmith Jr., who heads up Holland & Knight’s Atlanta office; DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James Jr.; Douglas County DA David McDade; Savannah lawyer Patrick O’Connor; state Attorney General Sam Olens; former state GOP general counsel Frank Strickland; Gainesville lawyer Daniel Summer and Augusta DA Rebecca Wright.
The commission has said it will recommend to Deal a short list of up to five people. Deal’s executive counsel, Ryan Teague, said earlier this month the governor intends to appoint someone from that list in July. He said Deal will conduct his own interviews in June or early July.