Judge Julie Carnes
Judge Julie Carnes (John Disney/Daily Report)

The U.S. Senate in a 94-0 vote late Monday confirmed U.S. District Court Chief Judge Julie Carnes as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta.

Carnes’ nomination had been pending since Dec. 19. President Barack Obama nominated her to the Eleventh Circuit as part of a package deal of nominees to vacant federal judicial posts in Georgia.

Carnes was selected by Georgia’s Republican Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss as part of that package deal and is the first to be confirmed. Five of the other nominees – one for a second seat on the Eleventh Circuit, three for seats the Northern District of Georgia and one for a post on the Middle District of Georgia bench in Albany – have been approved by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and are awaiting confirmation votes by the U.S. Senate.

The judiciary committee has not yet voted to send to the Senate floor the nomination of one candidate – Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs, whom Chambliss had recommended to fill the post that Carnes will vacate now that she is moving to the Eleventh Circuit.

On Monday, before Carnes’ confirmation vote, both Isakson and Chambliss took to the Senate floor to voice their unqualified support for her.

In his remarks, Isakson thanked both the president and the president’s former White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, for accepting senators’ recommendation of Carnes to the appellate bench.

“Julie Carnes is a very special lady,” Isakson said. “Her nomination is a nomination of someone with immense capacity, outstanding integrity and outstanding ability.”

Isakson referred to Carnes as a “Double Dawg” graduate of the University of Georgia – a designation meaning that Carnes received both her undergraduate and law degrees from UGA and one that she has publicly embraced.

“She is an outstanding individual and will be an outstanding judge on the bench,” he said.

Carnes has been chief judge of the Northern District of Georgia since 2009. She was appointed as a district judge in 1992 by President George H. W. Bush after spending more than a decade as an assistant U.S. attorney in Atlanta where she served as appellate chief under three U.S. attorneys. She also served from 1990 to 1996 as one of seven members of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a post to which Bush had also appointed her.

Isakson then paid a brief tribute to Carnes’ late father, Charles Carnes, a former Georgia legislator who served as a Fulton County State Court judge, including a stint as chief judge, for 18 years before taking senior status. Charles Carnes died last October at age 86.

Isakson said that the elder Carnes was his mentor when Isakson was serving in the Georgia General Aseembly. “Up in heaven right now in the sunset, Charlie Carnes is looking down and getting ready to see his daughter confirmed by the U.S. Senate,” Isakson said, adding that the late judge “is so proud.”

“She is a chip off the old block,” he said of his mentor’s daughter. “She proves the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Chambliss echoed Isakson’s sentiments, telling the Senate at large that the younger Carnes’ 22 years on the district court in Atlanta “has prepared her well for going to the Eleventh Circuit.”

He, too, invoked Julie Carnes’ legacy from her father. “Being a judge was in her blood,” Chambliss said. “It’s not difficult to imagine a more qualified circuit court nominee than Julie Carnes.”

Chambliss also said that Julie Carnes, whom he referred to as “my dear friend,” is a “consummate trial court judge” who has received accolades “from every single sector of the bar that appears before her.”

Carnes told the Daily Report Monday night that she, her daughter, members of her staff and others watched the vote at the federal courthouse.

“It was very exciting and a little bit surreal,” she said.

“I feel very honored and appreciative for the confidence that the Senate has shown with its vote to confirm me. I remain very grateful to President Obama for nominating me to the Eleventh Circuit, and I cannot express how much the support of Georgia’s two senators, Senator Chambliss and Senator Isakson, means to me.”

“I was particularly touched that they spoke so glowingly and warmly about my father,” Carnes continued. “He would have been so proud and excited to watch the senators cast their votes for his daughter. … I really miss him today.”

Carnes said that when she takes her seat on the Eleventh Circuit bench she will be returning to the courtroom where she heard her first oral argument, while clerking for a judge on the Fifth Circuit. “There will be a certain symmetry to the transition,” she said.