Gov. Nathan Deal named another new judge Friday, this time for Douglas County State Court.
Douglas Judicial Circuit District Attorney Brian Fortner will move up to the bench as soon as he can be sworn in, Deal announced.
The governor said Fortner will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge W. O’Neal Dettmering Jr., who retired in December, a year ahead of the expiration of his current term.
By the time Deal finishes his second term in January 2019, he will have chosen five justices of nine on the Georgia Supreme Court, 10 of 15 members of the Georgia Court of Appeals and more than 100 of the 213 superior court judges in the state. His state court judicial appointments track accordingly, as he creates more openings by elevating judges from one bench to another.
Fortner earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from North Georgia College and State University and a law degree from the Georgia State University College of Law. Fortner and his family live in Winston. He was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 2000.
Fortner served as a prosecutor with the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office for over six years. In 2007, Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed him solicitor general of Douglas County to fill an opening created by the resignation of Gregory Barton. In 2012, he returned to the district attorney’s office as chief assistant district attorney. He was elected district attorney in 2014.
One of Fortner’s high profile prosecutions came in 2015 when a white couple driving a pickup truck flying a Confederate flag pointed a gun and threatened violence against African-American children at a birthday party.
Fortner said at the time, “This is behavior that even supporters of the Confederate battle flag can agree is criminal and shouldn’t be allowed.” He prosecuted them for aggravated assault, violating Georgia’s street gang act and making terroristic threats.
They pleaded guilty and wept in court as Superior Court Judge William McClain sentenced them to prison—six years and 13 years—saying, “Their actions were motivated by racial hatred.”
The disruption of the birthday party took place less than a month after white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine African-Americans at a historic black church in Charleston. Roof, who was sentenced to death for his crime, brandished the battle flag in several photographs that came to light after his arrest.