DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond has made his pick for the county’s new top lawyer. But the appointment of Viviane Ernstes is subject to approval by the Board of Commissioners, which is slated to pick up the agenda item next Tuesday.
Ernstes, a longtime government lawyer, has been serving as interim county attorney since January, following the retirement late last year of Overtis Hicks “O.V.” Brantley. She could not be reached for comment about her pending move.
Before assuming her interim leadership role in the DeKalb County Law Department, Ernstes served as deputy county attorney, overseeing all county-related transactional work, according to her online bio. If approved by the board, her responsibilities also would include providing legal advice to the county’s elected officials, including Thurmond and the commissioners.
Earlier in her public-service career, Ernstes supervised all litigation for the Fulton County attorney and served as a part-time municipal court judge for the city of Decatur from 1995 to 2004, the bio said. She came to DeKalb as a staff attorney in the DeKalb County State Court in 1998.
And it’s not her first time leading the Law Department. She was the acting DeKalb County attorney in June 2005, when the Georgia Court of Appeals debated whether the county should be liable for former Sheriff Sidney Dorsey’s masterminding the 2000 murder by former county deputies of his political rival, Sheriff-elect Derwin Brown, according to a Daily Report article about the oral arguments. (Later that year, the appeals court ruled that the county was not liable.)
Ernstes earned her degree from the University of Georgia School of Law.