The Judicial Nominating Commission has given Gov. Nathan Deal a new list of candidates to consider for filling the last remaining opening on the Georgia Supreme Court. The list contains a couple of familiar names and one surprise.
The commission interviewed candidates Tuesday after the governor asked for more nominations to fill the opening created by the retirement of Chief Justice P. Harris Hines. The governor’s office announced the three nominees and said the staff will contact them to schedule interviews.
One of the nominees—Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Sara Doyle—was considered a favorite in the first round. Doyle has already served a term as chief judge. But her name was not on the short list of nine the commission sent to the governor. From that list, Deal chose Solicitor General Sarah Warren to fill the opening created on the high court when former Justice Britt Grant left for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Another of the new nominees, Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Charlie Bethel, is already well known to Deal. The governor appointed Bethel to the Court of Appeals in late 2016, and he took office in January 2017. Bethel has previously served in the state Senate. He had also worked for his mother’s family business for a decade, heading legal affairs and a host of other functions for J&J Industries, a Dalton carpet and flooring company.
The third name is new to Supreme Court consideration, although well known to the governor. Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, the state House majority whip, also has served as the governor’s floor leader. Coomer is an attorney in private practice and a judge advocate officer in the Georgia Air National Guard.
Coomer was not in the earlier round of Supreme Court candidates, but he was nominated and interviewed by the JNC for openings on the Court of Appeals in April.