“We do this every week,” Gov. Nathan Deal joked Tuesday as he opened a ceremony during which Judge Charlie Bethel of the state Court of Appeals took the oath to become a state Supreme Court justice.
Deal was presiding over his 11th swearing-in ceremony in two years for jurists on the top two courts; he’s also sworn in countless trial court judges as well.
Senior Judge Charles Pannell of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia introduced Bethel, who clerked for him after graduating from the University of Georgia law school.
Pannell noted he’s known Bethel since the new justice was a toddler visiting his father in the local district attorney’s office where Pannell worked with Bethel’s father, James E. Bethel.
Pannell traced Bethel’s family to before the Civil War, saying he “descended from lines of great Georgians.”
“We expect great things,” Pannell added. “We are sure he’s up to the task.”
Bethel was Deal’s Senate floor leader less than two years ago when the governor tapped him for an opening on the Court of Appeals. Then last month, Deal chose Bethel for the vacancy created by the retirement of Chief Justice Harris Hines.
Deal picked Bethel from a second short list provided by the governor’s Judicial Nominating Commission after Deal eschewed an initial list of finalists.
From the second list, Deal chose his House floor leader, Rep. Christian Coomer of Cartersville, to replace Bethel on the Court of Appeals.
On Tuesday, Bethel spoke humbly and admitted getting misty-eyed upon being sworn in. “You have given me opportunities to serve,” he said in thanking the governor.
Among many expressions of thanks, Bethel said he learned a lot from his fellow judges, including that a judge should “never be under the illusion you are special.”
“A lot of folks could fill this spot,” he added.
Bethel said he’s learned that being a good judge includes a love for the law and “healthy self-doubt.”