Judge Billy Ray, Georgia Court of Appeals (Photo: John Disney/ALM) Judge Billy Ray, Georgia Court of Appeals (Photo: John Disney/ALM)

The Georgia Court of Appeals posted a fond goodbye note to Judge William “Billy” Ray II, who left last week for a new job.

Ray mentioned in oral arguments for a U-Haul case Oct. 25 that he likely would not be voting on the opinion because “this is probably my last day.” He told lawyers not to worry if he didn’t seem to agree with them. John Salter of the Barnes Law Group said during his argument, “By the way, congratulations on not having to stick around to decide this.”

Ray has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as President Donald Trump’s nominee for a lifetime appointment on the federal bench. The Court of Appeals website notice did the math on the long wait for confirmation: 15 months. But Ray is now on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta and, as the Court of Appeals put it, has “returned to the trial court bench.”

It has been more than six years since Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Ray to the Court of Appeals of Georgia, filling the position left when Deal moved Justice Keith Blackwell to the Georgia Supreme Court. Ray had already served nearly a decade as a Gwinnett Judicial Circuit Superior Court judge.

The Court of Appeals noted that Ray is “the son of a farmer,” born in Macon and raised in Peach and Crawford counties. He said he always wanted to be a lawyer, having grown up in a family that was involved in government and politics. He practiced law in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and served six years in the state Senate. In Gwinnett, Ray founded one of the first drug treatment courts in the state and presided over it for seven years. He also served as the chair of the Legislation Committee of the Council of Superior Court Judges and as secretary-treasurer of the statewide governing council of the 200-plus superior court judges.

“Judge Ray served the Court of Appeals of Georgia with honor and distinction for the past six years,” Chief Judge Stephen Dillard said in the note. “We are all grateful for his dedicated service and friendship, and we wish him the very best in this next phase of his already exemplary judicial career. He will be dearly missed.”