Brian Tam, Forsyth County Georgia.
Brian Tam, Forsyth County Georgia. (Handout Photo)

Georgia’s lieutenant governor has named a former Forsyth County commissioner as one of his two appointments to the state’s newly constituted Judicial Qualifications Commission, which a constitutional amendment passed in November placed under the aegis of the Georgia General Assembly.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has appointed Cumming restaurateur Brian Tam, a three-term county commissioner who decided last year not to seek re-election, as his citizen pick. Under legislation passed last year that took effect Jan. 1, the lieutenant governor—for the first time in the JQC’s history—was given two appointees to the seven-member commission, which investigates the state’s judges for ethics infractions and recommends disciplinary action when warranted. His second appointment must be a member of the State Bar of Georgia and can be drawn from a list of recommendations proposed by the bar. Cagle spokesman Adam Sweat said the lieutenant governor, who is also president of the state Senate, has not yet made that appointment.

The new law also for the first time gives the House speaker two appointments and allows the governor to appoint the JQC chairman, who must be a lawyer and a member of the Georgia bar.

Cagle in a news release called Tam “one of Forsyth County’s most successful small business owners” and “a dedicated public servant committed to advancing the interests of his state” who will be “a great asset for Georgia as we work to ensure our judicial system upholds the highest ethical and moral standards.”

The Daily Report attempted to contact Tam at his restaurant and via email but has not received a response.

Tam’s appointment must be approved by the state Senate under the new constitutional amendment. The opening day of the Georgia General Assembly is Jan. 9. His term will last six months, from Jan. 1-June 30, according to Cagle’s letter. Because of what House Judiciary Committee Chairman Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, acknowledged last month was “a mix-up” when the constitutional amendment and enabling legislation were drafted, the old JQC was to have sunset Dec. 31, a new interim JQC was to take over beginning Jan. 1 but would sunset on June 30 in favor of a third JQC that Wendell has said would likely be completely different from the one now dictated by the new law.

House Speaker David Ralston’s spokesman, Kaleb McMichen, said Tuesday that Ralston has not named his appointees.

Bar executive director Jeff Davis told the Daily Report Tuesday that the bar’s board of governors will approve a list of names to submit to Ralston and Cagle at its mid-year meeting on Saturday. Davis said the bar has not received resignations from the three lawyers who have been serving as the bar’s appointees to the JQC—Statesboro attorney Jimmy Franklin, Savannah lawyer Lester Johnson and Athens attorney Ed Tolley—but added that the new law does not require that formality.

Asked if the Supreme Court has named its appointees to the new JQC, spokeswoman Jane Hansen said she believes the court will do so “in the not too distant future.”

The Daily Report has contacted the governor’s communications director and press secretary by phone and by email but has not yet received a response as to whether the governor had named the new JQC’s chairman. Under the old law and a clause of the state constitution that changed with the passage of the constitutional amendment, the governor made two appointments, both lay people, to the JQC. Under the new law, the governor has a single appointment who must be a member of the Georgia bar but who will serve as the agency’s chairman.