Linda Evans.
Linda Evans. (Photo: Zachary D. Porter/ALM)

One of Gov. Nathan Deal’s two appointees to the state Judicial Qualifications Commission has resigned as the judicial watchdog agency morphs from one that is constitutionally independent to a new, reconfigured agency under the purview of the General Assembly.

Linda Evans, who has served on the JQC since 2010 as an appointee of both Deal and former Gov. Sonny Perdue, sent her resignation letter to the governor, Evans confirmed Thursday.

In the Dec. 29 letter, Evans informed the governor that she believed “it was in the best interests of the state” to resign following the passage in November of a constitutional amendment abolishing the JQC and giving the Legislature the sole authority to recreate it. Her resignation was effective Dec. 31.

A JQC member since 2010, Evans is an attorney with expertise in insurance and professional liability law who was formerly the director of legal services at Can Pro, a business insurance company. She has also been a member of Deal’s Criminal Justice Reform Council, the Georgia Board of Driver Services and the White House Fellows regional selection panel in Atlanta.

Her husband, Dentons partner Randy Evans, has served as Deal’s personal lawyer and is co-chairman of the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission.

Deal’s press secretary and communications director have not responded to multiple inquiries by the Daily Report about Evans’ resignation or when and whether the governor intends to replace her. Deal’s executive counsel provided a copy of Evans’ letter to the Daily Report late Thursday in response to a public records request. The agency, which state legislators say was abolished Dec. 31 despite a “mix-up” in the language of the constitutional amendment and the enabling legislation, had included two members appointed by the governor, neither of whom could be members of the State Bar of Georgia. Under the new law that took effect Jan. 1, the governor has a single appointment who will serve as chairman and must be a member of the Georgia bar.

Evans, an attorney, is not a member of the Georgia bar. The governor’s other appointee—the JQC’s former investigator, Richard Hyde, who is not a lawyer—was out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

Athens attorney Ed Tolley, whom the bar named to the JQC last year, said this week that he and the holdover commissioners—Hyde, Fulton County State Court Judge Patsy Porter, Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Tripp Self, Statesboro attorney Jimmy Franklin and Savannah lawyer Lester Johnson—will remain until they are replaced. The enabling legislation reorganizing the JQC stripped the bar of its three appointments, replacing them instead with appointments by the lieutenant governor and House speaker.

Tolley, who also serves on an ad-hoc committee convened by Georgia Supreme Court Justice David Nahmias that is currently rewriting the new state law, said a proposed amendment to the new law “is being worked on but is not in the hopper yet.”

The JQC also has been without a director since last August when Young Harris attorney Mark Dehler resigned. Tolley said the holdover members “are in discussions with a potential interim director” but have not yet made a hire.

Meanwhile, the bar’s board of governors is expected on Saturday to approve a list of attorneys it will recommend to House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle as possible candidates for two as-yet-unfilled appointments (one by Cagle and one by Ralston) that must by statute be lawyers. Last week, Cagle named former Forsyth County Commissioner Brian Tam as his citizen appointee to the new JQC.

The enabling legislation reorganizing the JQC stripped the bar of its three appointments, replacing them instead with appointments by the lieutenant governor and House speaker.