voter.jpgIf you haven’t already done so, please vote in today’s election. Polls close at 7:00 p.m. this evening. I voted at 8:00 a.m. this morning, and the woman at my precinct told me that I was only the fifth voter to darken their doors. This is a very important election, and much is at stake. If you are a lawyer, then you know why this election is important. If you have less experience in Georgia Courts, let me tell you a little more about why this election is important.

  • Our appellate courts make decision on individual cases that shape the way future cases are decided. Most decisions that come out of our Supreme Court and Court of Appeals become the law in terms of how we interpret our the United States Constitution, Georgia Constitution and Georgia statute. Though the governor’s office and the legistlature get the bulk of the attention, much power is placed in the hands of our appellate judges. An individual appellate judge is arguably more powerful than an individual state senator.
  • The Supreme Court is ultimately responsible for regulating attorney discipline in the State of Georgia. The Georgia bar is self-regulated, but decisions on how or whether to discipline lawyers are left in the hands of the justices on the Supreme Court, with the hard work and assistance of lawyers who work for the State Bar of Georgia. It is important to put the best person for the job in that office.
  • Finally, though many people will never end up in court, I meet with many moms, dads, uncles, brothers, spouses, sons, and daughters who are good “regular people.” They come to me because they have found themselves supporting a loved one who has been convicted of a crime or who has some other type of matter pending before our appellate courts. If you get sick and require the assistance of a specialist in the medical field, you have some choice in your doctor. When you appear in front of a judge, the moment to choose has already passed.
  • “The people get the government they deserve.” Alexis de Tocqueville is credited with saying it, but he more likely source is Joseph de Maistre. It rings true.

I’ve shared with you in previous blogs my choice for the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. I’ve also shared resources with you where you can read up on the candidates. Even if you think my choices are way off base and you are going to vote the other way, please vote today. This election is just as important as any other election. And these offices deserve the involvement of the people.

McFadden 006.jpgI recently wrote about my decision to vote for Justice Nahmias over challenger Tammy Lynn Adkins. That post was picked up by Aly Palmer on the ATL Law Blog, the blog of the Fulton Daily Report. The post has generated thoughtful emails to me about the election. I hope that you’ll research the candidates yourselves and make the choice you believe is best for the Georgia Supreme Court bench. For what it’s worth, I’ve always valued competence over philosophy in judges. I’m not a big John Roberts fan, but I thought that he was well-qualified to be an Associate Justice for the United States Supreme Court and now Chief Justice of the United States. And Senator Lindsey Graham’s stock went way up in my book when he broke from the Republican ranks and voted to confirm Elena Kagan to to an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Anyway, I tried to research some more about Ms. Adkins after some emailers suggested I had been hasty. I’m still in the dark about her. This voters’s guide is a good example of what I’m talking about. 

Enough about that race. Over at the Court of Appeals, there is a great deal of information about Chris McFadden and his opponent, Toni Davis. Both have run campaigns intended to inform Georgia voters about the importance of the Court of Appeals and their respective positions. Both have experience in the appellate courts.

I’m casting my ballot for Chris McFadden for several reasons. One, he is a lifelong student of our appellate courts and an experienced appellate practitioner. He will bring a lifetime of experience and a wealth of knowledge to the Court. He’s the author of the hornbook on Georgia appellate practice. His book sits on my desk, in arm’s reach at all times. It’s dog-eared, highlighted, tabbed, and heavily annotated. He’s the founder of the appellate practice section of the State Bar of Georgia and is active in that organization. He’s also worked hard as a candidate and will work hard as a judge. I also consider him a friend.

So, please research the candidates and vote. Also, take the time today to inform your friends that the upcoming election is important. Tell them what you know about the candidates, and encourage informed voting for these very important offices. Help them by guiding them to some places where they can learn about courts and the candidates.

David_Nahmias.jpgJustice David Nahmias is picking up endorsement from both sides of the political aisle. Bill Rankin, at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Gov.-elect Nathan Deal and Mayor Shirley Franklin have pledged their support to Justice Nahmias. Mr. Rankin also reports that Republican Attorney General-elect Sam Olens and Ken Hodges, the recently defeated Democratic nominee for that race have also endorsed Justice Nahmias. He has also been endorsed by 48 lawmakers and 11 past presidents of the State Bar of Georgia.

Justice Nahmias is in a race with Tamela Adkins after he captured 48% of the popular vote in the general election. Ms. Adkins did not run a campaign but changed the way her name appeared on the ballot to read Tammy Lynn Adkins.

Justice Nahmias is a former clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia and the former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. Ms. Adkins is a divorce lawyer in Lawrenceville, Georgia. She has never argued a case before the Supreme Court of Georgia.

So, now to the part of this blog that might cost me some “street cred.” with the Georgia criminal defense bar. I’ll vote for Justice Nahmias in this election. I’m not a big fan of his judicial philosophy in criminal cases and I have disagreed with his opinions. But I recognize that he is qualified to be a justice on Georgia’s highest court. I have argued a handful of cases before the Court since Justice Nahmias took office, and I enjoy his level of engagement in cases at oral argument. His opinions are reasoned and thoughtful, even the ones where he has ruled against me.

I don’t have much experience with Ms. Adkins. I recently heard her give a campaign speech at the Fall Seminar of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Fall seminar. I did not get a sense from that speech of what she would bring to the Court. I’m not entirely sure that in the brief time I heard her speak that I was able to get a sense of her qualifications to write scholarly legal opinions and engage advocates in the weighty issues that come before the Court. My sense is that she’d have to learn a great deal about the appellate process very quickly while on the job. She didn’t seem to have any theme behind her campaign except that she’s not Justice Nahmias. She even referenced herself as “Tammy Lynn Anyone But Nahmias Adkins”

With the exception of one person, everybody in the world isn’t Justice Nahmias. But everybody in the world shouldn’t have his job. So, maybe I score one in her column for judicial philosophy (though she never really said what hers was if she’s developed one).

Though I and others might wish that there was a credible alternative to Justice Nahmias in terms of philosophy, I cannot ignore the element of qualifications, experience, and background to perform the job at a high level. Perhaps in another election season I’ll vote differently if I had to choose whether to re-elect Justice Nahmias. But this year is not that year.

 

ballot.JPGThere will be two run-offs for Georgia appellate seats. Justice David Nahmias, who was appointed to finish the term of Justice Leah Sears, won 48.2% of the votes. He will be in a run-off against Tammy Lynn Adkins, who achieved 35.2% of the vote in spite of the fact that she did not run a campaign. Justice Nahmias’s more vocal opponent, Matt Wilson, was able to eek out only 16.6% of the votes. Mr. Wilson ran an aggressive campaign, where he attempted to cast Justice Nahmias as a bureaucrat and Washington insider with little regard for individual rights. It will be interesting to see if Ms. Adkins begins campaigning in the upcoming run-off election or if not running a campaign will continue to pay-off

Campaigning has had an impact in the race for the Georgia Court of Appeals, also headed for a runoff. Antoinette “Toni” Davis garnered 25.5 percent of the votes to Chris McFadden’s 22.6%. Election results are available on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. Mr. McFadden was endorsed as most qualified by Georgia lawyers polled by the State Bar of Georgia. Ms. Davis picked up key endorsements by two Georgia newspapers and several prominent judges and other office holders in Georgia.