Georgia Supreme Court Runoff: Weighing Philosophy Against Qualifications

Justice 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.


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