The Honorable Debra Bernes has died of cancer at the age of 54. Bill Rankin at the Atlanta Journal Constitution has posted an article on her passing and her career. Judge Bernes will be remembered for many things including her illustrious, albeit too short career on the Georgia Court of Appeals.
Before beginning her service on the Georgia Court of Appeals, Judge Bernes was a long time appellate attorney with the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office. After a brief stint in private practice as an appellate lawyer, she ran for an open seat on the Georgia Court of Appeals.
Judge Bernes was elected to her seat after defeating Howard Mead, a candidate who greatly outspent her. Judge Bernes ran a grassroots campaign and won through a recount and a blitz of advertising by her opponent. Most importantly, she ran a clean and ethical campaign for judge. She showed that the high road actually works in statewide elections.
I appeared in front of her for argument many times and wrote many more briefs where she was either on the panel or where she wrote the opinion. She was everything an advocate could ever want in a judge, particularly on the appellate bench. She was intelligent, hard-working, and she had a sense of compassion for the people who appeared in front of her. Above all, she treated you like a professional
Judge Bernes ruled against me much more often and she ruled for me, but every opinion was soundly reasoned, thoroughly researched, and reflected her best effort to apply the law as she believed it to be to the facts of the case. In a year of misconduct in Georgia that has given the judicial branch a black eye, she was a shining example of who a judge could and should be.
Aly Palmer with the Fulton Daily report has also posted an obituary.