Lawsuit challenges Deal’s Court of Appeals appointments

[private]Gov. Nathan Deal’s recent appointments of three new judges to an expanded state Court of Appeals are being challenged as violations of the Georgia Constitution in a Fulton County lawsuit.

The lawyers filing the lawsuit have asked a Fulton Superior Court judge to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the swearing in of Nels Peterson, Brian Rickman and Amanda Mercier as Court of Appeals judges.

“There is an urgent need for this court to act in restraining the aforementioned judicial appointees from taking office,” the lawsuit argues.

“Irreparable harm for which the petitioners have no adequate remedy at law will occur should the aforementioned judicial appointees be sworn into office, embark upon their duties as appellate court judges and then it be later determined that their commission by appointment was unlawful,” the lawsuit said.

The General Assembly passed legislation this year, HB 279, that expanded the appeals court from 12 judges to 15 judges and provided that the new judges would be appointed by the governor.

The lawsuit, however, cites Article 6 of the state constitution which requires that “all Justices of the Supreme Court and the Judges of the Court of Appeals shall be elected on a nonpartisan basis for a term of six years.”

“The text of the current state constitution does not lend itself to an interpretation that the Governor is granted the authority to appoint persons to newly created judgeships,” the lawsuit contends.

“Nor is there any textual support for the proposition that the General Assembly can determine the method by which newly created judgeships can be filled, as the Constitution itself states the manner in which such a judgeship is to be filled, i.e. by election of the people,” the lawsuit adds.

Deal announced the appointments of Peterson, Mercier, and Rickman on Oct. 29. His office has not commented on the lawsuit filed Monday in Fulton Superior Court.

The plaintiffs challenging the appointments include Francys Johnson, president of the Georgia NAACP, and Ken Dious, an attorney who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2014.

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Court of Appeals , Nathan Deal , new appointments