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Selection to fill Roper’s judgeship could have ripple effect

Posted: November 26, 2016 - 10:50pm

When Gov. Nathan Deal selects a lawyer to fill the unexpired term of retiring Superior Court Judge J. David Roper, one selection could lead to a second appointment.

One of the lawyers whose name was submitted for consideration to the Georgia Judicial Nomination Committee is District Attorney Ashley Wright, who was re-elected to a new four-year term Nov. 8. If Wright submits an application by Tuesday and the governor selects her to fill Roper's term, her job as the top prosecutor for Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties becomes open.

Because Wright would be vacating the district attorney's seat early in her term, the governor would appoint a local lawyer to to fill the vacancy, but that person would have to run in a special election in the next general election.


Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said by email that although there are three election dates in 2017, she thinks the law's use of the term "general election" refers to an even-year general election, which would mean a special election in conjunction with the November 2018 election.

But Bailey said she would seek input from the city's law department and from the state before proceeding if a special election for district attorney becomes necessary.

Wright was appointed by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue to serve as district attorney in 2008, after the governor's selection of her former boss, Daniel J. Craig, to the Superior Court bench. Craig, who served as district attorney from 1994 to 2008, was tapped to fill the term of retiring Judge Neal Dickert, who returned to private practice after 10 years on the bench.

Roper won a seat on the Superior Court bench in a runoff election in December 2006 to replace retiring Judge William H. Fleming Jr.

With the exception of Roper, Judge Sheryl B. Jolly and incoming Judge John Flythe, the remaining five Superior Court judges have initially ascended to the bench by appointment, although retiring Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet and Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. did face challenges in their re-election campaigns in recent years.

After the Judicial Nomination Committee receives the applications this week, the members will conduct interviews with the candidates in December and then narrow the list to up to five names to submit to the governor for his consideration.

Roper intends to leave office Feb. 5.

 

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