The Georgia Supreme Court Thursday elected David Nahmias to serve as the new chief justice to lead the state’s highest court over the next four years.
The other justices unanimously elected Presiding Justice Nahmias to take over on July 1 when Chief Justice Harold Melton steps down after 16 years with the court. Melton announced in February he would leave with about a year left in his term to spend more time with his family and plan what he will do next.
As chief justice, Nahmias is set to oversee the state’s judicial branch, serve as the court’s spokesperson and lead deliberations for cases that make it before the Supreme Court. He will also take on the responsibility of helping Georgia’s court system recover from upheaval caused by a pandemic.
Nahmias was appointed to the Supreme Court by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2009 after serving as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia and with the U.S. Department of Justice.
As a federal prosecutor in Atlanta, he worked on the Centennial Park Olympic bombing investigation and other high-profile cases.
“I’m honored that my colleagues have given me the opportunity to lead our court and our State’s outstanding judiciary as we face the challenges of emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the DeKalb County native said in a statement. “Chief Justice Melton has left big shoes to fill, and I thank him for his extraordinary leadership and service.”
The justices also voted Thursday to appoint Justice Michael Boggs as the new presiding justice, who serves as chief justice in their absence.
Appointed to the Supreme Court in 2016 by Gov. Nathan Deal and returned to the bench by voters in 2018, Boggs is a former judge for the Court of Appeals of Georgia and an ex-Superior Court judge for the Waycross Judicial Circuit.
Nahmias graduated from Harvard School of Law, where he served on the Law Review with former President Barack Obama and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. He later served as a law clerk for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Melton said that Boggs and Nahmias are ready to transition to their new leadership roles with a wealth of experience, including other supervisory positions with the supreme court.
“They believe in the rule of law, and that the rule of law is something that is applied across the board,” Melton said. “They both have different skill sets, but together they will make quite a strong team and will provide strong leadership for the judiciary statewide.”
Earlier this week, Melton lifted the restrictions on jury trials he put in place with an emergency order last year as the COVID-19 pandemic spread, leaving it up to court administrators to reopen their courtrooms if they can follow health and safety guidelines.
Nahmias and Boggs have been a part of an internal COVID-19 team that’s worked through all the scenarios to deal with the new world that courts will operate in for the foreseeable future, Melton said.
“It might be just a trench warfare of being in this COVID crisis together but our judiciary has really coalesced together into a pretty cohesive unit,” Melton said. “It takes somebody from the inside to explain just how unlikely that would be because it’s hard to describe just how many moving pieces there are and how there is really no authority that controls anything. It’s all done by cooperation and agreement.”
Gov. Brian Kemp is set to appoint a new justice to fill the remaining year-plus on Melton’s term.