Kemp names appointee for controversial Supreme Court vacancy

    Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has named Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua to the Georgia Supreme Court. She is his second appointee to the state's highest court. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

    Governor Brian Kemp has announced his pick for a vacancy on the state Supreme Court that was at the center of two lawsuits after a sitting justice announced early this year that he would step down from the bench last month.

    Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua

    The governor said Tuesday that Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua will replace Justice Keith Blackwell, who announced in February that he would resign in November but after the election.

    Blackwell’s announcement empowered the governor – instead of voters – to name his replacement. And that triggered two lawsuits, including one from two would-be candidates who wished to run for the seat. Another legal challenge came from voters, including a former chief justice’s widow, who argued the secretary of state’s decision to cancel a May election disenfranchised Georgia voters.

    LaGrua will not stand for election until 2022. She is Kemp’s second appointee to the Georgia Supreme Court, with former state Court of Appeals judge Carla Wong McMillian seated on the bench in April.

    “Judge LaGrua has spent a 30-year career serving her fellow Georgians, and I am confident that she will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the bench,” Kemp said in a statement Tuesday.

    LaGrua formerly served as the Inspector General for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office and as DeKalb County’s Solicitor General. Before that, she was a prosecutor in Atlanta, Stone Mountain and Tallapoosa judicial circuits.

    Chief Justice Harold D. Melton praised the decision in a statement.

    “She is an excellent choice among a number of excellent choices the governor had available to him. We are excited and look forward to her joining us to do the business of the people,” Melton said.

    Jill Nolin
    Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.