Feb 16, 2022 - News

Andrew Pinson named to Georgia Supreme Court

Clarence Thomas, Andrew Pinson, Brian Kemp
Judge Pinson (center) at his court of appeals swearing in with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Gov. Brian Kemp. Photo: Courtesy of Office of the Governor

Georgia is getting a new Supreme Court justice: Court of Appeals judge and former Solicitor General Andrew Pinson.

Catch up quick: Chief Justice David Nahmias announced his plans to retire last week, and Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Pinson to the vacancy within days.

The intrigue: While Kemp named Pinson quickly, the judge had already been vetted for the state’s top court last summer.

  • Two sources familiar with the situation tell Axios Pinson was the runner up behind Justice Verda Colvin, who was appointed at the time.

Details: Pinson clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, graduated first in his class from the University of Georgia law school and worked for Jones Day.

  • Cases Pinson has worked on include defending the state’s anti-abortion law in federal court and the yearslong “water wars” fight Georgia waged with Florida and Alabama.

The big picture: Because the state Supreme Court doesn’t usually encounter the kinds of social or divisive questions the U.S. Supreme Court does, it’s difficult to tell whether justices lean conservative or liberal, said Fred Smith, a law professor at Emory University. “It’s not a super divided place,” he said.

Smith pointed out that unlike other states, Georgia has avoided politicization of its Supreme Court. That’s in part because members of the state bar tend to rally behind incumbents regardless of their own political leanings specifically to discourage electoral battles.

  • Justices face nonpartisan elections every six years.

Don Samuel, a criminal defense attorney who regularly argues before the state Supreme Court, doesn’t predict the switch will translate into a big change in the court’s decisions. He called it a “real powerhouse” and an “unbelievably intellectual” court.

  • However, with Nahmias’ retirement, the court is losing its most senior member.

Of note: This change won’t affect the demographic makeup of the court: seven white people, one Black person, one Asian-American person; five men and four women.

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