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Georgia Supreme Court

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Georgia Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   7
Founded:   1845
Chief:  $167,000
Associates:  $167,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Active justices

Carol Hunstein  •  Robert Benham  •  Hugh Thompson  •  Harris Hines  •  Harold Melton (Georgia)  •  David Nahmias  •  Keith Blackwell  •  

Seal of Georgia.png

Founded in 1845, the Georgia Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort.


The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected by
Justice Carol Hunstein1992-2018Gov. Zell Miller
Justice Robert Benham1989-2020Gov. Joe Frank Harris
Chief justice Hugh Thompson1994-2018Gov. Zell Miller
Presiding Justice Harris Hines1995-2020Gov. Zell Miller
Justice Harold Melton (Georgia)2005-2018Gov. Sonny Perdue
Justice David Nahmias2009-2016Gov. Sonny Perdue
Justice Keith Blackwell2012-2020Gov. Nathan Deal


This 1983 Georgia Constituion gives the Georgia Supreme Court exclusive appellate jurisdiction over constitutional cases and election contest cases. The court also has general appellate jurisdiction over land title, will and equity cases, divorce and alimony cases, certified cases, death penalty cases, and writs of habeas corupus or certiorari. The court may also exercise jurisdiction over Georgia Court of Appeals cases found to be of great public importance.[1]

Judicial selection

See also: Judicial selection in Georgia

Judges are selected using the nonpartisan election of judges system. Judges serve six-year terms. "When an interim vacancy occurs, the seat is filled using the assisted appointment method of judicial selection with the governor picking the interim justice from a slate provided by the Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission consisting of eighteen members who are appointed by the governor and who serve at his pleasure. The commission recommends at least five candidates to the governor for each judicial vacancy, unless fewer than five applicants are found to be qualified. There is no requirement that the governor appoint a candidate from the nominating commission's list."[2]

The court's Chief Justice is elected from among and by the state's justices on a rotating basis.[3]

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Georgia was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Georgia received a score of 0.09. Based on the justices selected, Georgia was the 20th most conservative court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[4]


Minimum qualifications for election to the court are:

  • Be a resident of Georgia.
  • Licensed to practice law in Georgia for at least seven years.[5][3]

Removal of Justices

Justices may be removed in one of two ways:

  • The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission may discipline, retire, or remove a judge. Removal and retirement decisions must be reviewed by the supreme court.
  • Judges may be impeached by the Georgia House of Representatives and convicted by a two-thirds vote of the Georgia State Senate.[3]


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2014 * *
2013 1,936 1,944
2012 1,936 1,963
2011 2,107 2,037
2010 2,036 1,869
2009 1,979 1,958
2008 2,060 2,160
2007 1,875 2,038


  • Georgia has not yet released caseload data for 2014.

Notable cases


Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Georgia earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[13]

History of the court

In 1858, the Georgia legislature passed an act "decreeing that the decisions of the 13-year-old court had the force of law."[14] The first session of the court was held in Talbotton, Georgia on January 26, 1846. Three judges were chosen by the General Assembly, and were paid $2,500 per year. The men were Joseph Henry Lumpkin of Athens, Eugenius A. Nisbet of Macon, and Hiram Warner of Greenville. There were eleven superior court circuits, and the Supreme Court traveled to those courts. The Constitution of Georgia was amended in 1896 to allow for an additional three justices and provided the direct election of justices by the people. In 1945, the Constitution was amended to include a seventh justice.[3]

Notable firsts

  • Former Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears became the first woman and the youngest person ever to serve on Georgia's Supreme Court in 1992 when she was first appointed by then-governor Zell Miller. Justice Sears was also the first African-American female Chief Justice on a state supreme court in the United States.[15]
  • Joseph Henry Lumpkin was the first Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court.

See also

External links


  1. Georgia Supreme Court Official Site
  2. American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection: Georgia; Judicial Nominating Commissions," archived October 2, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Georgia Supreme Court: Official Website
  4. Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
  5. Up until 2000, the requirement for years of service was five years, but a new constitutional amendment (Georgia Amendment 7) was approved in 2000 changing the years to seven.
  6. Georgia Court System, "Georgia Supreme Court Caseload 2013"
  7. Georgia Court System, "Annual Report FY2013"
  8. Georgia Court System, "Annual Report FY2012" Select 2012 from the drop down menu, scroll to page 21
  9. Georgia Court System, "Cases Filed report 2011"
  10. Georgia Court System, "Cases Filed report 2010"
  11. Georgia Court System, "Cases Filed report 2009"
  12. University of Georgia Law, "Fifteen Famous Supreme Court Cases from Georgia," June 1, 2004
  13. Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
  14. "[F]rom and after the passage of this act the decisions of the Supreme Court of this State...shall not be reversed, overruled or changed; but the same is hereby declared to be, and shall be considered, regarded and observed by all the Courts of this State, as the law of this State, when it has not been changed by legislative enactment, as fully, and to have the same effect, as if the same had been enacted in terms by the General Assembly. Acts of 1858, pp. 74-75.
  15. ABC News, "Leah Ward Sears, African-American Woman, on Obama's Short List for High Court," April 12, 2010


Unopposed  Judge Harris Hines (Hines)
Unopposed  Judge Keith Blackwell (Blackwell)
Unopposed  Judge Robert Benham (Benham)


CandidateIncumbencyPrimary VoteElection Vote
HunsteinCarol Hunstein   ApprovedAYes99%   ApprovedA
MeltonHarold Melton (Georgia)   ApprovedAYes99%   ApprovedA
ThompsonHugh Thompson   ApprovedAYes99%   ApprovedA


Georgia Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
David Nahmias Green check mark transparent.png 176,627 67%
Tammy Lynn Adkins 86,938 33%
  • Click here for 2010 General Election Results from the Georgia Secretary of State.


Georgia Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Harris Hines Green check mark transparent.png 2,801,588 100%
Against retention 0 0%
Georgia Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Robert Benham Green check mark transparent.png 2,812,875 100%
Against retention 0 0%
  • Click here for 2008 General Election Results from the Georgia Secretary of State.


Georgia Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2006 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Harold Melton Green check mark transparent.png 1,605,179 100%
Against retention 0 0%
Georgia Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2006 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
George Carley Green check mark transparent.png 1,609,144 100%
Against retention 0 0%
Georgia Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2006 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Robert Benham Green check mark transparent.png 1,596,458 100%
Against retention 0 0%
Georgia Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2006 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Carol Hunstein Green check mark transparent.png 1,170,973 63.1%
Mike Wiggins 683,483 36.9%
  • Click here for 2006 General Election Results from the Georgia Secretary of State.
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