Why are you running for the Georgia Supreme Court?

I’m running because we need Justices on the Georgia Supreme Court who will protect the right of women and their families to make the most personal family and health care decisions they’ll ever make. Despite many fine qualities, it’s obvious from his record that the incumbent, Justice Pinson, cannot be counted on to do that.

In siding with Mississippi and Alabama in the case that overturned Roe v. Wade, Pinson clearly did not represent the interests of the women and families in Georgia who are just beginning to feel the impact of that decision. We can’t expect Pinson to fight for our interests now that he’s been appointed to the only court that can stop what he helped start.

That’s not all. Politicians use gerrymandering and unfair redistricting to keep themselves in power. Only the Georgia Supreme Court can protect us from that.

And other rules – judge-made rules – make it harder to hold government officials accountable when they break the law. Only the Georgia Supreme Court can fix that.

With the federal courts withdrawing from so many of these fights – and taking the U.S. Constitution with them – the only protections Georgians have left are in our state Constitution. And the Georgia Supreme Court has the last word on what it means.

That’s why we need Justices on the Georgia Supreme Court who will enforce our state Constitution – our Georgia Constitution – against those who encroach on the rights of the people.

What would you say to the Georgia legal community about why you are the best choice?

I’ve had the privilege of litigating with and against some of the finest lawyers in the state, and in all walks of the profession. I’ve shared all the challenges and frustrations of a small town, small firm practice, while litigating against the biggest and best law firms in the state. Lawyers from all different walks of the profession need someone with that kind of experience on the Court.

What would you say to non-lawyers about Supreme Court elections and why they should vote for you?

Folks want to know that they’ll get the same shake as the bigshots represented by elite lawyers in elite law firms. They know they can’t get that from lawyers who’ve never represented real people, with real problems in the real world.

As a practicing lawyer, local elected official, member of Congress, and volunteer public attorney, I’ve represented more Georgians, in more different ways, than anybody else on the Court. And I believe most folks want that kind of experience on our Supreme Court.

What would you say your career to this point has done to prepare you to be a Supreme Court Justice?

My career has prepared me for service on the Court in lots of ways. As a lawyer in a small firm in a small town, I’ve seen how the law affects real people in the real world.

As a 14-year veteran of local government, I’ve seen all the ways that local government – the government that’s closest to the people – can contribute to a sense of community.  And I’ve also seen how both federal and state laws can make that job harder.

As a 10-year veteran of Congress, I’ve seen how big government and bureaucracy can run over people. I’ve listened to Georgians all over the state and come face to face with the reality of their everyday lives.

As a teacher, I’ve renewed my faith in the ability of the younger generation to tackle the problems that are not being addressed by today’s leaders.

And as a volunteer legal services lawyer, I’ve seen first-hand how the law can be used by the unscrupulous to prey on the less fortunate.

All of these experiences can only help the Supreme Court do its job.

Is there anything about your time in Congress that you would point to as an example of what you would bring to the Georgia Supreme Court?

Absolutely!  Judges have a much more limited job than legislators. Judges decide what the law is, not what it ought to be. Legislators, on the other hand, have a more expansive role.  Their job is to decide what the law ought to be.

If you want to know how someone will approach the role of deciding what the law is, you can’t get a better insight than in how they approach the broader questions of what the law ought to be.  If they’re careful and thoughtful in that much more expansive role, you can be sure that they’ll be careful and thoughtful in the much more limited role of judge.

In my time in Congress, I had to cast a thousand votes a year on anybody and everybody’s idea of what the law ought to be, and under the most challenging and trying circumstances. And in that role, I earned a reputation as a thoughtful and careful lawyer, and as the most bi-partisan member of the most partisan legislature around. I worked with people on both sides of the political divide, and on all sides of the issues.

That approach is needed in every school board, every county commission, and in every legislature. And it’s needed on the Georgia Supreme Court.

Are there life experiences outside of the law that influence your view of the law or the courts?

There sure are! I learned how the law affects people long before I went to law school.

My Dad was the closest thing to Atticus Finch within a hundred-mile radius of Athens. The way he represented everyone with dignity and respect, no matter their color or social standing, made a deep impression on me as a boy.

Dad was in local office during the Civil Rights era, and he enforced the constitutional rights of all – not the unconstitutional state laws that violated those rights.

Later, my Dad was the judge who presided over the case that desegregated our public schools – in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And I was in the first class to go all the way through.  So, yes, I got a pretty good education about the law and the courts – long before I ever went to law school.

And my Mom was a leader! A member of the Georgia Women’s Hall of Fame, Mom was a beloved University of Georgia professor – and a courageous and outspoken advocate for women and the marginalized. People that the law did not always protect.

And I’m lucky to be surrounded by strong women today – my wife, my sisters, my daughters – and now my granddaughters!

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