Verda Colvin

Gov. Brian Kemp picked a Georgia Court of Appeals judge to become his newest appointee to the state Supreme Court, making Verda Colvin the second Black woman to serve on the state’s highest court.

This story also appeared in Georgia Recorder

The Republican governor announced Tuesday that Colvin will fill the vacancy of the former Chief Justice Harold Melton, whose departure early this month briefly left the Supreme Court bench without a Black justice for the first time since 1989.

Just 15 months after Kemp selected Colvin to join the court of appeals, he promoted her to the Supreme Court from among six finalists.

Former Justice Leah Ward Sears, who served from 1992 to 2005, was the first Black woman to serve on Georgia’s Supreme Court.

“It is an honor to appoint such an experienced and accomplished justice to our state’s Supreme Court,” Kemp said in a statement Tuesday. “With Justice Colvin on the bench, Georgia’s highest court is gaining an immensely talented and principled judge who will help guide it in the years to come.”

After spending 15 years as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Colvin to Macon’s Superior Court in 2014.

During her tenure as a judge in Macon, Colvin gained widespread attention for her lectures to young people who had been in legal trouble, including an emotional 2016 speech that went viral as she encouraged them to stay out of trouble or run the risk of deadly consequences.

On Tuesday, Chief Justice David Nahmias welcomed Colvin’s arrival on the Supreme Court bench. Nahmias officially took over as the leader of the court after Melton stepped down on July 1.

“Given her background and experience, including many years as a Court of Appeals and trial court judge, we are confident that she is eminently qualified to serve on the state’s highest court,” Nahmias said.

Colvin’s appointment is one of six judicial selections announced by Kemp on Tuesday, including Andrew Pinson, the Solicitor General in the Attorney General’s office, to fill Colvin’s seat on the appeals court. 

Kemp also named Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton as a judge in the Atlanta Judicial Circuit.

Colvin becomes the third justice that Kemp has picked for the state Supreme Court, the state’s court of last resort, which decides cases as serious as upholding a death penalty conviction and whether the government can forcefully take ownership of private property. 

Kemp’s previous two appointments were also women. In March 2020, former state Appeals Court Judge Carla Wong McMillian became the first Asian American woman in the Southeast to serve on a state Supreme Court. Former Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua joined in January. 

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