Georgia Chief Justice David Nahmias delivered his 2022 state of the judiciary address to the Legislature a few days before he announced he will soon step down from the bench. Credit: Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Chief Justice David Nahmias announced his resignation Friday after 12 years on the state’s highest court and less than a year as its chief justice.

This story also appeared in Georgia Recorder

“After several months of reflection and prayer, I have decided that it is time for me to spend more time with my new fiancee, my children and the rest of my family, and to start a new (and perhaps final) chapter of my legal career. I am ready to do so now, but it will be better for the Court to continue my work on pending cases, limit any period without a full complement of Justices, and allow for an orderly transition to new leadership,” Nahmias wrote in his resignation letter delivered to Gov. Brian Kemp.

Nahmias will end his tenure on the last day of the court’s term, July 17, after which Kemp is expected to name a new justice, his fourth pick in as many years as governor, and the next chief justice will be Georgia’s third since the pandemic began in 2020. With Nahmias’ departure, Presiding Justice Michael P. Boggs will have seniority on the court.

The son of immigrants from Egypt and Germany, Nahmias was born in Atlanta and graduated from Briarcliff High School in DeKalb County before attending Duke University and Harvard Law School. After graduation, he served as a law clerk for Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia and for Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1995, he began a 15-year career as a federal prosecutor, supervising may high-profile cases, including terrorism investigations and prosecutions in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

He was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 2009 by Gov. Sonny Perdue and won re-election in 2010 and 2016. He was elected chief justice last year following the resignation of Justice Harold Melton on a Friday almost exactly a year earlier.

Justice Carla Wong McMillian said Nahmias’ presence on the bench will be missed.

“Thank you to Chief Justice Nahmias for his service to the State,” the Kemp appointee wrote in a tweet. “He will be sorely missed on the Court, and I will miss his friendship and collegiality.”

Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan of Atlanta, an attorney and candidate for state attorney general, reacted with shock.

“Wow, I wasn’t expecting this one,” she tweeted. “Chief Justice Nahmias is a brilliant guy (i think that even though we disagree a lot), but I so appreciate his service & sacrifice.”

Nahmias wrote that he was proud of his accomplishments on the court, including making state law more faithful to the state constitution, enhancing the child welfare system and improving the state’s judicial ethics and discipline system. But his time as chief justice was hampered by the pandemic, which made it difficult to operate courtrooms and resulted in a backlog of cases.

“This has been challenging but rewarding work, particularly during the past two years as we have responded to the COVID pandemic,” he wrote in his resignation letter. “I will always cherish the honor I was given to serve the people of our great state. I will miss my colleagues at the Court, both Justices and staff. And I will continue to appreciate all of the judges and supporting personnel in Georgia who work hard to protect the rule of law and provide equal justice for all.”

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business...