mcloudy.png
Sunday April 5th, 2020 2:53PM

Lawsuits: Georgia illegally canceled election to high court

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

ATLANTA (AP) — Two would-be candidates have filed suit against Georgia's top election official, saying he illegally canceled a scheduled May 19 election for a seat on the state's highest court to allow the governor to fill the position by appointment when it becomes vacant months later.

John Barrow of Athens, a former Democratic congressman, and former Republican state lawmaker Beth Beskin of Atlanta both planned to challenge Justice Keith Blackwell for his seat on the Georgia Supreme Court in the May election. Then the court announced last Friday that Blackwell is resigning and his replacement will be named by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

Blackwell's announcement said he plans to remain on the bench until Nov. 18 — six months after the nonpartisan election for his seat. Yet when Beskin and Barrow showed up to qualify for the race this week, state officials said they had called off the election.

“His seat is not vacant," Beskin said Thursday, the day before the qualifying period to sign up for Georgia's 2020 elections was set to expire. "We should be having qualifying for his seat right now. To cancel an election the day before qualifying, I don’t think it's legal.”

Barrow said canceling the election amounts to “the ultimate act of voter suppression” by depriving voters of a chance to elect one of the state's most powerful judges.

“They’re taking this election off the books before the event that authorizes them to do it,” Barrow said after filing suit Thursday in Atlanta.

Both candidates filed separate court challenges in Fulton County Superior Court asking a judge to order Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to put the judicial election back on the calendar and allow candidates to qualify.

Georgia's state constitution allows the governor to appoint judges to fill vacancies on state courts. Both lawsuits argue Kemp can't appoint anyone to Blackwell's seat until the judge has left office, and that the state can't cancel an election to let the governor to make a future appointment.

“The person who holds that office will continue to hold that office for another eight months,” said Cary Ichter, Beskin's attorney. "I don’t see how you can call that a vacancy. That justice is still getting paid, still making decisions and his retirement is continuing to accrue.”

Georgia officials declined to give much of an explanation for calling off the election. Blackwell's seat had been scheduled to appear on the May ballot. Georgia Supreme Court justices serve six-year terms, and Blackwell last ran in 2014.

Raffensperger's office had no immediate comment, but provided copies of nearly identical letters sent to Beskin and Barrow.

“The Governor's office informed the Secretary of State's office that the Governor intended to fill the created vacancy by appointment” to Blackwell's seat, said the letter Beskin received Tuesday from Ryan Germany, an attorney for the secretary of state. “After speaking with the Attorney General's office about the situation, our office determined that the most prudent course of action was to cancel qualifying for that seat.”

State Attorney General Chris Carr's spokeswoman, Katie Byrd, declined to comment on any legal opinions or advice Carr's office had provided, citing attorney-client privilege. Kemp spokeswoman Candice Broce referred all questions to the secretary of state.

Blackwell, 44, was appointed to the state Supreme Court by then-Gov. Nathan Deal in 2012. Prior to that, he served two years on the Georgia Court of Appeals. Blackwell appeared on a list of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees that President Donald Trump made public during his 2016 campaign.

Blackwell said in his resignation letter to Kemp that he plans to return to private practice and spend more time with his family.

Kemp already gets to fill another vacancy on the state Supreme Court. The retirement of Justice Robert Benham, who left office Sunday, enables the governor to appoint a successor who won't have to seek election until 2022. Kemp has not announced his pick to replace Benham.

Blackwell's resignation announcement said he plans to remain on the court until mid-November to minimize any disruption to the court from back-to-back departures.

___

Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia.

  • Associated Categories: Local/State News, Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Supreme Court News, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Online Headlines - Georgia News
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Chris Sale not scheduled for Tommy John surgery -- for now
Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale has a flexor strain near his left elbow and will not be scheduled for Tommy John surgery — for now
4:11PM ( 3 minutes ago )
Virus fears grip markets again; stocks and bond yields slide
Stocks and bond yields fell sharply Thursday as fears about fallout from the virus outbreak sent more shudders through markets
4:07PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Cruise ship is held off California coast for virus testing
Scrambling to keep the coronavirus at bay, officials have ordered a cruise ship to hold off the California coast to await testing of those aboard, after a passenger on an earlier voyage died and at least one other became infected
4:03PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Another Year of the Man: Voters mourn women's losses in 2020
With the presidential race exit of Elizabeth Warren, Democratic women are coming to terms with a new and for some a painful reality: If 2019 was the Year of the Woman, with a record number of women sworn into Congress and then a record number launching presidential campaigns, 2020 is another Year of the Man
3:25PM ( 48 minutes ago )
Bloomberg's hope for Super Tuesday splash lands in Pacific
Mike Bloomberg spent more than $500 million to net one presidential primary win in the U.S. territory of American Samoa
3:23PM ( 50 minutes ago )
Lawsuit: Georgia illegally canceled election to high court
A lawsuit by a would-be candidate says Georgia officials illegally canceled an election for a seat on the state's highest court
3:22PM ( 52 minutes ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Lawsuit: Georgia illegally cancelled election to high court
A lawsuit by a would-be candidate says Georgia officials illegally cancelled an election for a seat on the state's highest court
2:27PM ( 1 hour ago )
Schumer: I 'should not have used' threatening words on court
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says he “should not have used the words I used” when he said two Supreme Court justices would “pay the price” for their decisions on an abortion case
1:50PM ( 2 hours ago )
Schumer: I 'shouldn't have used' threatening words on court
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says he “should not have used the words I used” when he said that two Supreme Court justices would “pay the price” for their decisions on an abortion case
11:50AM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Online Supreme Court News
Braves' d'Arnaud has smooth transition, reunion with Fasano
Travis d'Arnaud is enjoying a smooth transition to Atlanta, where he is expected to share starting time at catcher with Tyler Flowers
1:03PM ( 3 hours ago )
NET? Quadrants? Deciphering lingo about NCAA tourney bids
If the talk about bubble teams and NCAA Tournament bids was just about the number of wins and losses it would be a simple conversation
12:56PM ( 3 hours ago )
Locke's 3s help Gators take control late to beat Dogs 66-54
Florida pulled away late in the game with a 10-0 run that included back-to-back 3-pointers by Noah Locke, and the Gators beat Georgia 66-54
9:04PM ( 19 hours ago )
AP Online - Georgia News
AP Online Headlines - Georgia News
Virus fears grip markets again; stocks and bond yields slide
Stocks and bond yields fell sharply Thursday as fears about fallout from the virus outbreak sent more shudders through markets
4:07PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Cruise ship is held off California coast for virus testing
Scrambling to keep the coronavirus at bay, officials have ordered a cruise ship to hold off the California coast to await testing of those aboard, after a passenger on an earlier voyage died and at least one other became infected
4:03PM ( 12 minutes ago )
'This is not a drill': WHO urges the world to fight virus
The World Health Organization is urging global governments to pull out all the stops against the new virus
4:02PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Seattle-area officials buy $4 million `quarantine' motel
The amenities offered by the suburban EconoLodge motel may not be fancy, but they were just what Seattle-area officials were looking for in a quarantine facility for coronavirus patients
3:50PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Insurers will cover virus tests, but check if costs apply
Vice President Mike Pence is assuring Americans that lab tests for coronavirus will be covered by private and government health insurance
3:45PM ( 29 minutes ago )