Meet Your New Georgia Appellate Judges & Justices
BY RYALS D. STONE & MADELEINE SIMMONS
During one historic week for the Georgia appellate courts in November 2016, Gov. Nathan Deal announced his appointments for three new Georgia Supreme Court justices and three new Court of Appeals judges. The new Supreme Court justices are former Georgia Court of Appeals Judges Michael Boggs and Nels Peterson, and former Georgia Solicitor General Britt Grant. Justice Grant and Justice Peterson filled the two new seats created by the passage of House Bill 927 during the 2016 session of the Georgia General Assembly, which expanded the highest appellate court from seven to nine members. Justice Boggs filled the vacancy created by Chief Justice Hugh Thompson’s retirement. That same day, Governor Deal also named two new Court of Appeals judges to replace Boggs and Peterson:State Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton; and Macon Judicial Circuit Judge Tripp Self III. One week earlier, Governor Deal appointed Commissioner Clyde Reese III to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Herbert Phipps.
JUDGE CHARLIE BETHEL
On November 9, 2016, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Charles Jones (“Charlie”) Bethel of Dalton to the Georgia Court of Appeals, commencing on Jan. 1, 2017. Judge Bethel is a 1994 graduate of Dalton High School and earned both his business (BBA 1998) and law (JD 2001) de-grees from the University of Georgia.
After law school, Judge Bethel served as a law clerk on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia for Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr. before returning home to northwest Georgia.
Judge Bethel practiced law in Dalton with Minor Bell & Neal (now “The Minor Firm”) and spent over a decade in the flooring industry in executive and legal capacities for J&J Industries. Judge Bethel was elected four times to serve in the Georgia State Senate. During his service in the Senate, Judge Bethel served as the Chair of both the Insurance & Labor Committee and the Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee. Among the high points of his legislative service, Judge Bethel successfully carried a comprehensive juvenile justice reform legislation and Autism insurance reform legislation (commonly referred to as “Ava’s Law”).
Judge Bethel refers to his first term on the bench as a “season of firsts.” He credits his judicial clerks and his non-attorney staff for his smooth transition to the appellate bench. “The staff of the court has been extremely welcoming. They make my job so much easier and even more enjoyable.”Judge Bethel’s preexisting relationships with several of his new colleagues on the Court of Appeals have also been very helpful while he acclimates to his new position. “Thankfully I knew many of the sitting judges prior to my appointment, but now I have the privilege of working with them.”
Judge Bethel and his wife Lynsey have three children: Henry, Jeb, and Joanna. Lynsey earned her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from UGA. The Bethel family attends the First Baptist Church of Dalton. Judge Bethel is active in the community having served in various leadership positions with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, United Way, and the Dalton Rotary Club among others.
JUDGE CLYDE REESE
On November 1, 2016, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Clyde Reese III, 57, to the Georgia Court of Appeals. Judge Reese officially began serving on the Court on December 1, 2016. Upon moving to Atlanta with his family at age 10, Judge Reese was among the first three African-American students to integrate Pace Academy of Atlanta as a sixth grader in 1969 (he is a 1976 Pace graduate). A Georgia State University alum (BA History, 1980), Judge Reese worked in residential real estate for his family’s Atlanta-based brokerage firm from 1980 until 1993, when he enrolled at Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law (JD 1996).
Following law school, Judge Reese worked as an Assistant Attorney General in the Georgia Department of Law in the Regulated Industries Section, which included the Department of Insurance and the State Health Planning Agency (SHPA). The SHPA sub-sequently hired Judge Reese as its in-house General Counsel. From 1999-2003, Judge Reese was Deputy General Counsel and General Counsel of the newly created Department of Community Health (formerly SHPA), the largest health-care agency in the Executive Branch.
From 2003-2007, Judge Reese was owner and principal of & Hopkins, LLC, representing hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, physicians and physician group practices, imaging providers, and other health-care entities.
In 2007, Judge Reese returned to state government with DCH and as General Counsel and later as DCH Commissioner in 2010. In January 2011, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Judge Reese as Commissioner of the Department of Human Services (DHS). In July 2013, Judge Reese returned to DCH as Commissioner until his recent appointment to the Georgia Court of Appeals.
Judge Reese’s appointment marks the first time in his distinguished career that he has donned a judge’s robe. “I am a new Judge, but that is about the only thing new about me,” Judge Reese said with a smile. “I believe my life and professional experiences in total will allow me to be a productive member of this hallowed institution.”
Judge Reese has already found his new position to be quite rewarding. “The most enjoyable aspect of serving on the Court of Appeals has been interacting with and learning from my judicial colleagues, including our Court Clerk Steve Castlen. I have tried to listen, learn, and apply the guidance and advice received.” When asked what the most challenging aspect he expects to face on the Court of Appeals, Judge Reese cited, “[Complying with] the two-term rule and disposing of my cases in a timely fashion.”
Judge Reese has five children and two young grandchildren. Judge Reese is a resident of Douglasville and has been a member of the Friendship Community Church for more than 30 years.
JUDGE TRIPP SELF
On November 9, 2016, Macon native Chief Judge Tilman E. “Tripp” Self, III, 47, was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to serve as the 83rd judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals. Judge Self began his term on January 1, 2017.
Judge Self attended college as a cadet at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, on Army ROTC and Citadel Scholar scholarships. In 1990, he received his B.S. in Business Administration, graduating summa cum laude as The Citadel’s top business graduate.
Upon graduation from The Citadel, Judge Self received his commission as a Field Artillery Officer in the United States Army. After graduating on the Commandant’s List from the Field Artillery Officer’s Basic Course at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Judge Self served in the Republic of Korea, including a rotation in the Demilitarized Zone while assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division. Upon returning home, Judge Self was stationed at Fort Stewart in Hinesville, Georgia and participated in a joint drug reconnaissance operation with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Upon leaving the Army in 1994, Judge Self attended the University of Georgia School of Law, graduating cum laude (JD 1997). He then returned to Macon and began practicing law at Sell & Melton, LLP. Judge Self worked as a litigator in the firm’s general civil practice.
In 2006, Judge Self won an open seat on the Superior Court for the Macon Judicial Circuit. He began his first term on the Superior Court bench on January 1, 2007, making him the third-straight generation of his family elected to serve as a judge in Bibb County. He was subsequently re-elected in 2010 and 2014. The Georgia Supreme Court designated Judge Self to serve on that Court in 2011. In 2014, Judge Self became the Chief Judge of the Macon Judicial Circuit. As a Superior Court judge, Judge Self presided over 101 jury trials.
Judge Self looks forward to contributing to the tradition of utmost judicial integrity that Georgia’s appellate courts have always maintained. “As a proud third-straight generation judge in this state, it has always been very important to me that we as judges be accessible and available resources to our fellow Georgia attorneys who bring their important cases before us, while at the same time always preserving the highest level of respect for the Court that it requires.”
Judge Self resides in Macon with his wife Amy and their four children. The Selfs are members of Piedmont Church and are very active in the Macon community. Off the bench, Judge Self is an avid and accomplished turkey hunter, and he has officiated NCAA football games in the Southern Conference for the last 19 years, including the 2017 NCAA FCS National Championship game.
JUSTICE NELS PETERSON
Justice Nels S.D. Peterson was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to the Supreme Court of Georgia effective January 1, 2017. This marks Justice Peterson’s second judicial appointment within the last calendar year. He was previously appointed by Governor Deal to the Georgia Court of Appeals effective January 1, 2016.
Justice Peterson is a graduate of Kennesaw State University and Harvard Law School. He was Executive Editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.
Following Harvard Law, Justice Peterson served as a law clerk to Judge William H. Pryor Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Justice Peterson then practiced law at King & Spalding LLP in Atlanta, where he focused on securities litigation, corporate governance litigation, merger-related litigation, and appellate litigation.
Justice Peterson then served as Executive Counsel and Deputy Executive Counsel to Governor Sonny Perdue. Justice Peterson then moved to the Attorney General’s Office as Counsel for Legal Policy, where he oversaw major health care reform and water rights litigation. In 2012, the Attorney General appointed Justice Peterson as Georgia’s first Solicitor General, where he oversaw all of the state’s appellate litigation. Justice Peterson was then appointed Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs and Secretary to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia until his appointment to the Court of Appeals.
Now having served on both of Georgia’s appellate courts, Justice Peterson notices a few distinct differences between his previous experience on the Court of Appeals versus his first three months on the Supreme Court. “On the Court of Appeals, most decisions are made by panels of three judges – and the same three-judge panel stays together all year,” Justice Peterson pointed out. “As a Court of Appeals judge, you’ve written one out of every three decisions you participate in. On the Supreme Court, every case is decided by the full Court. The ratio of reading to writing is much higher. And as a result, there’s much more regular engagement with each colleague.”
One quarter into his first year on the Supreme Court, Justice Peterson affectionately recalls his most enjoyable experiences thus far: “The two most rewarding aspects of serving on the Supreme Court [over my first three months] have been the chance to work with my new colleagues and the work itself…and for someone like me who loves the law, the nature of the work is fantastic.”
Regarding the greatest challenges facing him and his fellow Justices on the Court, Justice Peterson acknowledges: “The volume and complexity of the work is considerable, as is the impact of our decisions. The paper has to keep moving, while always still being thoughtful about the potential implications of each decision.”
Justice Peterson currently serves on the board of the Atlanta chapter of the Federalist Society. Justice Peterson lives in Cobb County with his wife Jennifer and two children and is an active member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church.
JUSTICE BRITT GRANT
Justice Britt C. Grant was appointed to the Supreme Court of Georgia on January 1, 2017.
Justice Grant graduated from the Westminster Schools in Atlanta. She subsequently attended college at Wake Forest University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts summa cum laude in 2000. After college, Justice Grant worked Washington, D.C., in the office of then-Congressman Nathan Deal. Shortly before September 11, 2001, she served in the White House under President George W. Bush in the Domestic Policy Council and the Office of Cabinet Affairs. Her husband Justin G. Grant served in the Central Intelligence Agency. Justice Grant then attended Stanford Law School, where she graduated “with distinction” in 2004. Following law school, Justice Grant served as a law clerk to the Honorable Brett M. Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She then practiced at Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Washington, D.C., representing clients in commercial litigation.
In 2012, Justice Grant and her family returned home to Georgia where she worked in the Georgia Attorney General’s Office as Counsel for Legal Policy. In January of 2015, Justice Grant was appointed Solicitor General of Georgia, representing the State in water litigation and other cases before various Georgia and federal Courts of Appeals as well as the United States Supreme Court.
Currently the youngest member of the Supreme Court of Georgia at age 38, Justice Grant cites her invaluable experience as Solicitor General as the prior post that best equipped her to serve on Georgia’s highest appellate court. “[Serving as Solicitor General] prepared me to serve on this Court in a unique way, because I had the opportunity to consider Georgia’s statutes and Constitution each and every day on a wide range of cases. Although I still have a great deal to learn, combining that breadth of experience in Georgia law with my prior experience as an appellate law clerk has allowed me to hit the ground running.”
Justice Grant fondly reflects on the warm welcome with which she has been received by her veteran colleagues on the Court. “It is so rewarding to serve alongside other judges who are committed to working hard to get the right answer for Georgia in these important cases.”
Justice Grant admits the inevitable, internal struggles that come with being among the State’s final decision-makers on important Georgia caselaw: “The correct legal answer in a case may be different than what I would choose to do from a policy perspective. Being human, I am sure that will be a challenge from time to time, but I am committed to leaving policy choices to the other branches of government.”
Justice Grant currently resides in Atlanta with her husband Justin and their three children.
JUSTICE MICHAEL BOGGS
Justice Michael P. Boggs, 53, was appointed to the Supreme Court of Georgia on December 7, 2016 by Gov. Nathan Deal. Justice Boggs previously served as a Georgia Court of Appeals judge from 2012-2016, winning an unopposed statewide re-election in 2012. Justice Boggs previously served as a Superior Court Judge for the Waycross Judicial Circuit, having been elected to an open seat in 2004 and re-elected in 2008.
Justice Boggs is a 1985 graduate of Georgia Southern College. He received his law degree from Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law in 1990. After law school, Justice Boggs practiced property insurance defense litigation in Atlanta until 1992, at which point he returned to his hometown of Waycross. From 1992-2004, Justice Boggs maintained a general trial practice specializing in family law, real estate, banking, personal injury, and general civil litigation matters.
From 2000 to 2004, Justice Boggs served as a State Representative to the General Assembly. As a state legislator, Justice Boggs served on the Judiciary, Public Safety and Government Affairs Committees. Justice Boggs notably authored the “Child Protection Act,” a bill aimed at protecting children from sexual predators. An ardent supporter of accountability courts, Justice Boggs founded the Waycross Judicial Circuit Drug Court Program and served as its Presiding Judge. Justice Boggs has also served as a member of the Governor’s Judicial Nominating Commission.
Justice Boggs made national news in 2014 when Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked his nomination by President Barack Obama for a federal judgeship to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Boggs had the support of both Georgia’s Republican senators, Sen. Johnny Isakson and Sen. David Perdue, who both submitted letters of recommendation to the U.S.Supreme Court in support of Justice Boggs’ nomination. Other letter writers supporting Boggs included: former Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss; Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Georgia; superior court judges from Atlanta and Waycross; attorneys from some of Atlanta’s top law firms; and fellow members of the Council of Criminal Justice Reform.
Justice Boggs was raised in Waycross and now lives in Pierce County with his wife Heather, a kindergarten teacher in the Ware County public school system.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Ryals Stone is a lawyer in the Rome office of The Stone Law Group – Trial Lawyers, LLC. He represents individual and corporate plaintiffs in the areas of catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, products liability, medical negligence, civil fraud/RICO, as well as commercial and consumer litigation. Ryals currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice (AAJ), as well as on the Civil Justice PAC Board of Directors, and is a member of the GTLA Executive Committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Madeleine Simmons is a partner with Morgan & Morgan in their Atlanta office where she specializes in personal injury cases. She is a graduate of the GTLA LEAD Program and currently serves on the GTLA Executive Committee as the Verdict Editorial Board Chair in addition to serving on the Civil Justice PAC Board. She can be reached at email@example.com.