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JNC co-chair clarifies remark on liberals, Democrats
Thank you for your excellent piece regarding Governor Nathan Deal's impact on Georgia's judiciary. His background has uniquely qualified him to help shape the future of Georgia's courts in ways that improve our judiciary and our state.
Your article also highlighted some of the challenges in advancing diversity among our judges. It is difficult to appoint qualified minority candidates when none or very few have applied for an open judgeship. When those opportunities have come, the Judicial Nominating Commission and Governor Deal have attempted to seize them. We will continue those efforts.
There was one error in your article. Specifically, one paragraph indicated that I had acknowledged that it would be difficult for a "Democrat" to make it all the way through the vetting process. As reflected by my subsequent comments also referenced in the article noting that party affiliation was not a factor and that the Judicial Nominating Commission had short-listed several Democrats, some of whom Governor Deal had appointed at all levels of the judiciary, that was not what I said or suggested. My actual comments were that it would be difficult for a "liberal" to make it all the way through the vetting process.
Notably, our Judicial Nominating Commission has representatives from every group in Georgia, regardless of party affiliation, gender, race, ethnicity, geography, practice (public and private), philosophy and experience. Our deliberations focus on reaching a consensus, which means that all points of view are reflected in our recommendations.
Importantly, there are no litmus tests. As applicants who have been interviewed can attest, the questions and inquiries focus on competence, temperament, philosophy, creativity, work ethic and electability. Governor Deal's admonition has consistently been: good judges. We have tried to meet that directive.
Diversity is a challenge that we take seriously. The Judicial Nominating Commission reaches out to every group of which we are aware for input and applicants. Yet, the bottom line remains that we need more applicants of every background. Indeed, in some circuits, we have only one or two applicants.
Notwithstanding our challenges, our approach is an open process in which every applicant gets a real opportunity to be recommended and selected, and is considered on their own merits against the pool of applicants. So, the problem is not with the Judicial Nominating Commission or Governor Deal. Instead, the best opportunity for more diversity in recommendations and appointments is quite simply more diversity in applications.
Hopefully, every Georgia attorney interested in public service will consider serving as a judge and apply. The more choices, the better our judiciary will be. If attorneys willing to do their part will apply, we will continue to do ours.
J. Randolph Evans
Judicial Nominating Commission