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3 Whites, 2 Blacks are on Short List After Push for Diversity

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Judge John Allen urged the Judicial Nominating Commission to consider diversity.
Judge John Allen urged the Judicial Nominating Commission to consider diversity.

The governor's Judicial Nominating Commission has recommended two African-American prosecutors among a short list of five nominees for two openings on the Superior Court bench in Columbus.

Race became a prominent issue in the JNC's selection process after Chattahoochee Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge John Allen wrote a memo in September to Gov. Nathan Deal and the JNC, urging them to consider diversity in filling his seat.

Allen was the sole African-American on the circuit's bench and his retirement last week created one of the two vacancies. The other was created by legislation approved by the state General Assembly at the request of the Judicial Council of Georgia.

"I am certain you are aware of the 'face of justice' created by your appointments to the bench," Allen wrote. "Upon my retirement, the composition of the Superior Court Bench of the Chattahoochee Circuit will be five white males. If the pattern of the two most recent appointments is continued in the two impending vacancies, the superior court bench of this circuit will be composed of seven white males."

Allen was referring to the 2010 appointment of William Rumer by Gov. Sonny Perdue and the 2011 appointment of Art Smith by Deal. Both are white.

In response to Allen, the JNC extended its nomination deadline by two weeks in hopes of attracting more minority nominees. The JNC last week interviewed 22 applicants on Monday, of which at least eight were African-American.

The short list of nominees submitted to the governor include:

• Muscogee County State Court Judge Maureen Gottfried, who has been on the bench since 1996. She earned her law degree from the University of Georgia and was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 1986.

• J. Ronald Mullins Jr., a partner at Page, Scrantom, Sprouse, Tucker & Ford whose practice includes insurance defense, government law and adoptions. He earned his law degree from the University of Georgia and was admitted to the bar in 1976.

• Ben Richardson, solicitor-general for Columbus and Muscogee County, who was named solicitor-general of the year in 2008 by the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia. He earned his law degree from the University of Georgia and was admitted to the bar in 1992.

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