Judiciary

Georgia circuit judge fears that after he retires, his court will be all-white and all-male


The only black judge in Georgia’s Chattahoochee Circuit is retiring, and he recently asked the governor and the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission to consider race when appointing a replacement.

Judge John Allen, who serves as the Chattahoochee Circuit’s chief judge, will retire Oct. 31, according to the Daily Report. Allen, a recent chair of the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission, admonished Gov. Nathan Deal in a Sept. 5 memo.

If the governor follows his pattern in recent judicial appointments, the memo stated, he would create “an all-white male superior court bench.” That “would be egregiously unrepresentative of the population served.”

The memo included 2010 Census data showing that the population in Muscogee County, the circuit’s largest county, was relatively evenly divided between black and white residents.

“I am certain you are aware of the ‘face of justice’ created by your appointments to the bench,” Allen wrote.

Last year, Georgia lawyers publicly challenged what they saw as a decade-long failure to appoint black attorneys as judges.

J. Randolph Evans, a partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge in Atlanta who is white, co-chairs the Judicial Nominating Commission.

“Diversity plays a role in the decision-making process. We work very hard in that regard. The tough part is that … in many situations we don’t have any minority applicants, any Asian-American applicants, any African-American applicants,” he told the Daily Report. “It’s hard to pick one when nobody applied or the ones who applied didn’t meet the statutory requirements for the position. We are very mindful of it. We are sensitive to it. We are diligent about it. But at the end of the day, all of it depends on the applicant pool.”

Of the six nominations the commission has received since Sept. 5 to fill two judicial spots, at least one nominee is black, according to the article. That individual is Alonzo Whitaker, the Chattahoochee Circuit’s chief assistant district attorney.

Allen told the Daily Record that neither the governor or the commission have responded to his memo.

“I don’t want the governor or his committee to sit there and not have as a part of their thought process that this judiciary ought to be representative of the body it serves,” he said. “”It’s almost an indictment of females and African-Americans not to be chosen, because they are saying you are not qualified. And it’s just not true.”

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