Georgia Supreme Court Justice Keith Blackwell retires

On Nov. 18, Georgia Supreme Court Justice Keith Blackwell retired, citing family obligations and a desire to return to private practice. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) appointed Blackwell to the court in June 2012 to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of George H. Carley. Before serving on the supreme court, Blackwell served on the Georgia Court of Appeals from 2010 to 2012.

Blackwell first announced his retirement on Feb. 28, 2020. Following the announcement, the Georgia Supreme Court announced that the governor would appoint Blackwell’s replacement.

Former Congressman John Barrow (D) and former state Representative Beth Beskin (R), who both planned to run for Blackwell’s seat, challenged the appointment in court. They argued that the vacancy should instead be filled by a special election. The state supreme court ruled in a 6-2 opinion on May 14 that the secretary of state could not be compelled to hold the election.

On March 27, 2020, the Georgia JNC recommended four candidates to the governor to fill the vacancy. Three of the candidates are superior court justices; one is a justice on the Georgia Court of Appeals. Gov. Brian Kemp will select Blackwell’s replacement from this list. This will be his second appointment to the supreme court.

In 2020, there have been 22 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, and 21 vacancies were caused by retirements.

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