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Local judge tapped for high court
Ozburn would serve as an associate justice

COVINGTON - Superior Court Judge Samuel D. Ozburn has been nominated to serve on the Georgia Supreme Court.

Ozburn was nominated by State Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle, to replace Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears upon her retirement, effective June 30.

"I am proud to announce the nomination of Samuel Ozburn to the Georgia Supreme Court," Douglas said in a prepared statement. "Judge Ozburn is a credit to our judicial system, the legal profession as a whole and to all who strive to give back through public service."

If selected by Gov. Sonny Perdue, Ozburn would become an associate justice of the court. The court is comprised of a chief justice and six associate justices.

Ozburn said he was surprised when Douglas approached him about the nomination, and he asked for time to pray about it and discuss it with his wife and the other judges of the Alcovy Judicial Circuit.

Receiving only positive feedback, he decided to accept the offer.

"When I first became a Superior Court judge, that had not necessarily been a long-term goal of mine. When the opportunity arose, I felt it was the right thing to do at that time. This was a similar situation," Ozburn said. "I just feel like personally at this time, it is something I can do and can continue to better our judicial system."

The Judicial Nominating Commission will soon begin officially seeking nominations. The commission will screen and interview nominees before sending a short list of qualified candidates to Perdue, who will make the appointment.

Ozburn said the appointee will likely be sworn in by mid-to-late June and will serve the remainder of Sears' current term, through 2010. Following that, the new justice would run in a 2010 statewide election to serve a six-year term beginning in 2011.

Ozburn's nomination has already been sent to Judicial Nominating Commission Chairman Michael Bowers.

If he is appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court, Ozburn would resign as Superior Court judge, leaving a vacancy in the Alcovy Circuit.

The replacement process would follow the same procedure, with the Judicial Nominating Commission making recommendations and Perdue having final say.

The appointee would serve out Ozburn's current term, which runs through 2012.

Ozburn was appointed as judge of the Superior Court of the Alcovy Judicial Circuit by Gov. Zell Miller in 1995 and has been re-elected to four terms without opposition.

He served as justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia by special designation in May 2005.

Ozburn is an active member of the Newton County community, serving as chairman of the board of directors of the local Salvation Army. He has also served as president of the Alcovy Circuit Bar Association, Kiwanis Club of Covington and the Newton County Mental Health Association.

After graduating from Newton County High School, Ozburn attended Oxford College of Emory University, the University of Georgia and the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University.

He is an active member of Eastridge Community Church.

Ozburn lives in Newton County with his wife Rhonda. They have two children, David and Britt.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: What does the Georgia Supreme Court do?

As the highest court in the state, the Georgia Supreme Court has jurisdiction over questions regarding constitutionality of a law, ordinance or constitutional provision and over all election contests. The court also has general appellate jurisdiction over cases involving land titles, equity, wills, all habeas corpus cases, cases involving extraordinary remedies, divorce and alimony cases, cases certified by the Court of Appeals and death penalty cases.

Additionally the Supreme Court may answer any question of law from any state or federal appellate court and may review Court of Appeals cases which are of gravity or of great public importance.

The court sits each month to hear oral arguments, with the exception of August and December. Cases are assigned in rotation to justices for preparation of opinions and decisions of the whole court. When a justice prepares an opinion, it is circulated for study to the other justices and, following discussion, is either adopted or rejected by a majority.