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Supreme Court: Ozburn on list for job

COVINGTON - Superior Court Judge Samuel D. Ozburn is on the short list of nominees to fill a vacant seat on the Georgia Supreme Court, the governor's office announced Wednesday.

The Judicial Nominating Commission recommended that Gov. Sonny Perdue consider Ozburn and eight others to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears.

"I'm very honored. There's a number of very qualified people on (the list)," Ozburn said. "I know most of them personally ... Apparently, he is going to have a difficult choice. As I said, there are very good people on there, and I'm honored to be a part of it. It's a very humbling thing."

Nine nominees were culled from a pool of 38. Perdue will meet with each of the remaining candidates in the next few weeks. Ozburn said he expects it will take most of the month for Perdue to make his selection.

"This is a very important position," he said. "Right now, there are only six members of the Supreme Court. They're operating short-handed. I'm sure he will want to fill that vacancy as soon as possible. Obviously, he will want to be very careful and I can understand that."

In addition to Ozburn, the following nominees were recommended by the commission:

· Stephen Louis A. Dillard - Counsel with James, Bates, Pope and Spivey in Macon;

· James P. Kelly III - Managing partner of Kelly Law Firm in Atlanta;

· David E. Nahmias - U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Georgia;

· William M. Ray II - Superior Court Judge, Gwinnett County;

· Craig L. Schwall Sr. - Superior Court Judge, Fulton County;

· Mary E. Staley - Superior Court Judge, Cobb County;

· Benjamin W. Studdard III - State Court Chief Judge, Henry County; and

· Rocco E. Testani - Partner with Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan in Atlanta.

Ozburn was nominated to the Georgia Supreme Court by State Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle.

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

The new justice will serve the remainder of Sears' current term, through 2010, and then run in the 2010 statewide election to serve a six-year term beginning in 2011.

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

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.

Sears' retirement was effective Tuesday. Carol Hunstein was sworn in as the new Chief Justice on Wednesday. Hunstein was appointed to the court in 1992 by former Gov. Zell Miller.

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