Nahmias challenged for state Supreme Court

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY -- With the lion's share of media attention going to the Georgia gubernatorial race and various congressional contests, the election of a member to the state's highest court has been shadowed.

"Everyone else who runs for office promises you, 'I'm going to get you this kind of result,' " Justice David Nahmias said in an interview Friday at The Albany Herald. "All we (candidates for the bench) can promise is that we'll get you the result that the law requires."

Nahmias says that's what he's been doing since he was appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue in August 2009 to succeed former Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, who had retired. "I'm fair and I apply the law," he said.

Nahmias is being challenged in his bid to retain his bench seat for a full four-year term on Nov. 2 by Matt Wilson, an Atlanta trial lawyer, and Tammy Lynn Adkins, a Lawrenceville lawyer who specializes in divorce cases and who had done little visible campaigning.

"Because of the low level of campaigning, it's a race where people can say different things and it's hard to bring it to the attention of the voters," the justice said. "It's hard to inform people. The biggest concern I have is getting information out to the voters."

Wilson has attacked Nahmias as a divisive figure on the court who is attempting to bring the state court system more in line with the federal court system, a charge Nahmias dismissed. "I don't know what that means," Nahmias said. "As a justice, you apply the law.

"Ninety percent of all our (Supreme Court) decisions are unanimous. I'd like to see some data that shows the court has become more divided than it has been in previous years."

Nahmias was the U.S. attorney in Atlanta for more than 4 1/2 years before his appointment to the Georgia Supreme Court and began working as a federal prosecutor in 1995. He graduated magna cum laude in 1991 from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, and clerked for U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia Judge Laurance H. Silberman and for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia before joining the Washington, D.C., lawfirm of Hogan & Hartson.

As a federal prosecutor, he was involved in the investigation of the 1996 Olympic bombing case in which Albany resident Alice Hawthorne was killed, resulting in the indictment of Eric Rudolph, before being moved to the office's Fraud and Public Corruption Section, where he successfully prosecuted a Georgia state senator for corruption and was co-lead prosecutor on public corruption investigations into the Atlanta and Fulton County governments. After 9/11, he was reassigned to Washington, D.C., where he coordinated probes into terrorist activities and in 2003 was named deputy assistant U.S. attorney for the Criminal Division, overseeing the Counterterroism Section, the Fraud Section (which included the Enron Task Force), the Appellate Section and the Capital Case Unit. President George W. Bush named him U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia in 2004.

Wilson has charged that Nahmias' lack of time representing clients in state of Georgia courtrooms is a liability. "I really don't think he is qualified for the job," Wilson said during an earlier campaign swing through Albany. Nahmias, however, notes that Wilson, who has practiced law for 35 years, has never had an appeal that has been heard by the Georgia Supreme Court and published.

"Among the people who pay attention and who are informed ... I have overwhelming support," Nahmias said.

While Wilson charges that Nahmias is unpopular with Georgia lawyers, a State Bar of Georgia poll -- one in which the responses are anonymous -- indicates otherwise. Nahmias noted that of the 2,339 state lawyers who responded to the poll, 1,726 -- 76 percent -- said he was well qualified, while Wilson got that rating from 184 respondents (26 percent) and Adkins got 123 (16 percent). Of the respondents, 78 percent said they sufficient knowledge to express an opinion on his qualifications, while 28 percent said that about Adkins and 26 percent knew enough to have an opinion of Wilson's qualifications.

"I welcome anyone to go to someone you trust who keeps up with things and ask them about me," Nahmias said. "I won't get 100 percent support from them, but I bet I'll get support from 90 percent of them. I actually have a proven record to run on instead of just promises."