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Phipps excellent choice for chief judge

Editorial

Herbert E. Phipps, presiding judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals, will take an even bigger role with the court next month.

On June 25, Presiding Judge Phipps will become chief judge of the state’s Appeals Court.

The court announced his election to the chief judgeship Tuesday afternoon. Phipps will serve a two-year term in that capacity. As chief judge, he will be the representative of the Appeals Court in its dealings with other courts, the governor, the Legislature, state agencies and the public.

It is a much-deserved honor for a keen legal mind who will be up to the task of heading the Georgia Court of Appeals. Phipps’ new duties, in addition to representing the court, will be to oversee its fiscal affairs and to initiate policies.

The man he will succeed in the position, Chief Judge John J. Ellington, earlier noted Phipps’ journey from his childhood in Baker County to his position on the state’s second-highest court. “It’s a long way from Baker County to becoming the presiding judge of the Court of Appeals,” Ellington said before the unveiling of Phipps’ portrait last summer in the Dougherty Judicial Building. “This man has made the journey with class, hard work, excellence and sacrifice.”

Indeed, those words offer an excellent description of Phipps, who served as a judge of the Dougherty Judicial Circuit’s Magistrate, State and Juvenile courts before Gov. Zell Miller appointed him to a Dougherty Superior Court judgeship in 1995. He successfully ran for that bench seat the next year, but didn’t get to complete the term because Miller’s successor, Gov. Roy Barnes, had the wisdom to appoint him to the Appeals Court in 1999. To the credit of Georgia voters, they have seen fit to elect Phipps to the Appeals Court three times since that appointment.

Phipps has had an impact on Georgia both from his position on the bench and from his activities on behalf of improving the justice system. He has been awarded the State Bar of Georgia’s Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service. He serves on the board of directors of the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and is a member of the Georgia Committee on Access and Fairness in the Courts, the Georgia Supreme Court Pandemic Commission and the Judicial Council of Georgia, where he serves as chairman of the Council’s Committee on Court Reporting Matters.

Phipps also has served on Georgia’s Judicial Nominating Commission, the Georgia Supreme Court Commission on Racial and Ethnic Bias and the Georgia Indigent Defense Council Advisory Committee. He is a former member of the State Bar Board of Governors and past president of the Dougherty Circuit Bar Association. He is also past president of the Lawyers Club of Atlanta.

Speaking in January at the annual King Day ceremonies honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Albany Civic Center, Phipps reiterated that realizing great dreams takes work.

“One may dream of going to college, starting a business or even becoming president,” the judge said. “But what comes after the dream is more important, because a dream without a plan will remain a dream forever and wind up in the cemetery of dead dreams.”

In building an outstanding career, Phipps has helped build a better Georgia. We’re certain that he’ll continue this good work in his new position as chief judge of the Court of Appeals.