Monday, October 26, 2015

In Considering a Sentence for Tyrone Brooks, Consider His Overall Body of Work.

Any judge who considers an appropriate sentence for Tyrone Brooks should consider his contributions to society.

Throughout our nation’s history, progressive changes have come about in large part because activists have worked outside of official channels to create a climate that is more conducive to those changes.  In the words of Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.”

A story is told about Sidney Hillman, who served for a time as head of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union.  After helping Franklin Roosevelt get elected in the Presidential campaign of 1932, Hillman is said to have gone to the White House and presented an ambitious agenda of progressive actions for the new President to take.  President Roosevelt supposedly replied: “Sidney, I agree with everything in your proposal. It is all exactly right.  Now you just go back home and make me do it.” 

Years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. is said to have had a similar conversation with President Lyndon Johnson.  In response to Dr. King’s call for voting rights legislation and for the appointment of more African American officials, President Johnson is said to have challenged Dr. King to essentially “make me do it”.

In more recent times, Representative Tyrone Brooks has played a role similar to that of Sidney Hillman and Martin Luther King.  With little thought for his own personal needs, he has worked outside of official channels to create a climate which made it easier for public officials to do the right thing. This letter provides just two examples.

When I first began practicing law, all of Georgia’s trial court judges were white, and few if any were female, and subsequent progress toward a more representative judiciary was initially very slow.  Through his work with the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge the method in which Georgia’s judges were selected, Tyrone Brooks helped to create an environment in which Governors Zell Miller and Roy Barnes were able through the appointment process to make our State’s judiciary (at least for a time) dramatically more representative of the communities that it serves.  The work toward a more representative judiciary continues to this day in our State, and we can personally testify that Representative Brooks remains a key ally.

Another example: For years, the people of Georgia were officially represented by a State Flag that was adopted as part of the State’s historic campaign of “massive resistance” against court-ordered desegregation.  Tyrone Brooks played a key role in raising awareness of the Flag’s sordid history.  It is largely through the efforts of people like Representative Brooks that Georgians now have a much more inclusive Official Symbol that no longer celebrates insurrection or the elevation of one group over another.

I am not too proud to say that I am a beneficiary of the work of people like Tyrone Brooks.  Like many of my contemporaries, I have been able to take advantage of opportunities which might not have existed without the work of activists who have opened doors that they themselves never passed through. 

As one considers a sentence for Representative Brooks, consideration should be given to his overall body of work, which on balance has significantly contributed toward making our world a better place.

Charles S. Johnson
Southern Regional Council

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Andrew Maraniss Receives 2015 Lillian Smith Book Award

Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South
Andrew Maraniss has been committed to the interaction of individuals, ethnic groups and sports for a long time. He was awarded the Fred Russell Grantland Rice Sports Writing Scholarship, which is awarded to entering freshmen at Vanderbilt University who are planning to make sports writing their career, through the good offices of the Thoroughbred Racing Association. He wrote a paper in an African American History class, and the rest was history.
In his Senior year in 1992, he won the Alexander Award, which is presented by the American Bar Association Council for Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline in the Continuum: Pre-School to High School to College to Law School.
He continued his association with Vanderbilt for five years, in the Athletic Department as Associate Director of Media Relations. He took up the challenge to serve as Media Relations Manager for the first year of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He came back to Nashville to join the staff at McNeely, Piggott & Fox public relations form, where he remains today.
His community service included service as pas t president of the Nashville Chapter of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (“RBI”). Presently he is an advisory board member of the Albert Pujols Family Foundation. “This foundation is named for the First Baseman for the Angels.  The emphasis on “Family” in the title means not only “by” family but “for” families, to help those living with Downs Syndrome and Impoverished Families in the Dominican Republic.
He is committed to the relationship between profession and community and, today, is being awarded a Lillian Smith Prize for highlighting the bravery and struggle of Perry Wallace, who persevered in basketball and law courts as a shining pioneer.

Thank you to the judges and all the great sponsors of this award. I deeply, deeply appreciate this; at the same time I’m personally thankful though I recognize that this award isn’t about me. It’s about the strength and courage and determination of the person I was very fortunate to have the chance to write about, Perry Wallace. What I consider the greatest aspect of this award is that Perry Wallace is getting the recognition as a sports and civil rights figure of the caliber of a Jackie Robinson. In some respects Perry’s journey was more difficult than Jackie Robinson’s when you consider the time and place that Perry was a pioneer -- in the Deep South in the late 1960s. Most people have heard Jackie Robinson’s story. Very few people have ever heard Perry Wallace’s story.  

For those of you who don’t about Perry Wallace: he was the Jackie Robinson of the Deep South, the first African American varsity basketball player in the Southeastern Conference, and the first black athlete in the SEC in any sport that played a full four-year career.  He went on to attend law school at Columbia University. Today he’s a professor of law at American University.  Just an incredible person, and in some ways it’s a shame that it took 45 years after he graduated for someone to tell his story, but I feel very fortunate that I had the chance to do it. 

This project for me began when I was 19 years old in 1989. I came to Vanderbilt on a sports writing scholarship. I was a history major and I happened to read a student magazine article about the first game that Perry Wallace and his only African American teammate his freshmen year, Godfrey Dillard, played at Mississippi State University, a road game in Starkville. The racism that they encountered in the first half of the game was so vicious that at halftime Perry and Godfrey, these two young, strong athletes, held hands as they sat on the bench in the locker room to gain the strength to go back out there and play the second half of the ball game. So, as someone who was interested in sports and history, that’s what first grabbed my attention.

I asked my professor if it was acceptable to write about sports in college. I didn’t know if that was cool at a school like Vanderbilt, and, she said ‘Yes, of course go for it.’ So I found Perry, who was then a professor in Baltimore, and interviewed him for a paper that I wrote for that class. I also understand that this is the first time the Lillian Smith awards have recognized a book that deals with sports. I had that same question, would an award like this accept a book about sports, and I’m really proud that you did.

So, thank you for taking a chance on a book about sports. That said, I set out to write a book that was about a lot more than just sports, and Perry Wallace himself used sports as a means to an end. In his case, he saw a basketball scholarship as his ticket out of the south; his way out of segregated Nashville. He had his sights set on receiving a scholarship somewhere in the Big 10 -- northern schools like Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, or the Pac 10. He was recruited by John Wooden out of UCLA. And actually, the reason that he ended up staying home, he grew up in Nashville; he stayed home to attend Vanderbilt not necessarily to make history as a pioneer but because he said he wasn’t going to trade one plantation for another. He wasn’t going to leave Nashville only to be exploited for his athletic ability at a school that told him don’t worry about going to class or we’ll find the easiest classes for you, you’re just here to play basketball.

He made a decision after having a recruiting trip to Vanderbilt where he was impressed by the engineering school and that the players were actually going to class, that despite the fact that he would be a pioneer that he would come do it so that he would get an education and play big time basketball. For me, I pursued basketball as a means to an end as well, as a way to enter the South. You can go with through the vehicle of this smart young teenager who was making history as a pioneer on the basketball court but was traveling to all of these places in the Deep South like Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where the governor had just been standing in front of the school house door. Or Ole Miss just a few years after James Meredith was there. But, the thing was, Perry didn’t just make this decision alone. There was another smart, young African American basketball player who’d made the decision to come to Vanderbilt. He came from Detroit, Michigan and he’s in the crowd today. He lives part-time in the city of Atlanta and I’m so happy that Godfrey Dillard is here today. Godfrey’s story is told in the book and takes a different path then Perry’s but Godfrey’s been a huge success in life. He’s argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, he’s been a diplomat in Africa, and he just recently ran for Secretary of State in the state of Michigan.

In receiving this award it’s the first time I’ve read a book by Lillian Smith. I read “Killers of the Dream” just a couple weeks ago and she starts the book by saying, “Even the children knew the South was in trouble. No one had to tell them.” And, as a father of two young kids, I was really struck with the idea of introducing children and the way that toxic environment of segregation affected black and white kids at the time. In the book I talk a lot about Perry’s childhood in Nashville and the dangers that he faced. One time, standing on a street corner to catch a bus, a carload of white teenagers pulled around a corner pointing a gun out the window at his face; he’s just trying to go home from school. He had to walk through a white neighborhood to get to the black elementary school and kids would pick fights with him almost every day on his way to elementary school.

Think about him dealing with the daily realities of living in a Jim Crow town where he sat down in the first seat he saw on the bus not knowing he couldn’t sit there and his mom had to whisk him away to the back of the bus. His family lived right across the street from North High school, which was a white high school, and Perry would have to just stand against the fence looking at these kids having fun playing on the playground at a school he wasn’t allowed to go to. But also, about the determination that he still showed in the face of this society that was designed to limit him. He didn’t let it limit him. So, even in Kindergarten he was showing the signs of character that would see him through the most difficult days as a pioneer in the SEC. His sister Jessie told me that she showed up to pick him up from school and the teacher had left the room and all the other kids in the classroom were going berserk, running around, bouncing off the walls. And there was one kid still sitting at his desk doing his work, doing the right thing and that was her brother Perry Wallace.

Perry’s mom would bring home magazines from her job as a cleaning lady at office buildings in downtown Nashville, and show all the Wallace children pictures in these magazines and say, “there’s a bigger world out there, this is what you can aspire to.” And, Perry considered the slam dunk his freedom song. He said this town that he lived in was dark in many ways and again was designed to limit him, but on the basketball court he found his freedom soaring through the air. And so, even at this playground across the street where he wasn’t supposed to be, on weekends he would go practice his basketball and that’s where he learned how to slam dunk.

And all of this led him into the heart of the civil rights movement. Perry started kindergarten in 1954, obviously the year of Brown v. Board. He was a young kid when Emmett Till was murdered and around the same age and was profoundly influenced by that. In 1960, the lunch counter sit-ins were taking place in Nashville, and Perry would sneak from his parents’ house in North Nashville to downtown to watch the sit-ins and watch the students with his own eyes. He entered Pearl High school in Nashville a week after Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He was in high school for the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. And what he told me was that he could feel the country was changing and that there would be opportunities there for him and members of his class, the Class of ’66, that hadn’t been there for their older siblings or certainly for their parents, and that he needed to be prepared to take advantage of these opportunities. And he was.

So he accepts this dangerous assignment to integrate the SEC and come to school at Vanderbilt. And one saying that Perry has today is that all of us can be treated in any of three ways: We can treat each well, we can treat each other poorly, or we cannot be treated at all. And, Perry was treated well by some people, he was treated poorly by even more people, but he would say that the most difficult aspect of his experience was this feeling of not being treated at all, of feeling invisible on this campus and being denied his humanity. And there’s this passage in “Killers of the Dream” where Lillian Smith is talking to a white girl in a theater setting and the girl says to her, “I understand that segregation is wrong and I don’t want to hate people, but I don’t want people to hate me either. And, I’m afraid to speak out because I really don’t want to make waves and have my friends disagree with me” and being just a little bit afraid to challenge the status quo. And, that sense of not speaking is something that happened quite often in Perry’s experience.

I open the book with a scene with his old teammate Bob Warren, who he had played basketball at Vanderbilt with in the late Sixties. Bob Warren didn’t understand at all what his teammate was going through back then, but he played professional basketball for about 10 years, where most of his teammates were African-American. He told me in an interview that’s when it finally began to dawn on him, ‘Oh my gosh’ what hell must my teammate Perry have been going through as we made these road trips through the Deep South. And so, one day Bob Warren happened to be on a business trip in Washington D.C. where Perry Wallace teaches and he took a cab over to American University Law School, the elevator up to the fourth floor and walked into Perry Wallace’s office and shook his hand and said, “Perry please forgive me, there’s so much more I could have done.” Since the book has come out, Perry and I have both received countless e-mails and calls from people who are contemporaries of Perry’s basically saying the same thing: There’s so much more I could have done. When I go speak at schools about this book, my message to the kids is don’t end up as one of those people that take 40 years to realize there’s people around you that need you to reach out a hand. Do that now while you have the opportunity.

The final thing I wanted to say: Also in the book. Lillian Smith says that words can arouse a conscience, and it seems like an obvious thing to say that words can arouse a conscience, but the point she’s making is that too often people don’t express those words. And, the context that she was talking about was that newspapers, even liberal papers at that time in the South, were afraid to speak out about Civil Rights and their concern was that it’d only make things worse. And in that regard the most courageous thing that Perry Wallace ever did wasn’t going out on the basketball court at Mississippi State, it was giving an interview to the Tennessean in Nashville the day after his last game. He said he felt a moral obligation to tell the truth about what his experience had been like even though he knew people weren’t going to be ready to here this truth. That’d he would be run out of town if he gave this interview. Here he had been this high school valedictorian, engineering major at Vandy, All-SEC basketball player, three-time state champion high school basketball player, by all rights setting himself up for a bright future in his hometown. But, he knew if he gave this interview he’d never have a career in this town, but he gave the interview anyway. And, unfortunately he was correct. The day after the story ran people weren’t ready to hear it. I talked to the editors of the paper and they told me that the phones ran off the hook that day, fans calling to cancel their subscriptions to the paper, calling Perry Wallace ungrateful and wishing him good riddance out of town.

But, my greatest satisfaction with this book was that his words have aroused a conscience; it just took 45 years unfortunately. Perry will say that reconciliation without the truth is just acting. It’s a pretty interesting phrase and my hope is that this book represents the truth, and if I did nothing but listen to what Godfrey and Perry had to tell me it would certainly be the truth. So, Perry came back to Nashville the first week of December when the book came out and he was concerned what sort of reception he would get. He hadn’t been back in any significant way since 1970 when he was basically run out of town. He said we’re entering a hot environment, what’s this going to be like? But it turned out to be great. We were in a room sort of like this that seats 250 people. Four-hundred people showed up, we had 150 people across the hall. After we both spoke, they lined up for two hours to see Perry and shake his hand and have him sign their books. And, I was sitting next to Perry, and some people were asking for my signature, but everyone was asking for Perry’s signature and I was observing what was happening.  And person after person would come up and they had bloodshot eyes or they were still crying and they were just were like Bob Warren. They were coming up one after another to express this regret they hadn’t done more to understand what Perry was going through at the time. They were finally beginning to understand it after hearing his story and reading the book. Since then, the city government in Nashville has honored Perry at a Metro Council meeting, the state government has issued a proclamation in his honor, Congressman Cohen from Memphis has read something into the Congressional record. When Perry came back to town, the police chief and the mayor were the very first to greet him, which I thought was very symbolic in the most positive way. His story becoming known and arousing the conscience I feel has culminated today with it being included in this great litany of books that have received the Lillian Smith Book award. So, thank you so much for honoring Perry, Godfrey, and Strong Inside. I’m incredibly grateful. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Closer Look at the 11 Finalists for the Georgia Court of Appeals

Alyson Palmer, Daily Report
October 14, 2015

Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to interview 11 candidates for three new positions on the state Court of Appeals next week.

The finalists, picked by his Judicial Nominating Commission, include veteran trial court judges as well as 30-something upstarts with sterling résumés. The short list allows Deal to select someone well known by the state's lawyers—or somebody better known by him.

The state Legislature this year created the three new judgeships, effective Jan. 1. The expansion of the court from 12 to 15 is supposed to ease the caseload of the court, which has fewer judges than intermediate appellate courts of states with similar population sizes. Deal also has named a commission to study shifting jurisdiction over certain types of cases from the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeals and expressed interest in adding two members to the seven-justice Supreme Court.

According to his executive counsel, Deal plans to interview the finalists on Oct. 22 and will announce his appointments by mid-November.

In remarks earlier this year, Deal hinted that his appointees to the new Court of Appeals positions may be young. By far, the youngest of the 11 are Georgia Solicitor General Britt Grant, Appalachian Circuit Superior Court Judge Amanda Mercier, the Georgia university system's top lawyer, Nels Peterson, and Mountain Circuit District Attorney Brian Rickman. Those four are 40 or younger, while the other finalists are in their 50s or 60s.

Deal also has an unabashed penchant for the "two-fer": promoting a trial court judge so that he can pick that judge's successor. The list includes six judges in addition to Mercier: Joe Bishop of the Patula Circuit, Stephen Kelley of the Brunswick Circuit, Lawton Stephens of the Western Circuit and Ural Glanville, Eric Richardson and Gail Tusan of Fulton County.

Deal has been scrutinized for his record on diversity in judicial appointments, and the three Fulton judges are all black. The lone private practitioner on the short list is Charles "Buck" Ruffin, a former State Bar of Georgia president.

As part of the vetting process, would-be judges must complete an application form for the JNC, which asks for biographical information and practice highlights. Here is a closer look at the finalists, with much of the information drawn from their applications:

Joe Bishop, 58, is the chief Superior Court judge for the Pataula Circuit in southwest Georgia.
Bishop was born in Stewart County and grew up in the Albany area. He attended Valdosta State University, where he was president of the Student Government Association. He received his law degree from the University of Georgia.

Prior to joining the bench, Bishop practiced law in a small firm in Dawson. He also has served as a county juvenile court judge. Gov. Zell Miller appointed him to the Superior Court in 1991.
As a judge, Bishop has handled capital and noncapital habeas cases, given that his circuit includes a state prison. He has presided over one death penalty trial, a prosecution for the killing of the longtime local NAACP president, which resulted in a life sentence from the jury. He also has presided over a multiweek asbestos products liability case; the judge dismissed some defendants from the case, and the jury returned a defense verdict as to the others.

Bishop chaired the Council of Superior Court Judges' accountability courts committee and has been named to the initial executive committee of the Council of Accountability Court Judges. He worked to establish the circuit's felony drug court and an accountability court designed to aid parents who are obligated to pay child support. (The governor is a proponent of accountability courts.)

He is an Eagle Scout and was part of the delegation that delivered the Boy Scouts' annual report to President Gerald Ford in the Oval Office in 1976. As a teenager, he won two national speech contests.

Ural Glanville, 53, has continued his military service even after his election to the Fulton Superior Court bench in 2004.

The Ohio native received both his undergraduate and law degrees from UGA. He practiced on his own and with Arrington & Hollowell, and he prosecuted in Fulton and DeKalb counties. He become a Fulton magistrate in 1995.

A longtime Army lawyer who currently carries the rank of brigadier general, Glanville has in recent years served in Kuwait and Afghanistan. Last year, he presented to the state's two appellate courts American flags that flew in Kabul while he was serving there.

Last year, Glanville presided over a jury trial in a whistleblower suit brought against the state ethics commission by its former executive director, Stacey Kalberman. She successfully claimed that she had been fired in retaliation for continuing to probe Deal's campaign spending after being warned off by commissioners. Glanville quashed a subpoena for Deal's appearance, but after trial the judge sanctioned Kalberman's successor and the attorney general's office $10,000 each for alleged withholding of evidence.

Britt Grant, 37, is an Atlanta native who spent time in the corridors of power in Washington before coming home to make her mark.

After college at Wake Forest University, Grant began her career as an aide to then-Congressman Deal. She then took on jobs in the administration of President George W. Bush, working in the White House at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

She traveled across the country to attend law school at Stanford University, but kept her foot in politics. She was president of her school's chapter of the Federalist Society and, through an externship with the Department of Justice, researched legal issues related to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

She clerked for Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit—a young, conservative star. For about four years, she was an associate at Kirkland & Ellis in Washington.

In 2012, Attorney General Sam Olens hired Grant to replace Nels Peterson as his counsel for legal policy, when Olens promoted Peterson to solicitor general. Olens has credited Grant with shepherding regulations of pain management clinics through the General Assembly, as well as settling lawsuits that would have stood in the way of the deepening of the Savannah port and helping to set up a new Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in his office.

At the beginning of this year, when Peterson moved to the university system, Olens made Grant solicitor general, giving her supervisory authority over all of the state's appellate litigation. Not long after that promotion, she handled the state's successful oral argument defending the state agriculture commissioner's authority to mandate a "pack date" for Vidalia onions. She also is supervising the state's interstate litigation over the waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, managing outside counsel.

Stephen Kelley, 54, was the district attorney for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit for 13 years before being appointed to the Superior Court by Gov. Sonny Perdue at the end of 2009.

The Alabama native received his undergraduate degree in theology from Southern Adventist University in Tennessee before obtaining his law degree from UGA. He began practice as an assistant DA in the Brunswick Circuit.

As DA, Kelley brought a forfeiture action under the state's racketeering law against a businessman, Fairley Cisco, accused of cheating customers at the gas pump. In 2009, the Georgia Supreme Court declared the statutory provision used by Kelley to be unconstitutional because it allowed what was essentially a criminal proceeding without the usual constitutional safeguards of criminal cases. The Georgia Supreme Court later upheld a felony murder conviction obtained by Kelley's office against a doctor who was charged with overprescribing narcotics to a patient.

Kelley spent several years lobbying at the Capitol on behalf of the District Attorneys' Association. In 2009, he was named the Glynn County Republican Party's Man of the Year.

As a judge, he chairs the Supreme Court's statewide electronic filing steering committee. He also has presided over his circuit's drug courts.

Amanda Mercier, 40, practiced with state House of Representatives Speaker David Ralston before becoming a judge in North Georgia.

Born just over the border in Cleveland, Tennessee, Mercier is the granddaughter of Adele and Bill Mercier, who established the Mercier apple orchards in Blue Ridge. She attended college at the University of Georgia but went away to Syracuse University for law school.

Shortly after graduation, she joined Ralston's firm in Blue Ridge, later becoming his law partner. She represented clients in both criminal and civil cases, including domestic matters. In addition to her private practice, she prosecuted traffic offenses for the city of Elijay.

Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed her to the Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court in 2010. Mercier is the presiding judge for the circuit's Mental Health Court. As recounted in local media reports, she is currently presiding over a high-profile sexual battery prosecution stemming from a high school after-prom party.

Mercier is a member of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence and was in Leadership Georgia's class of 2014.

Nels Peterson, 37, is—like Britt Grant—a big firm alum and former federal law clerk who has secured influential positions in government at a young age.

The San Francisco native was student government president at Kennesaw State University before getting his law degree at Harvard University. There he was executive vice president of the school's Federalist Society. Peterson credits his father, who served a stint as president of Georgia Right to Life, with cultivating his interest in politics and the law.

Peterson clerked for Judge William Pryor Jr. of the Eleventh Circuit before spending about three years as an associate at King & Spalding in Atlanta.

In 2008, Gov. Sonny Perdue tapped Peterson to be his deputy executive counsel, and Peterson took over as executive counsel in 2009. In the governor's office, Peterson took a lead role working on Georgia's water disputes with Alabama and Florida, and he says he also was involved with matters related to the loss of accreditation of the Clayton County School District and the Atlanta Public Schools cheating investigation.

After Olens was elected attorney general, he brought on Peterson to be his counsel for legal policy, then named him the state's first solicitor general. His work there included Georgia's participation in a challenge to the Affordable Care Act and an environmental case that led the state Supreme Court to expand the reach of the state's sovereign immunity.

In January, Peterson left the AG's office to be the chief legal officer for the state's university system.

Eric Richardson, 51, was appointed by Deal to the Fulton State Court in 2013.

A native of Syracuse, New York, Richardson attended college at the University of Rochester and law school at Cornell University. In between, he worked as a social worker assistant for the Syracuse City School District and owned a bookstore called Adventure Comics.

Richardson began his legal career at Latham & Watkins in New York but has said he was drawn to Atlanta, where his wife had family ties, by the prospect of a better quality of life. Richardson spent 11 years at Troutman Sanders, including seven as a litigation partner. His work there included defending a class action lawsuit against the state over the constitutionality of the foster care system in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Interested in becoming a judge, he landed a job in the Atlanta city attorney's office. He was promoted to deputy city attorney for litigation, meaning he oversaw all of the litigation for the city, managing in-house and outside attorneys and developing the litigation budget. He credits his wife, former Johns Creek City Council member Karen Richardson, with helping forge his community relationships.

Richardson is a board member of Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation and Revved Up Kids, which promotes safety and self-defense for children and teens.

Brian Rickman, 38, has turned his prosecutorial skills on sitting judges.

Now the Mountain Judicial Circuit district attorney, the Athens native attended the Northeast Georgia Police Academy, then became an investigator for the Banks County DA while still in college at Piedmont College. After law school at UGA, he took a series of ADA jobs in northeast Georgia. He was in private practice for three years before Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed him to replace the retiring Mountain Circuit DA.

Rickman has assisted the state Judicial Qualifications Commission on investigations of judges and handled some of its prosecutions. He worked with former Attorney General Michael Bowers to prosecute Grady County State Court Judge J. William Bass Sr., who midway through his ethics trial on various charges agreed to a 60-day suspension and a pledge not to seek re-election. That deal was made over the objections of Bowers and Rickman, who said he should be removed. Olens appointed Rickman to investigate a probate judge-elect in Camden County, Shirley Wise, who agreed to resign office and plead guilty to taking money from vital records funds.

In recent years, Rickman has tried murder cases as lead counsel. He also notes that in 2014 he tried a two-week trial in which the director of the Boggs Mountain Humane Shelter was convicted of stealing donations and lying to donors about animal sponsorships.

Earlier this year, the Georgia Supreme Court said a murder defendant should get a new trial because his lawyer should have objected to Rickman's comments to jurors that the defendant failed to call police to report that he'd shot a man. Rickman said he had been trying to question why the defendant, who claimed self-defense, hadn't called 911 prior to the shooting.

Charles "Buck" Ruffin, 61, is an eminent domain and real estate litigator who was president of the State Bar of Georgia from 2013 to 2014.

Born in Savannah, Ruffin grew up in Vidalia and earned a business degree at Auburn University. Ruffin was president of the Student Government Association and interned for Republican Georgia Congressman Ben Blackburn. While working for Blackburn in Washington, Ruffin connected with Wendell Willard, now a Sandy Springs attorney and chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee.

After law school at Emory University and a brief tenure at the Atlanta firm Troutman, Sanders, Lockerman & Ashmore, Ruffin clerked for Chief U.S. District Court Judge Robert Varner in Montgomery, Alabama. Ruffin then joined Jones, Cork & Miller in Macon, where he became a partner. He opened his own practice in 1994, joining Gambrell & Stolz in 2003. That firm merged into Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, where Ruffin is now a shareholder.

Ruffin's tenure as bar president included a symposium to observe the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution, featuring speakers such as U.S. Justice Antonin Scalia. Ruffin also had to find a replacement for longtime bar executive director Cliff Brashier, who died in the middle of Ruffin's term. After some criticism of a lack of racial diversity on the search committee, Ruffin expanded the panel, which settled on Jeff Davis, then the director of the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Lawton Stephens, 61, has been a Superior Court judge in Athens for more than two decades.

The Athens native went to college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, then completed his law degree at UGA. He practiced at various firms in Athens, including Fortson, Bentley & Griffin and Nicholson, DePascale, Harris & Mc­Arthur, and was a part-time assistant solicitor, prosecuting cases in state court. He is the son the late U.S. Rep. Robert Stephens Jr., who also was an attorney.

Before becoming a judge, Stephens served in the state Legislature as a Democrat. Gov. Zell Miller appointed him to the Superior Court bench in 1991.

Stephens has presided over his circuit's felony drug court since 2011. He sat on the Chief Justice's Commission on Indigent Defense from 2000 to 2004 and chaired the Statewide Jury Task Force under an appointment by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Gail Tusan, 59, is the chief judge of the Fulton Superior Court, having been a full-time judge since she was appointed to the Atlanta City Court in 1990.

Tusan received her undergraduate degree from UCLA and her law degree from George Washington University. In private practice, she worked at Kilpatrick & Cody; Asbill, Porter, Churchill & Nellis; and the Joyner Law Offices. She was president of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys in 1983.

After lower court appointments by Atlanta mayors and other judges, Tusan was named to the Fulton State Court by Gov. Zell Miller, who also gave Tusan her Superior Court post. In 1999, President Bill Clinton nominated Tusan to an opening on the Northern District of Georgia bench. But Tusan removed her name from consideration a few months later, complaining that political infighting would delay a vote on her nomination until after the deadline to qualify to run for re-election.

When a family court was created in Fulton in the late 1990s as part of a pilot project, Tusan served on the steering committee and was one of the charter judges. The state Supreme Court recently affirmed her ruling in a financial dispute over two Ferrari race cars.

Having grown up in Southern California, Tusan has an interest in the arts, noting she enjoys performing with a dance troupe. She also has authored two legal novels.