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Two in hunt for judicial opening
Governor will make appointment soon

Two local elected officials are in the running to fill Forsyth County’s third Superior Court judgeship.

Gov. Nathan Deal will appoint Solicitor General Leslie Abernathy or State Court Chief Judge Philip Smith, who received recommendations last week from the Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission.

Commission co-chair Randy Evans said both candidates “were imminently qualified and either one would make a great Superior Court judge.”

The group conducted interviews with several qualified attorneys on Monday, Evans said.

“It was one of the strongest pools of applicants that we’ve seen around the state,” he said. “It was kind of refreshing to have that quality of attorneys who applied for the position, and then we narrowed it down to just a couple.”

The new judgeship for the Bell-Forsyth Judicial Circuit, which includes only Forsyth County, was granted in April when Gov. Nathan Deal signed Senate Bill 356 into law.

Court officials have said the additional judge will help relieve the increasing backlog of cases caused in part by a growing population.

The position must be filled by the end of the year.

Evans said Deal likely would conduct his interviews in the upcoming week and make his selection soon.

Abernathy and Smith each ran unopposed for another four-year term in their current posts this year. Deal will need to name a replacement for whoever gets the judgeship, Evans said.

Sitting Superior Court Judges Jeffrey Bagley and David Dickinson and the third judge soon will have a new courthouse to occupy.

The construction of the new courthouse, across from the current one, will begin in 2013, and is slated for completion in 2015.

The courthouse and a jail expansion were approved by voters as part of the recent 1-cent sales tax extension. They are estimated to cost about $100 million to build.