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GABEO advocates for a more diverse judiciary at Macon conference

GABEO sponsored an event in Macon on Saturday, February 23.
GABEO sponsored an event in Macon on Saturday, February 23.

The Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials (GABEO) concluded its two-day conference on Sunday, February 23, and the main theme had centered around the need for more diversity in Georgia's judicial system.

State Representative and President of GABEO, Tyrone Brooks is advocating for the judicial branch of government to be reflective of Georgia's diverse population.

"We look at the number of minorities in the state and then we look at the prison population, it's overwhelming black and minority, you look at the judgeships they're overwhelming white men - very few women, we got to change this," said Brooks.

The lack of diversity in the judicial branch is likely to continue under the leadership of Republican governor Nathan Deal if he is elected to another four years in office this November.

As governor, executive powers exist which allows judicial appointments to be made in an effort to fill vacancies.

Every four years--usually in presidential years--Georgians receive an opportunity to elect a district attorney or local judges (municipal or state) for their region , and it provides a window of opportunity for potential judicial candidates to come forward and allow the citizens to have a real choice.

When judicial candidates are on the ballot, they are considered a 'down-ballot' race and often get overlooked by voters.

On a side note, most incumbent judges have run unopposed over the past decade in Georgia.

Suzy Ockleberry with Advocacy for Action added and told WMGT-TV, "What we also focus on is judicial philosophy so you want judges that think like the community from which they come from, so it's not like a quota system or anything like that."

Conservatives have increased its hold over the state's judiciary and support laws such as 'Stand Your Ground' and often are more supportive of upholding voter suppression or Jim Crow laws while targeting African-American voters, especially in rural areas.

In 2011, the Augusta Chronicle published a story entitled "Deal appointments are familiar faces".

In the more than 300 appointments he’s made since entering office in January, the state’s second Republican has filled positions by promoting from within, calling on trusted associates or tapping recommendations already in similar positions.

Published reports show 68 percent are male and 96 percent are white. A Morris News Service tally finds 19 percent are re-appointments and 13 percent come from Hall County, where Deal had his home before moving to the Governor’s Mansion.

Superior Court judges have a wide range of powers that influence the community and people’s lives. However, Superior Court judges face evaluation as well from the public every four years through a process called voting.

Superior Court judges in Georgia are elected officials and not appointed, unlike Supreme Court justices who are confirmed by the U.S. Senate via an appointment by the President of the United States.

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