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Newly Elected Judge’s First Term Will Likely Only Be For 2 Years, Despite Being Elected By Voters To Serve 4-Year Term In 2022

It does sound even more likely that Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit Court Judge Andrew Roper’s first full-term in office—will be closer to the 28-month variety rather than for four full years—despite being elected by Haralson County and Polk County voters to serve a four-year term beginning in January 2023.

Roper defeated the incumbent Judge Meng Lim with 52.7% of Haralson County’s votes and 64.2% of Polk County’s in May of this year. With that loss, Lim’s term was to end at the end of 2022. However, he resigned in July of this year, leaving the court shy one judge for almost half a year.

The district is still dealing with a back-log of court cases caused by the pandemic, and now down one judge— last week, Governor Brian Kemp appointed Roper to the vacant position. However—in accepting the appointment— a number of state and local officials believe that a recent supreme court ruling comes into play—in that the court has said when an appointment is made the appointed would serve in that role for up to 28 months.

District 16 State Rep Trey Kelley— who has served residents in Haralson and/or Polk counties since 2013— told WLBB Radio Monday:

“It is my understanding Judge Roper’s appointment is impacted by the Barrow v. Raffensperger opinion handed down by the Georgia Supreme Court. It is certainly a unique situation that someone would win an election where they had earned a four-year term, but as a result of a subsequent resignation be placed in a situation where their term is now limited to approximately two years.”

A summary of the barrow vs. Raffensberger cae, according to Justia US Law at https://law.justia.com/cases/georgia/supreme-court/2020/s20a1029.html says:

These cases involved challenges to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s decision to cancel the election originally scheduled for May 19, 2020, for the office of Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia held by Justice Keith Blackwell. Justice Blackwell’s current term was set to end on December 31, 2020, and the next standard six-year term for his office would begin on January 1, 2021. However, on February 26, Justice Blackwell submitted a letter to Governor Brian P. Kemp resigning from his office effective November 18, 2020. The Governor accepted Justice Blackwell’s resignation and announced that he would appoint a successor to the office. The Secretary canceled the May 19 election for the next term of Justice Blackwell’s office on the ground that his resignation, once it was accepted, created a vacancy that the Governor could fill by appointment, and thus no election was legally required. The appellants in these cases, John Barrow and Elizabeth Beskin, each then tried to qualify for that election but were turned away by the Secretary’s office. They each then filed a petition for mandamus seeking to compel the Secretary to allow qualifying for, and ultimately to hold, the May 19 election for the next term of Justice Blackwell’s office. Beskin also asserted that the Secretary’s decision violated her federal constitutional rights. The trial court denied the mandamus petitions and rejected Beskin’s federal claims, agreeing with the Secretary that a current vacancy was created in Justice Blackwell’s office when his resignation was accepted by the Governor, which gave rise to the Governor’s power to appoint a successor. Barrow and Beskin appealed the trial court’s orders, both arguing the trial court should have granted their petitions because there was no current vacancy in Justice Blackwell’s office that the Governor could fill by appointment before the May 19 election and because the Secretary had no discretion to cancel a statutorily required election. Beskin also argued she was entitled to relief based on her federal claims. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court held that while the trial court’s reasoning was mistaken, its conclusion that the Secretary of State could not be compelled by mandamus to hold the May 19 election for Justice Blackwell’s office was correct. “Under the Georgia Constitution and this Court’s precedent, a vacancy in a public office must exist before the Governor can fill that office by appointment, and a vacancy exists only when the office is unoccupied by an incumbent. Because Justice Blackwell continues to occupy his office, the trial court erred in concluding that his office is presently vacant; accordingly, the Governor’s appointment power has not yet arisen.”

“Since the Barrow case was decided there have been discussions within the legal and political community about whether this is the best policy moving forward in our state,” Kelley said. “ As a legislator and attorney who’s circuit has been directly been impacted by this decision I look forward to having an even more in-depth discussion about the merits of our current policy and will continue to do so as we approach the 2023 legislative session.”

It is worth noting that Barrow ran for Secretary of State against Raffensberger in 2018— losing by a small percentage during a run-off election.

In conclusion—some may ask why Roper would accept the appointment if his term is to last only 2 years compared to the four he was elected back in May…

Consider– that would mean, someone else would be appointed to serve the next two years and Roper would have to again wait for his opportunity to serve.

Roper will have to run again in May of 2024 either way. In this scenario, Roper will be the sitting judge during the next election. Sitting judges rarely lose to challengers.

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