Northern District of Georgia |  The exam room

Federal judges are often asked to interpret laws and legislative history and to give meaning to legislative ambiguities. So it can be argued that the system benefits from judges with legislative experience. As such, Judge William Ray brings a diverse range of experience having served as a legislature, trial judge and appellate judge.


William McCrary Ray II was born in Macon, GA in 1963 to an active Democrat family (Ray’s uncle was US Rep. Richard Ray).[1] Ray’s father, a farmer, was tragically murdered while fighting with neighbors when Ray was 13 years old.[2] Ray went on to the University of Georgia, where he earned a Bachelor of Business degree in 1985 and a Masters of Business degree the next year. Ray continued his studies at UGA Law School, graduating with honors in 1990.

After graduating, Ray joined the law firm of Andersen, Davidson & Tate in Lawrenceville as an associate, where he practiced civil litigation and family law. In 1995 he became a partner in the firm.

In 1996, Ray won the Georgia State Senate election with 69% of the vote, representing the 48th Senate District.[3] He served on the State Senate for six years, serving on the Judiciary, Special Judiciary, Rules, Appropriations, Natural Resources and Transportation Committees. During his tenure, Ray helped pass Heidi’s law, which increased penalties for repeat DUI offenders.[4] In an interview, Ray noted that his experience of the tragedy of his father’s murder spurred a commitment to victim rights and made him a “proponent of the death penalty.”[5]

In 2002, Ray was appointed to the Gwinnett County Superior Court by Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes.[6] Ray served in that capacity until 2012, when Republican Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Ray to the Georgia Circuit Court of Appeals.[7] Ray currently serves as a judge at this court.

history of the seat

The seat for which Ray was nominated opened on March 31, 2017, with Judge Harold Lloyd Murphy’s move to senior status.[8] Ray was nominated for the position on July 13, 2017.[9]

Jurisprudence – trial judge

Ray spent approximately ten years as a Gwinnett County trial judge and another five years as an appellate judge. As a trial judge, Ray served as chairman of the Gwinnett County Drug Treatment Court, a program he co-founded that allows drug offenders to have their convictions overturned.[10]

In 2006, Ray became embroiled in a controversy over budget cuts for destitute representation. In response to the rapid depletion of funds, the Georgia Public Defender Council cut payments to private attorneys in capital cases from $125 an hour to $95 an hour.[11] In response, Ray ordered state officials into his courtroom and investigated the state’s obligation to pay for indigent defense.[12] He also ordered the chairman of the Public Defenders Council to release payment information for another expensive death penalty case, in direct contradiction to an order by Judge Hilton Fuller to keep that information secret.[13] The controversy led to a temporary halt to all capital cases as the government funding system ran out of money.[14]

Among other things, Ray led the initial motions in the trial of Lisa Ann Taylor, the “Mansion Madam” who allegedly ran a prostitution establishment in an exclusive Atlanta community.[15] He also led basketball star Al-Farouq Aminu’s guilty plea to shooting a woman with a BB gun.[16] Ray sentenced Aminu to three years probation and allowed him to attend college while he was on probation.[17]

Jurisprudence – Court of Appeal

During his five years at the Georgia Court of Appeals, Ray has built a conservative track record in criminal matters. Specifically, Ray voted to confirm criminal convictions against both trials[18] and factual[19] Challenges. For example, regarding the Fourth Amendment challenges, Ray has affirmed denial of motions for suppression,[20] and rescinded requests for suppression based on police misconduct.[21] In one case, the trial court found that officers had no probable cause to perform a blood test on a driver suspected of driving under the influence. Ray wrote for a 4-3 majority to reverse the decision.[22] In contrast, Judge M. Yvette Miller argued that the majority failed to give due consideration to the trial court’s findings of fact.[23]

In another ruling, Ray wrote for a 5-2 majority that a warrant motion to obtain child pornography images was supported on a probable cause.[24] The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously overturned Ray’s decision in an opinion by Judge Harold Melton, noting that the affidavit supporting the warrant application was “riddled with problems.”[25]

In civil matters, Ray’s record is more mixed. While he has shown his willingness to rule against plaintiffs,[26] he has also occasionally ruled in their favour.[27] Overall, Ray’s civil record does not suggest undue bias against either party in civil matters.

Political activity

As noted above, Ray served as a Republican Senator from Georgia for six years. His only known contribution dates back to 1996, when he gave Republican Clinton M. Day $500.[28]

overall assessment

Ray is a right-wing conservative. As such, Senate Democrats see him as anything but an ideal candidate for the Bundesbank. However, a Republican government is expected to nominate conservative judges. Though Ray’s record is conservative, there are no guns smoking on his tally to rally opposition. As such, Ray should expect a relatively smooth confirmation process, and North Georgia residents should expect a conservative addition to the Bundesbank.

[3] Lucy Soto, special section; Election ’96: Georgia; Democrats retain control but GOP wins, Atlanta Journal & Const. 6, 1996.

[4] See Country, above N. 1.

[5] doug nurse, Lawmakers spurred on by early tragedy; He cares about victims of crimeAtlanta Journal & Const., March 6, 1999.

[6] See Country, above N. 1.

[10] George Chidi, Drug offenders get a second chance, Atlanta Journal Const. 20th, 2006.

[11] Bill Rankin, Lawyers for the poor get pay cuts, Atlanta Journal Const. 2, 2006.

[12] George Chidi, Tight budget meets capital trials, Atlanta Journal Const. 6, 2006.

[13] Rhoda Cook, Nichols case stirs judicial standoff; A judge wants financial records that another has sealed, Atlanta Journal Const. 27th, 2007.

[15] George Chidi, Sex Tips From ‘Mansion Madam’, Atlanta Journal Const. 14,

[16] curtis bunn, Hoops Star Pleads Guilty; Aminu will likely get parole, Atlanta Journal Const. 7, 2008.

[17] Andria Simmons, Ex-Norcross star can attend college during trial period, Atlanta Journal Const. 8, 2008.

[18] See eg, Jackson vs State, 782 SE2d 691 (Ga. App. 2016) (confirmation of rejection of request for suppression); State against Fedrick763 SE2d 739 (Ga. App. 2014) (reversal of the request for suppression); Talton vs State749 SE2d 18 (Ga. App. 2013) (D knowingly waived a jury trial).

[19] See eg, Fitzpatrick vs State, 793 SE2d 446 (Ga. App. 2016); Pippen vs. State791 SE2d 795 (Ga. App. 2016); State vs. Reid770 SE2d 665 (Ga. App. 2015) (rev’d Grant of New Trial); Harris vs State767 SE2d 747 (Ga. App. 2014).

[20] See Jackson vs State, 782 SE2d 691 (Ga. App. 2016); Shirley vs State, 765 SE2d 491 (Ga. App. 2014). But see Nichols vs. State783 SE2d 918 (Ga. App. 2016) (overturning the rejection of the request for suppression).

[21] See State vs. Wallace, 791 SE2d 187 (Ga. App. 2016); State against Hasson778 SE2d 15 (Ga. App. 2015); State against Fedrick763 SE2d 739 (Ga. App. 2014). But see State vs Camp782 SE2d 819 (Ga. App. 2016) (confirmation of request for suppression).

[22] State vs. Hughes, 750 SE2d 789 (Ga. App. 2013).

[24] Shirley vs State, 765 SE2d 491 (Ga. App. 2014).

[25] Shirley vs State777 SE2d 444, 446 (Ga. 2015).

[26] See eg, IA Group, Ltd. Co. et al. v RmNandco, Inc., 784 SE2d 823 (Ga. App. 2016) (Rev’g judgment to the plaintiff); Moore-Waters et al. v. Met Test, LLC.782 SE2d 848 (Ga. App. 2016) (cancellation of the default judgment on the plaintiff); Martin et al. v. Hansen755 SE2d 892 (Ga. App. 2014) (overturning the refusal of summary judgment to the accused); Askew et al. v. Rogers755 SE2d 836 (Ga. App. 2014) (overturning the grant of summary judgment to the plaintiff); Security real estate services. Inc. v First Bank of Dalton752 SE2d 127 (Ga. Anh. 2013) (overturning the rejection of the summary judgment to the defendant).

[27] See eg, Teston et al. v. Southcore Construction Inc., 783 SE2d 921 (Ga. App. 2016) (cancellation of the default judgment on the defendant); Gomez v. Innocent et al.746 SE2d 645 (Ga. App. 2013) (overturning the summary judgment given to the accused); Deberry v. Johnson et al.747 SE2d 886 (Ga. App. 2013) (issue of summary judgment to defendant revoked).