The Georgia Supreme Court docket “Will Proceed To Enhance Justice In Our State” On Its 175th Anniversary

The Georgia Supreme Court will celebrate its 175th anniversary with two events in December to highlight its history and influence on the state.

“It has a long and rich history, and I think it is important that we find opportunities to get a good look at what lies ahead. … This is good for us lawyers and judges – to see where we come from, “said John Bell Jr., president of the Georgia Legal History Foundation, which hosts the events.

The festivities begin on December 1st with dinner at the Commerce Club in Atlanta. Starting the following day, a two-day seminar will take place in the courthouse, the Nathan Deal Judicial Center in Atlanta.

Nathan Deal Judicial Center, seat of the Georgia Supreme Court and State Court of Appeals. (Photo: John Disney / ALM)

The foundation is an organization that, in accordance with its mission statement, has set itself the goal of “preserving, analyzing and presenting the legal history of the state”, including all of its courts. The Supreme Court established it in 1985. It has hosted previous anniversary events for the court’s other milestone anniversaries, such as the 100th.

According to its website, the court’s first session took place in Talbotton on January 26, 1846, eleven years after the state legislature amended the Georgia Constitution to allow the court to be established. The first three judges selected for the court by the Georgia General Assembly were Joseph Henry Lumpkin of Athens, Eugenius A. Nisbet of Macon, and Hiram Warner of Greenville.

“Originally the court had no courthouse, no central location, and the court actually rode across the state,” said Supreme Court Justice Carla Wong McMillian, who sits on the foundation’s board of trustees and helped plan the 175th anniversary events.

Kathleen Joyner, spokeswoman for the court, added: “According to our rapporteur, more than 72,100 opinions have been reported since 1846. And according to our research, the first session of the Georgia Supreme Court was in Talbotton; however, no cases were heard. We believe the first case was heard in Cassville in March 1846. “

Bell said there are three cases the court is known for in its history. First in Pavesich v. New England Life Ins. Co. sued Pablo Pavesich against the insurance company over a newspaper advertisement it had published. The ad showed a negative photo of Pavesich describing him as a man who did not take out life insurance, which offended him, so he sued the company.

“It was the first case in which the state Supreme Court recognized a right to privacy,” said Bell, a partner at Bell & Bingham in Augusta. “This case has been cited 1,400 times. Almost every court in the country has cited this case and recognized it as a right to privacy. … It was used as the main source of. quoted [the] privacy [rights argument] in Roe v. Calf.”

Second, the Supreme Court in Thompson v. Talmadge asked to decide who was governor of Georgia in 1947 after Eugene Talmadge, who won the 1946 Democratic primary against James Carmichael and was unopposed in the fall general election, died on December 21. 1946, shortly before taking office.

Talmadge’s supporters, knowing he was dying, let the Georgians elect his son Herman as a candidate for the primary, as the Georgia General Assembly argued that they would be runner-up or third in the election as the next governor if Eugene died.

After the legislature voted in January on the appointment of Herman Talmadge as the next governor, there were three men – Ellis Arnall, the outgoing governor; Melvin Thompson, the lieutenant governor-elect; and Herman Talmadge – claimed to be the next governor. Thompson appealed to the Supreme Court, and the court ruled that Thompson was governor, but also called for a special election in 1948 when Herman Talmadge would come to defeat Thompson.

Third, in both Jones v. Fortson and Smith v. Fortson, in 1966 after Lester Maddox defeated Ellis Arnall in the Democratic primary, Arnall ran as a registered candidate in the general election. Although Republican candidate Bo Calloway won by more than 3,000 votes over Maddox, he did not get a majority (50% plus one vote) as Arnall received 7.1%.

As a result, the predominantly democratic legislature was asked to elect the new governor, and they chose Maddox. Two men sued Georgia’s Foreign Secretary, Ben Fortson, appealing the decision, but the Supreme Court upheld the General Assembly’s vote for Maddox.

Charles Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia, co-wrote The Three Governors Controversy about the 1946 election. He will speak at the seminar about where the Supreme Court will re-enact the hearing in which the judges declared Thompson the true governor.

The seminar will also include a fireside chat with former Chief Justice Robert Benham, Norman Fletcher, Carol Hunstein and Leah Ward Sears, moderated by Attorney Joel Wooten, about “what the court was like when they joined … and how the court has fared Time has changed “involve,” said McMillian.

Both the re-enactment and the fireplace chat will be streamed live on its website (

McMillian said this will be the first major event at the center since it opened in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US

She added that Deal will be one of the speakers at the seminar.

Dinner is on December 1st at 5:30 PM and tickets are $ 150 per person and $ 2,000 per table. The seminar takes place on December 2-3, and tickets start at $ 150. Both events are public. In addition to these events, the court added a webpage ( to its website celebrating the anniversary and highlighting its history.

Both Bell and McMillian considered the jubilee and legacy of the court.

“One of the jobs of the Supreme Court is to oversee the judicial system here in Georgia,” said McMillian. “I’m proud to say that the dish has evolved over the years and has embraced technology lately. I think the legacy of the court is that we will continue to improve the judiciary in our state and also in our lower courts, and will change and evolve in terms of the administration of the court at times when it is necessary. I also believe that the court here in Georgia has done an excellent job of enforcing the rule of law. “

Bell said, “We pride ourselves on the imperfect history of judgment and the path of freedom over the years. When I passed the bar [in 1972], the court consisted of seven gray-haired gentlemen of advanced age. It’s so different today when you look at it. Diversity is there and we are all for the better for change. “

For more information on the events or to purchase tickets, visit