The top federal prosecutor for a region of the state that includes Gainesville was named on Thursday to the Georgia Supreme Court.
David Nahmias was selected by Gov. Sonny Perdue to fill the vacancy left by former Justice Leah Ward Sears. He was previously appointed as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia by President George W. Bush in December 2004.
Nahmias’ sterling legal credentials made him a frontrunner for a seat on the high court. He was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and worked as an appellate attorney for current Chief Justice John Roberts when Roberts was a partner at the Washington, D.C., firm of Hogan and Hartson.
In 1995, Nahmias joined the U.S. attorney’s office in Atlanta, where he later assisted in the investigation of the Olympic bombing case that eventually led to the indictment and conviction of Eric Rudolph.
In 2001, Nahmias returned to Washington as a deputy assistant attorney general, where he oversaw prosecutions of terror suspects Zacarias Moussaoui, John Walker Lindh and Richard Reid.
After Bush appointed him U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, Nahmias oversaw the prosecutions of Rudolph, former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell and other high-profile cases.
Perdue said in a statement that Nahmias was recommended "by some of the most highly regarded legal minds in the nation," including Scalia, Roberts and former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.
"David has the ability to serve this state well and is someone who we can trust to guard this country’s bedrock principles," Perdue said.
"I am deeply honored and humbled by Gov. Perdue’s selection of me to serve as a Supreme Court justice, a position that is so important to protecting the rule of law and the democratic system of government in this state," Nahmias said in a statement. "Decisions by our Supreme Court that properly apply the laws as enacted though the democratic process are vital to the safety and prosperity of our citizens."
Chief Justice Carol Hunstein said she was "delighted with the appointment."
"We congratulate him and Gov. Perdue for making such an excellent choice," Hunstein said in a statement.
Local attorneys welcomed the news of Nahmias’ appointment.
Roland Stroberg, president of the Northeastern Judicial Circuit Bar Association, called Perdue’s decision "an excellent appointment."
"He has a high level of skill, and sometimes that is not the case with people who are appointed to some of the courts," Stroberg said. "This fellow is imminently qualified."
Stroberg said it matters little that most of Nahmias’ experience came in the area of federal law, not Georgia law.
"That’s not going to be a problem for him," Stroberg said. "They’re still law books."
Hall County District Attorney Lee Darragh said Nahmias "fulfilled his duties as U.S. attorney in an admirable, professional and effective manner, and I’m confident that the (bar association) and the public will find him to have been an excellent choice for the Supreme Court of Georgia."
Nahmias was selected after Sears vacated her seat early to work in academia.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Patrick Crosby said there is no official word on when Nahmias would leave that office. First Assistant U.S. Attorney Sally Yates likely will serve as acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia until President Barack Obama names a successor.
Despite his conservative background, Nahmias and Obama share a connection. Both served on the Harvard Law Review at the same time.