Macon lawyer Dillard on short list to be justice

The short list of candidates for a vacancy on the Georgia Supreme Court is out, and Macon attorney Steve Dillard made the cut.

Dillard, a prominent Republican and Catholic activist, is one of nine candidates forwarded to Gov. Sonny Perdue, who will choose a new judge for the state’s high court.

Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears recently resigned from the court, and Perdue’s selection will sit on the court at least until an election next year to fill the position for a full six-year term.

Dillard was the only Middle Georgian to make the list, which is mostly made up of metro Atlanta area judges and attorneys.

“In addition to being happy for myself, I take some pride in that ... somebody from Macon is actually going to be considered,” Dillard said.

A group of nearly 40 potential candidates was whittled down to the list of nine by a judicial nominating commission. Perdue will meet with each remaining candidate before making his decision, his office said.

There’s no strict timetable for a decision, said Bert Brantley, the governor’s communications director. The other eight candidates, according to the governor’s office, are:

Ÿ James P. Kelly III, managing partner for Kelly Law Firm in Atlanta;

Ÿ David E. Nahmias, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia;

Ÿ Samuel D. Ozburn, Superior Court judge for the Alcovy Judicial Circuit;

Ÿ William M. Ray II, Superior Court judge in Gwinnett County;

Ÿ Craig L. Schwall Sr., Superior Court judge in Fulton County;

Ÿ Mary E. Staley, Superior Court judge in Cobb County;

Ÿ Benjamin W. Studdard III, State Court chief judge in Henry County;

Ÿ Rocco E. Testani, partner with Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan in Atlanta.

At 39, Dillard is the youngest candidate on the list. He is an attorney with James, Bates, Pope & Spivey and a former federal appellate law clerk. He served as presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee’s co-campaign chairman in the 8th Congressional District last year, but he is perhaps best known nationally for his role as a conservative Catholic activist and pundit.

Dillard founded a law, politics and religion blog, Southern Appeal, in 2002. He organized the Catholics Against Rudy Web site last year in an attempt to keep former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani from obtaining the Republican presidential nomination.

Dillard said Wednesday that he’s “humbled and honored” to be considered for the Georgia Supreme Court.

“I was cautiously optimistic that I could make the short list,” he said. “But there were a lot of very talented people on the list.”

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.