Superior Court Judge Tripp Self’s cellphone started ringing in the midst of a murder trial.
Peach County jurors had begun deliberating the fate of three men charged in the 2015 fatal shooting of a Fort Valley 8-year-old Wednesday morning.
They’d sent out a note, and Self had summoned prosecutors and defense attorneys to talk about it.
He stepped out to take the phone call.
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Gov. Nathan Deal was on the other end of the line, offering Self a seat on the Georgia Court of Appeals.
“I said ‘Well, governor, I don’t have to think about this long at all. I’m happy to take the job,’ ” Self said Wednesday afternoon. “It was all very quick.”
What made the call even more special is that it came on what would have been Self’s father’s 76th birthday. February will mark nine years since Tillman Self Jr., the judge’s father, died. His mother is also deceased.
“What a great country it is that somebody from (the) Bloomfield (neighborhood) whose parents didn’t go to college, and I can be on the Court of Appeals,” Self said. “It made a special day even more special.”
Finding out on such a memorable day, “you couldn’t put a price on that,” he said.
Self said his father rushed down to the Bibb County Board of Elections in 2006 when Self was running for election to the Superior Court bench.
“The machines had hung up,” Self recalled.
His father “couldn’t stand” to wait to know the outcome. Soon, though, the machines started working again, and he learned when he returned that his son had been elected judge.
A picture of the two hugging was published in The Telegraph the next day.
“He would be happy to see this,” Self said of his appointment. “He would be beyond words.”
A vacancy on the bench
Self is set to take office Jan. 1, along with Sen. Charlie Bethel. The two were appointed Wednesday to fill vacancies on the Court of Appeals created by Deal’s appointing appellate judges Michael Boggs and Nels D. Peterson to the Supreme Court of Georgia.
Self, 47, has served as chief judge of the Macon Judicial Circuit, which comprises Bibb, Crawford and Peach counties, since the late 2013 retirement of Judge Phil Brown.
Self’s appointment will create a vacancy on the Superior Court bench and the need for a new chief judge. Typically, the state Judicial Nominating Commission advertises judicial vacancies that occur mid-term, then conducts interviews before making recommendations to the governor, who appoints a new judge.
Self’s term was set to expire at the end of 2018.
Superior Court Judge Ed Ennis, the judge on the circuit’s bench with the next most years of seniority, is line to become the new chief judge.
Self will join a fellow Maconite, Judge Stephen Dillard, on the Court of Appeals, and three other judges who serve on the court who have ties to the midstate.
To keep his seat, Self must win a new six-year term in the May 2018 statewide election.