Abortion, Party Lines Dominate Georgia’s ‘Nonpartisan’ Supreme Court Election

T.J. Muscaro
By T.J. Muscaro
May 19, 2024US News
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Abortion, Party Lines Dominate Georgia’s ‘Nonpartisan’ Supreme Court Election
Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Ga., on Aug. 25, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

When Georgia voters participate in their state’s general primary election on May 21, they will also get to vote for their state Supreme Court Justices.

However, the officially nonpartisan contest for a seat on the state’s highest court has sparked traditional political division, with the catalyst being abortion. Politicians and groups on both sides of the aisle have declared their candidates.

The justices are elected for six-year terms or appointed by the sitting governor to complete an ongoing term, and candidates register to win a specific seat. This one-on-one bout pits Justice Andrew Pinson, who was appointed to the role by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in 2022, against one of Georgia’s former Democratic Congressmen, John Barrow. Three other justices are also on the ballot, but they are running unopposed.

Mr. Kemp and other conservative groups have voiced their support for Justice Pinson. Mr. Barrow put abortion front and center of his campaign, calling out Justice Pinson for helping uphold the state’s six-week abortion ban.

“I’m running because we need justices on the Georgia Supreme Court who will protect the rights of women and their families and make the most personal family and health care decisions they’ll ever make,” Mr. Barrow said on his campaign website.

Mr. Barrow has been endorsed by former Georgia State Representative Stacey Abrams’s group Fair Fight Action, Planned Parenthood, and Reproductive Rights for All.

Reproductive Rights for All CEO Mini Timmaraju released a statement outright saying, “We need John Barrow on the court to recognize that abortion is a fundamental freedom.”

However, that campaign direction put the former congressman under fire for alleged ethics violations, specifically the allegation that he is violating a Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission rule barring candidates from committing to ruling one way or another on issues that are likely to come before the court.

In a letter to Mr. Barrow, the commission states it was not so much that he spoke about abortion but that he went too far and “mischaracterized the role of a jurist as someone who should (or would, in your case) ‘protect’ selected rights,” failed to emphasize a judge’s duty to uphold the law, and spread a false impression that a vote for him could change the state’s abortion law.

Mr. Barrow has decided to file a lawsuit against the commission on May 6, claiming it was unconstitutional to block him from speaking about abortion.

U.S. District Judge Michael Brown struck down the lawsuit on May 16, ruling Mr. Barrow did not have the grounds to sue due to the fact he released a confidential letter from the commission, and his continued public statements show he isn’t being restricted.

“Unfortunately, John Barrow has decided to ignore Georgia’s judicial ethics code,” Justice Pinson’s spokesperson Heath Garrett said in a statement. “His lawsuit makes clear that his goal is to negatively politicize judicial races and destroy Georgians’ trust in fair and impartial courts.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Kemp recently announced that he would spend more than $500,000 from his Georgians First Leadership Committee to help get Justice Pinson elected, and other conservative groups have also announced their endorsement.

In a video posted on X, formerly Twitter, Mr. Kemp described Justice Pinson as “the conservative voice we need to keep Georgia moving in the right direction.”

However, Justice Pinson stressed the importance of remaining impartial as a judge and avoiding partisan divides during this campaign.

“As judges, we take an oath to remain fair and impartial on every matter that comes before us,” he said in a statement. “I take that oath seriously because every Georgian deserves just and equal treatment under the law. Unfortunately, my opponent is running a hyper-partisan campaign based on promising to defy the judicial oath.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

From The Epoch Times

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