Outside jurist to preside over legal challenge to Augusta judge’s appointment
Superior Court Judge Jesse Stone was sworn into office by the governor Feb. 22 to assume an Augusta Judicial Circuit Superior Court judgeship left vacant for over a year. Augusta area retired attorney Maureen O. Floyd filed a petition Friday challenging Stone’s appointment.
Senior Superior Court Judge Michael L. Karpf was assigned Tuesday to preside over the case filed in Burke County. The Augusta Judicial Circuit is composed of Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties.
Karpf took senior status at the end of 2018. He served as a judicial officer in Chatham County courts for 40 years before retiring, according to a report in The Savannah Morning News.
Floyd’s challenge, called a quo warranto petition, contends that Gov. Brian Kemp’s delay in appointment a replacement for retired Judge Michael N. Annis invalidated the appointment. By the time Kemp named Stone as Annis’ replacement, Annis’ four-year term of office had expired.
Annis’ retirement from the bench was effective Feb. 1, 2020. Annis’ term of office would have ended Dec. 31 if he had fulfilled his four-year term. If there was no elected seat to fill, Floyd’s petition contends, the governor had no authority to appoint anyone to the office.
The governor’s appointment authority became a controversial issue in Georgia last year when the governor appointed a replacement to the Georgia Supreme Court while the justice was still on the bench. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled in Kemp’s favor.
In that case, Justice Keith Blackwell announced in February 2020 that he would retire from office just shy of the end of his term. Two attorneys who wanted to assume his seat on the high court by winning a election for his seat sued when Blackwell’s race was removed from the ballot because Kemp intended to nominate Blackwell’s replacement.