2 gay attorneys nominated for Ga. Supreme Court

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At least two LGBT attorneys in metro Atlanta are among the dozens of lawyers and judges nominated for two seats on the Georgia Supreme Court. 

Gary Alembik (photo), a Fulton magistrate and family law attorney, and criminal defense attorney Christine Koehler are among the nearly 80 judges and lawyers nominated for two seats on the court that lawmakers added earlier this year, according to the Daily Report. Ultimately, Gov. Nathan Deal will select the new judges – along with filling a third seat on the court when Chief Justice Hugh Thompson retires in January.

The Judicial Nominating Commission will cull through the nominations and send to Deal a list of up to five recommendations for each seat, according to the Daily Report.

But being nominated doesn't always mean the nominee is interested in the post. Last year, more than 200 people were nominated for three open seats on the state Court of Appeals. But nearly half of those nominees didn't complete the next step in the process – completing an application, according to the Daily Report. 

And in the case of Koehler, that is what's going to happen. 

The Decatur resident and criminal defense attorney with Koehler & Riddick in Lawrenceville told friends in a Facebook post that although she's “flattered” to be nominated, she won't be leaving private practice anytime soon.

“I am flattered and appreciate the confidence of the folks who nominated me,” Koehler said in her post. “Some of the lawyers on that list are exceptionally bright people – people I respect greatly. It is nice to even see my name on a list with theirs. And while I appreciate all of the encouragement, I am not interested in being considered for that position at this time.”

On Wednesday, Koehler confirmed to Project Q Atlanta that she is withdrawing her name from consideration.

Koehler, an award-winning attorney in Gwinnett, stepped into the middle of a high-profile hate crime case in Atlanta in 2012. She represented Brandon White after the gay Atlanta man was attacked and beaten by four men outside a grocery store. The case gained national attention and Koehler defended White against accusations from some LGBT people that cast doubt on the attack while cozying up to White's attackers – only to later apologize for their actions.

In 2011, Koehler was honored by the Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia with its Outstanding Service to the Stonewall Community award.

Alembik – a family law attorney, Fulton magistrate and hearing officer – lost a runoff election for a Fulton Superior Court judgeship in late July. Alembik has served as a magistrate and hearing officer in the Superior Court's Family Division domestic violence court for nearly a decade.

Alembik placed second in the judicial race in May and lost to Eric Dunaway, a DeKalb prosecutor, in the July 24 runoff.

On Wednesday, Alembik told Project Q that he was surprised to see his name on the list of nominees.

“I'm humbled and flattered,” Alembik said, before adding that he's still interested in a trial level judgeship.

The nomination of at least two LGBT attorneys for the court comes as former Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears called on Deal to select justices that “reflect a spectrum of race, gender and sexuality.”

Via WABE:

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the governor to find the best qualified candidates and of course that will include people who look like the citizens of the state of Georgia,” said Sears.

She said for now it's too early to guess at which nominees will even choose to advance in the selection process. They still have to apply and be interviewed. A short list of five nominees will then be presented to the governor.

Sears is hopeful that a more diverse court will emerge with the appointment of three new justices, something she said will enhance the court’s legitimacy.

“When you're crafting the laws of the land it’s necessary to get a whole host of different perspectives, and one group of people can't provide those different perspectives,” said Sears.

Another name on the list of nominees is Fulton Superior Court Judge Todd Markle, who delivered a 10-year sentence to a gay Atlanta man – two years in prison and eight on probation – for his role in a New Year's incident in 2013. Markle also banished Luke O'Donovan to all but Screven County to serve his probation.

O'Donovan stabbed five people during a fight and claimed that he was acting in self-defense from “a hateful attack” after he was taunted with anti-gay slurs. O'Donovan was also injured in the incident and his supporters harshly criticized the sentence from Markle.

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