Trump gets to appoint new judge to Atlanta federal appeals court

Judge Frank Hull of the federal appeals court in Atlanta has informed President Donald Trump she intends to take senior status — which means working only part time — giving the president the opportunity to fill a Georgia vacancy on the busy court.

Among those being considered by the White House for the post are state Supreme Court justices Nels Peterson and Britt Grant and state Court of Appeals Court Judge Elizabeth Branch, according to state officials familiar with the nomination process.

The White House and Georgia’s two senators, Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, declined to comment.

Hull, appointed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton, has served on the court since 1997 and has been one of its more conservative jurists. Hull is a former Fulton County trial judge who also served as a U.S. District Court Judge before joining the federal appeals court.

Hull told Trump “it has been a great honor and privilege” to serve on the federal bench. She said she will take senior status, and continue to hear cases, when her successor is sworn into office or the end of this year, whichever comes first.

The 12-member court has jurisdiction over Georgia, Alabama and Florida. It often decides high-profile issues concerning the death penalty, voting rights, immigration and civil rights litigation.

This will be Trump’s second appointment to the 11th Circuit. The Senate recently voted 66-31 to confirm his nominee, Birmingham attorney Kevin Newsom, to fill an Alabama vacancy on the court.

The three state court jurists being considered by the White House to succeed Hull are: 

  • Branch, 49, served from 2004 to 2008 in the President George W. Bush administration, first at the Department of Homeland Security and then at the Office of Management and Budget. Before joining the state appeals court in 2012, she worked at the Atlanta law firm Smith, Gambrell & Russell. 
  • Grant, 39, joined the Georgia Supreme Court in January after serving as solicitor general in the state Attorney General’s Office. She once worked for Gov. Nathan Deal when he was a U.S. congressman and for President George W. Bush’s Domestic Policy Council and Office of Cabinet Affairs. 
  • Peterson, 38, also joined the Georgia Supreme Court in January, being elevated from the state Court of Appeals. He previously served as then-Gov. Sonny Perdue’s executive counsel, solicitor general in the Attorney General’s Office and vice chancellor for legal affairs to the Board of Regents. 

Staff writer Tamar Hallerman contributed to this story.

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