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Beskin battling Bethel in Georgia Supreme Court justice election

Everett Catts @NeighborEverett | May 11, 2020

Beth Beskin is challenging incumbent Georgia Supreme Court Justice Charlie Bethel in the June 9 nonpartisan primary election.

Beskin, a Buckhead resident, is an attorney and partner at the Freeman Mathis and Gary LLP law firm. Last fall she campaigned to run in the 2020 election to succeed retiring Justice Robert Benham, but his replacement was appointed when he resigned instead of completing his term.

This year she was originally going to run against another retiring justice, Keith Blackwell. On the second day of qualifying, March 3, Beskin filled out the paperwork required to qualify for the election to succeed Blackwell, who announced in February he would retire in November, about a month before his term ends. But Gov. Brian Kemp decided to just appoint Blackwell’s successor, cancelling the election.

Beskin March 4 filed a lawsuit challenging that decision, claiming Blackwell’s successor must be elected because his seat is not vacant. John Barrow, a former District 12 U.S. representative from Athens who also planned to run for Blackwell’s seat, filed a similar lawsuit. A Fulton County Superior Court judge ruled against both suits, but they have been appealed to the State Supreme Court and are still pending there.

On the final day of qualifying, March 6, Beskin filed the paperwork to run against Bethel. She served as the District 54 Georgia House of Representatives member for two terms (2015-18), falling to Democrat Betsy Holland in the 2018 general election. Beskin lost to incumbent District 38 State Sen. Horacena Tate in the 2010 general election. She said her experience makes her stand out as a candidate.

“I’ve practiced law for 30 years and have a depth and breadth of legal experience my opponent doesn’t have,” Beskin said. “I practiced family law for 15 years, representing people during one of life’s most difficult times. I have represented individuals regarding employee benefits and also served as an assistant attorney general in the Georgia Department of Law. I served four years in the Georgia General Assembly and passed important tax legislation, including the city of Atlanta 2.6% property tax cap. I demonstrated an independence that will serve Georgia well should I be elected to serve on the Supreme Court of Georgia.”

Bethel, a Dalton resident and lawyer, was appointed to his current post by the governor in 2018. But, like Beskin, he has held other elected office previously.

Bethel served one term on the Dalton City Council (2006-09) and three terms as the District 54 Georgia senator (2010-16). In 2016 he was elected to a fourth term but then stepped down when he was appointed to serve on the Georgia Court of Appeals starting in 2017, a position he held until being appointed to his current post.

“Among the highlights of my legislative service I count my successful sponsorship of autism insurance reform (Ava’s Law) and comprehensive juvenile justice reform,” Bethel said.

Like Beskin, Bethel is banking on his experience.

“I am an experienced and effective appellate judge with a demonstrated track record of faithfully discharging the duties of Justice of the Supreme Court,” he said. “I understand the role of a judge in our constitutional system of government and I am committed to doing the job.

“I am committed to impartial discharge of my duties, an independent judicial branch, and the protection and defense of the state and federal constitutional rights of Georgians. I know the value of hard work having grown up in and around a family business. Serving Georgians in this role is a privilege and honor I do not take lightly.”

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