In the next few days, I suspect we'll come to hear a great deal about retiring Georgia Chief Justice, Leah Ward Sears. Sears, who turns 54 this summer, was the first woman to be named to the Georgia Supreme Court, when she was appointed in 1992. She was named presiding justice of the Court in 2001 and became the Chief Justice in 2005. She was born in Heidelberg, the daughter of an Army colonel and an English teacher, and grew up in Savannah.
Faculty Lounge readers love the academic side, so here are Sears' facts: she received her bachelor's degree from Cornell, her JD from Emory, and her LLM from Virginia. She practiced at Alston & Bird for five years, early in her career. And she was a finalist for the University of Maryland deanship, until withdrawing (perhaps in contemplation of this sort of opportunity.)
Ward's politics will no doubt unfold in some detail shortly, but we know immediately that she made at least one strategically valuable contribution to the public discourse back in 2006: a Washington Post op/ed arguing that the ALI's approach to family law was off base, and we need to work to create laws that encourage marriage over alternative family arrangements. It's a moderate piece, but one that will no doubt serve her well should she be nominated. And nothing there gives away her hand on the gay marriage issue.
Years earlier, in 1999, she wrote a graphic dissent in Wilson v. State, outlining why she thought electrocution was cruel and unusual. She detailed the ugly deaths of three Florida and Georgia prisoners executed in the chair. Still, she is no radical on the issue, writing: "I emphasize that my constitutional concerns are not with the State's power to impose the death penalty for statutorily-enumerated crimes."
On the arts side, Sears has read the poem Margaret Walker's For My People at "my favorite poem" events.