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Johnson running for Georgia Supreme Court
Newton native has served on Alcovy Circuit bench since 2002
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Alcovy Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr. listens to arguments during a past case. - photo by File Photo

COVINGTON, Ga. — Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr. of the Alcovy Circuit will run for a seat on the Georgia Supreme Court in 2020.

Johnson seeks to succeed the retiring Justice Robert Benham.

In running, Johnson will become the third judge out of the five on the Alcovy Circuit bench not to seek reelection in 2020. Judges Samuel D. Ozburn of Newton County and Eugene Benton of Walton County said they would not seek new terms in the May elections.

Johnson is a native of Newton County. With his appointment by Gov. Roy Barnes in 2002, Johnson became the first African American judge in the Alcovy Circuit.

“Experience matters. I understand the challenges facing litigants in the trial court both from the perspective of an attorney practicing in those courts and also as a trial judge dedicated to following the law and treating all parties fairly,” Johnson said in a statement.

“I believe Georgians want a Supreme Court justice who understands these perspectives when reviewing the difficult decisions that are often made by trial judges.

“That is why I am running.”

Johnson grew up in the Sand Hill community of Newton County and was part of the first group of local students in county schools through full integration.

He graduated from Newton High School and Oxford College of Emory University before earning his Bachelor of Business Administration at Emory University and, in 1982, his law degree at the University of Georgia.

Johnson worked as an attorney in Atlanta, Covington and Decatur until his appointment as a Superior Court judge.

“Judge Johnson is exactly what every Georgian should expect from a judge at any level, but especially at our state Supreme Court — fair, experienced, compassionate, in love with the law and determined to get to the right decision,” campaign chairman Larry D. Thompson said.

Thompson served as deputy U.S. attorney general under President George W. Bush from 2001-03 and was the Atlanta-based U.S. attorney early in President Ronald Reagan’s tenure.

Johnson’s campaign is touting him as the only candidate in the race with experience as a trial judge.

In his time in the Alcovy Circuit, he established a Parent Accountability Court in 2013 and Veterans Treatment Court in 2016, and served as the president of the state Council of Superior Court Judges in 2016.

Johnson is a lay member of the Board of Ordained Ministry for the Atlanta/Decatur/­Oxford District of the United Methodist Church, and a lay leader at Columbia Drive United Methodist Church in Decatur.

He was the 2018-19 president of the Covington Kiwanis Club, and is a permanent member of the Board of Counselors at Oxford College of Emory University.

He was a founding member of the Arts Association in Newton County board of directors and served on the inaugural advisory board for the Boys & Girls Club in Newton County.

Benham is the longest-serving member of the state Supreme Court. Running to succeed him are former U.S. Rep. John Barrow of Athens, who lost a bid for a seat on the state Court of Appeals last year; former state Rep. Beth Beskin; and state Court of Appeals Judge Sara Doyle.