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Governor will appoint successor to late Newton County judge
Superior Court Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr. explains his sentencing decision during a recent case. - photo by Jackie Gutknecht

MONROE, Ga. — Gov. Brian Kemp will appoint the successor to the late Judge Horace Johnson.

Johnson died of cardiac arrest on Wednesday morning, creating a vacancy in the Alcovy Judicial Circuit.

Gov. Roy Barnes appointed Johnson to the Superior Court in 2002. He was elected to a fifth full term in June without opposition.

Kemp now will choose an Alcovy judge for the second time this year. He picked then-District Attorney Layla H. Zon after the retirement of Judge Samuel D. Ozburn at the end of April.

In cases of a court vacancy, the state Judicial Nominating Commission solicits names of interested parties. JNC members review the applications, collect more information — and determine if those suggested are even interested — and review the applications.

The commission then forwards its top choices to the governor, who can conduct interviews, choose the new judge or reject the finalists and ask the commission to start its process anew.

In the case of Ozburn’s seat, the JNC received 13 names but not all wished to be considered. Ultimately the commission forwarded two people for consideration: Zon and Loganville Municipal Court Judge Lori B. Duff.

The person Kemp appoints will serve until the 2022 elections, when Zon also would stand for re-election.

Chief Judge John M. Ott and Judge Ken Wynne were re-elected without opposition this year.

Judge Eugene M. Benton has said he will retire at the end of the year. Monroe attorney Jeff Foster and Covington attorney Bob Stansfield are in a nonpartisan Aug. 11 runoff to determine the next judge in that seat.

Covington attorney Frank Turner Jr., of the Greer, Stansfield and Turner firm, is a member of the JNC.