On December 29, 2015, Gov. Nathan Deal expanded the state Court of Appeals by swearing in three newly-appointed judges — Nels Peterson, Amanda Mercier and Brian Rickman — expanding the court from 12 to 15 judges. Increasing the number of judges on the court was designed to ease its caseload. The court has fewer judges than intermediate appellate courts of other similarly populated states.
A group dissatisfied with the appointments mounted a legal challenge, maintaining that Deal’s appointment of the new judges was unconstitutional. The group argued that, under the Georgia Constitution, the electorate was entitled to vote for the judges to fill the new positions created by the Legislature last year.
Deal has also been criticized for failing to appoint any African-Americans or other ethnic minorities to the new positions.
Governor Deal has already announced that he intends to introduce legislation during the upcoming General Assembly session adding two justices to the Supreme Court of Georgia, resulting — for the first time in modern Georgia history — in a Republican-appointed majority. The governor also intends to propose legislation authorizing a new judicial building to house both state appellate courts.