Shipp: Governor's appointment to Georgia Supreme Court upsetting some lawyers and others. - Just so you will know.
Gov. Sonny Perdue might have appointed a boat rocker to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Upon taking his oath as an associate justice, Harold G. Melton, 38, former Perdue legal aide, broke with tradition on a couple of fronts:
• He wrote a separate dissent in a 5-2 decision to deny a stay of execution for convicted dismemberment murderer Robert Dale Conklin. Freshman justices never write separate opinions in their first week on the job. It is just not done. Conklin was put to death over the objections of both Melton and Chief Justice Leah Sears, considered the high court's most liberal member.
• When veteran Supreme Court Justice George H. Carley offered to show Melton around and brief him on the court's routine, Melton brushed him off, saying he would take care of it himself. He gave the same cold shoulder to longtime court staffers who offered a similar guided tour.
• Through no fault of his own, Melton stands as a signal snub of Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, both of whom strongly recommended that Perdue appoint former state bar president Jimmy Franklin of Statesboro to the high court. In addition to solid legal credentials, Franklin has been a leader in the Georgia Republican Party. Gov. Perdue chose Melton instead. "If Franklin has so much support, let him run for governor," Perdue snapped, apparently irked at the amount of pressure brought to appoint the South Georgia lawyer.
Some mainstream bar members are said to be seething and actively looking for a challenger to Melton in the next election. Trial lawyers are irked at what they see as a big-business appointment. Conservatives are outraged at his first dissent, an attempt to spare the life of a brutal murderer.