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Georgia’s U.S. senators name Francys Johnson to nominations advice panel
Law partner Davis and protégé Woodall also get nod
johnson
Georgia’s two U.S. senators recently appointed a commission to advise them on nominations to federal court judgeships and U.S. attorney and U.S. marshal vacancies, and Statesboro-based attorney and minister Francys Johnson is among the 16 people named to the commission.

Georgia’s two U.S. senators recently appointed a commission to advise them on nominations to federal court judgeships and U.S. attorney and U.S. marshal vacancies, and Statesboro-based attorney and minister Francys Johnson is among the 16 people named to the commission.

So are attorney Mawuli “Mel” Davis, previously of Decatur, who is now one of Johnson’s partners in Davis Bozeman Johnson Law, and Georgia NAACP State President James Woodall, who had been a non-attorney staff member in Johnson’s previous solo practice.

President Joe Biden will make the actual nominations to any federal judge vacancies and the top federal law enforcement posts for the Southern, Middle and Northern districts of Georgia, subject to Senate confirmation. But home-state senators are consulted first under the Senate’s constitutionally defined role of providing “advice and consent” on nominations.

Of course, Sen. Jon Ossoff and Sen. Raphael Warnock are the two Democrats who unseated Georgia’s two previous Republican senators in a Jan. 5 runoff that was big news nationwide.

"Elections have consequences,” Johnson said in an emailed statement. “Senators Ossoff and Warnock have won the opportunity to bend the arc of justice as it relates to the federal judiciary. I intend to use my influence to bend it away from the powerful and privileged and towards those historically denied."

 

Sears leads panel

The two senators, in a March 16 announcement, named former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears to lead their Federal Nominations Advisory Commission. The other members are Johnson, Davis, Woodall, Jason Carter, Cathy Cox, Allegra Lawrence Hardy, Jeff Horst, Suzy Ockleberry, Herbert Phipps, Shyam Reddy, Pamela Peynado Stewart, Dwight Thomas, Sara Totonchi, Michael Warshauer and Andrea Young.

In 1992 at age 37, Sears became the first woman and the youngest associate justice ever appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court. Then, in 2005, by election of the other justices on the court, she became the first African-American woman to serve as chief justice of any state supreme court in the country.

“She knows exactly what she is doing, she has worked with other judges for a long period of time, and she has been a mentor to me over the years,” Johnson told the Statesboro Herald. “So it’s an extreme honor to serve on this commission under her leadership.”

In addition his work as an attorney, Johnson is senior pastor Magnolia Missionary Baptist Church. He served as NAACP Georgia State Conference president from October 2013 to July 2017, after being elected by members at a state convention. He ran for Congress in the 12th District in 2018, winning the Democratic primary but not the general election.

A graduate of Georgia Southern University and the University of Georgia School of Law, he previously was sole attorney in the Johnson Firm.

But Davis, who is now based in Savannah, Robert O. Bozeman of Atlanta and Johnson formed the Davis Bozeman Johnson Law firm in December. Involved primarily in personal injury, wrongful death, and civil rights cases, the six-attorney firm now operates out of three locations, including Johnson’s office in Statesboro as well as offices in Savannah and metro Atlanta.

 

State commission, too

The State Bar of Georgia in June 2020 elected Johnson to a three-year term on the Judicial Qualifications Commission Nominating Committee.

That commission reviews applications and recommends candidates to fill judicial vacancies within the state, superior and appellate courts in Georgia. So, with the more recent appointment from the U.S. senators, Johnson now serves on committees with roles in judicial selections at both the federal and state levels.

“I think what it means for this community is that the value of the general practitioner, of the lawyer who works on Main Street, working for and on behalf of citizens seeking justice, is an important role, as important  as working at a major firm or in Atlanta,” Johnson said on the phone.

Another Statesboro attorney, Jimmy Franklin, whom Johnson called a friend and colleague whose counsel he values, served on a federal judicial screening panel under two previous Republican senators, Johnson noted. Franklin served on the state nominating commission as well.

“You enter this not from a partisan standpoint,” Johnson said.  “You really enter this from a standpoint as a steward of justice and trying to find the individuals who can carry out that important mandate, to do justice.”

But he also called Warnock and Ossoff’s advisory panel “the most progressive,” which will yield “the most progressive appointees, probably, in the nation.”

The members are a mix of civils rights organization leaders, prominent lawyers and influential Democrats.

 

Woodall and others

Woodall, originally from Riverdale, in October 2019 at age 25 became the youngest person ever elected by the NAACP Georgia State Conference as its president, and continues in that role. Earlier while a Georgia Southern University student and Bulloch county resident, he ran for a seat in the state House of Representatives.

After graduating from Georgia Southern, Woodall went on to the Morehouse School of Religion in the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. He has become a minister and so far not an attorney. However, he worked as a non-attorney staff member for the Johnson Firm during his years in Statesboro.

Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, was the party’s 2014 nominee for governor. Cox, now dean and professor of law at the Mercer University School of Law in Macon, is the former Georgia secretary of state who ran for governor in 2006.

Totonchi is executive director of the Southern Center for Human Rights. Young is the American Civil Liberties Union’s state executive director. Brief biographies of all the members can be found on Ossoff’s website at www.ossoff.senate.gov/media/press-releases.

“I’m honored this unparalleled group of legal and civil rights experts has stepped up to serve the country and assist Senator Ossoff and me in making recommendations for critical appointments to the federal bench and key law enforcement posts,” Warnock said in their announcement. “I’m grateful to Judge Sears for leading this important effort.”

 

A different role?

The two senators accepted applications until March 17 for U.S. District Court judge vacancies for the Northern District. But this Friday, March 26, is the deadline for applications for U.S. attorney and U.S. marshal vacancies in all three Georgia judicial districts.

Appointment to the nominations advisory commission does not disqualify members from being appointed to a position in the federal legal system, Johnson said. He would have to recuse himself  from giving advice on a particular position, such as U.S. attorney for the Southern  District, if he applied.

“Many people had asked if I would consider an appointment in the federal judiciary, and I’m thinking about that,” Johnson said. “The deadline is this Friday to submit, and I’ve been encouraged by so many people to make application.”

 

 

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