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Georgia Judicial Appointments Challenged

ATLANTA (CN) - Three Georgia attorneys and a minister are among those challenging the constitutionality of a state law that created three new seats of the state court of appeals that were filled by the governor last month.

The petition filed in the Fulton County Superior Court names Gov. Nathan Deal and the newly appointed judges, Amanda Mercier, Nels Peterson and Brian Rickman as defendants.

It seeks to overturn a law signed May 6, 2015, that increased the number of seats on the court from 12 to 15.

According to the plaintiffs -- former Macon City Councilman Henry Ficklin; attorneys John Clark, Ivory Dious, and Francys Johnson Jr.; and Darryl Momon, a minister -- the Georgia Constitution contains no provision that allows the newly created judgeships or any seat not previously vacated by an incumbent, to be filled by gubernatorial appointment.

They want the new law declared unconstitutional and toss out, and for the state legislature to draft a new law requiring the judgeships to be filled by an election.

The Nov. 16 complaint says two of the plaintiffs, Dious and Clark, have a "special interest in the office."

They are also asking the court to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent Gov. Deal from swearing in the new judges, whose terms are currently set to begin Jan. 1

Earlier this year, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported, "Deal has said his proposals were designed to help the judicial branch cope with an increasing workload. But critics worry it would give the Republican too much control over Georgia's top courts."

The governor's office declined to comment on the filing.

The plaintiffs are represented by Wayne Kendall of Fayetteville, Ga.

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