Douglas County District Attorney Brian Fortner was appointed Thursday by Gov. Nathan Deal to the state court judgeship vacated by Judge Neal Dettmering at the beginning of the year.
Fortner and Assistant Public Defender Wesley Woolverton were recommended to Deal by the Judicial Nominating Commission earlier this week after both men and six other candidates were interviewed. Fortner and Woolverton interviewed with Deal Friday before the governor made his decision.
Fortner became acting district attorney May 1, 2014 and won the job outright in the November general election that year. He has also served as Douglas County Solicitor General.
He announced in December that he planned to run for the state court judgeship, which is nonpartisan and was to be on the May 22 ballot this year.
However, Dettmering announced his retirement later in December and it became effective Jan. 1. Since Dettmering retired within six months of the election, by state law Fortner won’t have to run for election until 2020.
“I was very encouraged to hear that Governor Deal is appointing Brian Fortner as the next State Court Judge for Douglas County,” Douglas County Superior Court Judge William “Beau” McClain said. “Mr. Fortner has unique set of abilities and experience as the former Solicitor General and current District Attorney that certainly made him the best candidate for the office. I think Mr. Fortner’s heart for our county along with his many years of experience will combine to make him an excellent judge. I think I can speak for all of our judges to congratulate Mr. Fortner on his appointment and we will do everything we can to ensure a smooth transition for him.
When Fortner is sworn in officially by the governor, Chief Assistant District Attorney Ryan Leonard will become acting district attorney.
The district attorney post is one of many that will be on the ballot this year.
Leonard has declared his intent to run for district attorney as a Republican, and Dalia Racine, a Democrat who lost to Fortner four years ago by less than 500 votes, has declared her intention to run for the seat this year. The two are the only so far to file a Declaration of Intent with the state ethics commission to run for the job. Qualifying is next week and all candidates must qualify in order to get on the ballot this year.
Fortner, Woolverton, former Douglas County District Attorney David McDade, and attorneys Sandra Dawson, Corey Martin, Antoinette Thomas, James K. Luttrell and Olufunke B. Kosoko were among the candidates the JNC interviewed Tuesday before recommending Fortner and Woolverton to the governor.
Dettmering served 16 ½ years on the bench and was Douglas County's first state court judge.
Douglas County State Court handles misdemeanors like traffic tickets and misdemeanor drug offenses and oversees the misdemeanor DUI/Drug Court. Judge Eddie Barker was the second state court judge in Douglas County and becomes the senior state court judge with Dettmering's retirement.