Friday, January 9, 2009

Alumna Miller Makes History in State of Georgia as Appeals Court Chief

In the chamber of the Georgia House of Representatives on January 6 – amid a sea of state dignitaries, family, friends and media – Mercer University undergraduate and law school alumna, M. Yvette Miller, was sworn in as the state’s first African-American woman chief judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals.

As chief judge of one of the busiest appellate courts in the United States, Judge Miller will be responsible for the administration on the court and will act as the head of the court for ceremonial purposes and for all communications. She will serve a two-year term.

“Yvette, your way has been made easier by those who came before you,” said former Gov. Roy Barnes, who first appointed Judge Miller to the state Court of Appeals in 1999. “It’s been a long journey, but you, Madam Chief Judge, are up to the task.”

In accepting the oath as chief judge, Judge Miller said she will focus her efforts on three areas: strengthening relationships between the three branches of state government and within the appellate court itself; maintaining the functional viability of the court amid tough economic times; and establishing an electric filing system for the state Court of Appeals.

“These are challenging times, and I plan to rise to the occasion,” Judge Miller said.

The state Court of Appeals has statewide appellate jurisdiction of all cases except those involving constitutional questions, land title disputes, the construction of wills, murder, election contests, habeas corpus, extraordinary remedies, divorce and alimony, and cases where original appellate jurisdiction lies with the superior courts. The state Court of Appeals may certify legal questions to the state Supreme Court.

“This is an absolutely wonderful day,” Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker said during his remarks. “This is a historical moment.”

Judge Miller has been re-elected statewide, without opposition, for two six-year terms. Before her appointment to the state court, Gov. Zell Miller appointed her to the state court of Fulton County, and she was re-elected as a trial judge on the state court without opposition. Previously, Judge Miller served as director and judge of the Appellate Division of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, where she was the first woman, first African American, and youngest person ever to hold that position.

Judge Miller was born and raised in Macon. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, from Mercer University in 1977 and her law degree from Mercer’s Walter F. George School of Law in 1980. Judge Miller also earned an LL.M. degree in litigation from Emory University School of Law and an LL.M. degree in judicial process from the University of Virginia School of Law.

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