For Associate Judge of the Probate Court John Cline, Blackwell is a childhood pal, former college roommate and partner on the debate team when the two were in high school.
For previous Cherokee High School Principal Susan Padgett-Harrison, he is a former student. For members of the Cherokee High School Class of 1993, he is their classmate.
For Robert and Peggy Blackwell of Ball Ground, he is their son.
Blackwell, who led “Lawyers For Deal” during the gubernatorial election, will replace outgoing Justice George Carley, who has decided to retire next month.
Blackwell’s selection was the Republican governor’s first appointment to the state Supreme Court, with the swearing-in scheduled for July 19.
Blackwell, who previously practiced civil and criminal law, will serve on the court until 2014, when voters will decide whether to keep him on the bench for a six-year term.
“The Supreme Court will benefit from Judge Blackwell’s experience on both sides of the bench,” Deal said in a statement. “His intelligence, many years of experience and dedicated commitment to public service will serve Georgians well in his new role on our state’s highest court.”
Blackwell chaired a lawyers group formed to support Deal and gave $500 to Deal’s campaign, according to state records. Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said that Blackwell’s political support for Deal did not influence the governor’s appointment.
“The fact that he had excellent taste in candidates should not disqualify him from a Supreme Court seat,” Robinson said
Cline said that Blackwell always was a standout. The two roomed together at the University of Georgia in undergraduate school and shared living quarters with Canton attorney Jeff Rusbridge who is running for a state court judgeship.
Blackwell graduated first in his class from the University of Georgia’s College of Arts and Sciences with a political science degree in 1996, receiving his degree in only three years.
He then capped that by graduating first in his class from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1999.
“Keith was always one of the most intelligent people I knew; he was always very motivated,” Cline said. “Some people have one and not the other — he had both. He was always at the top of most everything he ever attempted. He always had great potential, and that was something he had even in middle school.”
The two became friends at Teasley Middle School, where they enjoyed sports and other activities.
“I think he is very capable of doing the job he will have to do, and he will do us proud,” Cline said.
The newly picked justice said in a statement that he was humbled by being chosen and he expressed his gratitude to Carley, who will serve as the court’s chief justice for less than two months before he retires.
I have given my word to Governor Deal, and I give my word to the citizens of this state, that every day and in every case, I will adhere to the high standards of impartiality, independence and integrity that Georgians rightfully expect of their judges; that I will faithfully apply the law as it is, not as I might wish it to be; and that I will respect the separation of powers, bearing in mind that the judicial power, though indispensable to our system of government, is a limited one,” said Blackwell in a statement.
Former Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed Blackwell to the Georgia Court of Appeals in 2010. He sits on the Board of Advisors for the Atlanta chapter of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, a conservative legal organization. He was previously the chapter’s president for three years and served on its executive board, according to Deal’s office.
Blackwell is an adviser to the Business Courts Committee of the state bar and chair of the Committee on Court Rules at the Court of Appeals.
He practiced civil and criminal law as a private attorney and also served for two years at an assistant district attorney in Cobb County.
He was previously a law clerk for Judge J.L. Edmondson of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Blackwell and his wife, Angela, have three daughters and they live in Smyrna.