Keith Blackwell is a justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia. He was appointed to the position in 2012. He had previously served on the Court of Appeals of Georgia. Before serving on the bench, Justice Blackwell was a Deputy Special Attorney General of the State of Georgia, an Assistant District Attorney in Cobb County, and a commercial litigator in private practice. Justice Blackwell is a graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law.
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Justice Blackwell’s majority opinion held that there is no “categorical” right to counsel for indigent parents facing jail time stemming from a civil action for failure to pay child support.
A branch of the KKK wished to adopt a portion of a Georgia highway. But the Georgia Department of Transportation program said the highway in question was not up for adoption. And even if it was, the KKK’s “long rooted history of civil disturbance” might cause a “public concern” endangering traveler safety. So the Klan sued the Department, and won. The trial court enjoined the Department’s denial of the KKK’s adoption request because the denial violated the Klan’s First Amendment rights. The Department appealed, but did so incorrectly, and Justice Blackwell dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, leaving in place the lower court’s decision.
In a habeas proceeding, Justice Blackwell overturned forty years of precedent to hold that a defendant, not the state, bears the burden of proof in showing that a guilty plea “was not voluntary, knowing, or intelligent.”
Justice Blackwell’s majority opinion decertified a class of homeowners in a suit against Georgia Pacific. Gas emanating from a mill’s sludge ponds harmed the plaintiffs’ properties and property values. But a majority reasoned that the plaintiffs’ common contention was not capable of classwide resolution.
Justice Blackwell’s majority opinion in a 4-3 ruling upheld a murder conviction on an accomplice theory. The indictment did not allege an accomplice theory nor charge conspiracy, but the trial judge read the jury a conspiracy instruction. The majority opinion found no due process violation.
During jury selection, the trial judge elected not to dismiss a prospective juror for cause. The prospective juror did not believe he could judge a defendant fairly unless the defendant presented evidence of innocence. The prospective juror became a juror at Gray’s trial, and the jury found Gray guilty. Gray appealed. Justice Blackwell, writing for a majority, held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to dismiss the prospective juror.