ATLANTA (WRBL) — A local attorney became the first person from Columbus to serve on the Georgia Court of Appeals when he was sworn in Wednesday afternoon at the Capitol.
Superior Court Judge Ben Land took the oath administered by Gov. Brian Kemp in a packed state House chambers.
Justice Andrew Pinson was elevated to the state Supreme Court and Land was selected to fill Pinson’s term on the appellate bench.
There are 15 Court of Appeals judges. It is the second highest court in the state behind only the Supreme Court.
The 54-year-old Land was surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues as he took a seat no Columbus attorney has ever held.
His older brother, Federal Judge Clay Land, introduced him.
“Ben possesses all the necessary qualities for continuing his service as an outstanding judge,” Judge Clay Land said. “Gov. Kemp, your recognition of this validates your good judgment. You have chosen someone who will represent an important part of your impressive legacy.”
Judge Ben Land thanked those who helped him achieve this honor.
“None of us have gotten here solely on our own merit,” Judge Ben Land said. “And I recognize that I embrace that. And I will not let those opportunities I have had go to waste.”
Ben Land was in private practice for nearly 25 years before being appointed a Chattahoochee Circuit Superior Court judge more than four years ago.
Known as a meticulous lawyer and judge, the fact that he is assuming this job is not lost on Ben Land.
“As far as the Columbus connection is concerned, it is somewhat amazing to me that we have not had a Columbus judge or lawyer serve on the Georgia Court of Appeals in its 116-year history,” Ben Land said earlier this week during an interview with News 3. “Because we have a legacy of great lawyers in this town, and we have had great lawyers in this town for a long, long time. And, we have had good judges in this town, as well. And, it’s somewhat surprising to me that no one has chosen to do this.”
This is a position that has been on his radar for more than a decade.
“I never had a grand plan that I would end up as an appellate judge,” Ben Land said. “I took it one day at a time. And I took the opportunities when they were right for me. And four and a half years ago. I thought the time was right for me to try my hand at the Superior Court. And I did that. And this Court of Appeals job was offered to me back in February and I thought the time was right for that.”
Land talked about the Court of Appeals using the analogy of a baseball umpire.
“I think in a way we are the replay booth, but we also are an umpire,” he said. “Because all judges are calling balls and strikes. All judges are reviewing the facts and law before them and are making a decision within the parameters of their job.”
But Land says his new job is much different than his old job on the Superior Court,.
“We are not up there weighing the credibility of witnesses,” he said. “We are not up there deciding factual issues like are decided in the trial court. We are there to make sure the trial court got it right. We are there to make sure the trial court followed the law. And we are there to make sure no errors were committed in the court below.”
Like Superior Court, the Court of Appeals judgeship is an elected office. Land plans to run statewide in 2024 for a full six-year term.