Grant Brantley 

For bragging about something that never happened

Editor's note: Liar, Liar will spotlight the problems some politicians have with the truth. Through the November election, it'll run sporadically -- along with Weekly Scalawag -- in this space.

Until last week, Grant Brantley, a Marietta lawyer running for the Georgia Supreme Court, boasted in campaign materials that George H.W. Bush nominated him in 1992 to a U.S. District Court judgeship.

Brantley doesn't make that claim anymore, for a good reason: It's not true. Actually, Georgia Republican bigwigs passed Brantley's name on to the White House. The Justice Department followed up by looking into his background, standard practice before a federal bench candidate is nominated.

But, as any aspiring judge knows, the word "nomination" refers to the specific step -- described by the U.S. Constitution -- in which the president presents the candidate's name to the Senate. Bush the elder didn't take that step before losing re-election to Bill Clinton.

"He felt he was the nominee, from what the DOJ told him," Brantley campaign manager Paul Bennecke says. "It just took going to the Senate to get it approved, and it never happened."

No matter what Brantley "felt," imprecise and wishful thinking isn't exactly a desirable characteristic for a judge, particularly for the state's highest court.

Since opting not to run for re-election as a Superior Court judge in 1992, Brantley's been in private practice. Now, he's taking on Justice Leah Ward Sears, who then-Gov. Zell Miller named the first black woman on the state Supreme Court, also in 1992.

After opposing Georgia's anti-sodomy statute, Sears became a target of the Christian Coalition. She also angered Gov. Sonny Perdue by voting against his petition to wrest authority from Attorney General Thurbert Baker during last year's fight over redistricting.

The Republican and Christian Coalition push for Brantley is one of several breaks from tradition this year that should concern voters in usually low-key judicial races. Another point of concern: exaggerated campaign claims might reward candidates in a branch of government where integrity is fundamental.

Brantley appeared ready to ride all the way to the July 20 judicial election on his false claim until AJC reporter Bill Rankin broke the story June 19, forcing him to rescind it. Confronted with the truth, Brantley vowed to stop saying he was a nominee.

If his law firm website offers any evidence, however, a falsehood once stated is difficult to stamp out. "In 1992, he chose not to seek re-election," a bio on the website still said as of June 22, "and was nominated to the U.S. District Court by President George Bush."

-- Michael Wall



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