Ga. chief justice says she’ll join think tank, law firm

ATLANTA -- Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears announced this morning that she will join a think tank working on strengthening marriage and the Atlanta office of a Chicago law firm when she steps down from the bench at the end of June.

Sears, a Savannah native, had already announced her retirement effective when her tenure as chief justice ends, but she had not divulged her career plans. The 53-year-old is the first woman and first black to serve on Georgia’s highest court, and she says she’s still has plenty she wants to do.

Her name has been mentioned as a possible successor to U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter. She will only say that she is flattered to be suggested but not comment further until President Obama names his pick.

For now, Sears intends to devote half her time to the Institute for American Values, serving for a year in a post named for her late brother, the William Thomas Sears Distinguished Fellow in Family Law. The New York City-based, non-partisan foundation will give her the opportunity to come up with policy ideas on marriage, a frequent topic of hers in speeches during her term as chief justice. She will also work on a project to broaden understanding between members of various religious faiths, especially Islam and the Western religions.

When she’s not developing policy proposals for the think tank, she will work with Schiff Hardin in Atlanta. The firm has defended major white-collar criminal cases, such as representing the Office of the Governor of Illinois but not then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

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