Newly appointed Judge Scott McAfee gets Trump criminal case in Georgia

August 17, 2023

One of the newest judges on the Fulton County Superior Court bench, Scott McAfee, has been assigned the sprawling racketeering case that charges former president Donald Trump and 18 allies with scheming to undo Trump’s 2020 election defeat in Georgia and elsewhere, reports The Washington Post.

McAfee, a lifelong Georgian who lives in Atlanta, was nominated to fill a vacancy on the bench earlier this year by Governor Brian Kemp (R), who had previously praised McAfee as “a tough prosecutor” who could “bring those to justice who break the law.”

Although McAfee was assigned the case soon after the indictment was handed up on Monday evening, August 14, it could be transferred to a different judge later in the process.

District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) has given Trump and others indicted in the case until noon on August 25 to surrender, and says she will seek to try all 19 defendants together. Trump’s legal team has begun negotiations about scheduling his surrender and initial court appearance, a person close to the former president said Tuesday.

The indictment placed an immediate spotlight on McAfee. Three Georgia attorneys who are familiar with his career told the Post in interviews Tuesday that the judge’s background as a former state and federal prosecutor and state inspector general may have helped prepare him to preside over a complex, contentious and high-profile case.

Keith R. Blackwell, a retired Georgia Supreme Court justice for whom McAfee worked as a judicial intern in 2012, described him as having a “down-to-earth” temperament. McAfee’s work, Blackwell said, was driven by following “the law, as best he can, wherever it leads.”

Atlanta defense attorney Tom Church, who has represented clients McAfee helped prosecute on federal drug charges, called him laid-back and said he has brought a fresh outlook to the bench.

“He’s not cynical about it,” Church said. “Overall, his reputation is that of being diligent. Because he’s relatively new, he’s going to be especially focused on getting it right and being deliberate.”

McAfee is known in Atlanta legal and political circles as a conservative, Church said, adding, “He’s not an ideologue.”

The judge has previously allowed video of court proceedings to air online, including on the YouTube channel that bears his name and title. He speaks to attorneys and defendants with a hint of a Southern drawl, the channel shows, and an American flag stands behind his chair on an elevated bench.

Georgia attorney Matt Wetherington, who has appeared before McAfee in court and knows him socially, said McAfee “asks good questions, he listens, he does his homework.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost