Gov. Nathan Deal today announced the appointments of the Hon. William “Billy” Ray II and Elizabeth L. Branch to the Georgia Court of Appeals. Ray’s takes effect July 30, filling the vacancy left by Judge Keith Blackwell’s appointment to the Supreme Court of Georgia. Branch’s appointment takes effect Sept. 1. She replaces Judge Charles Mikell, who is retiring on Aug. 31.
William “Billy” Ray
Ray brings with him more than 20 years of litigation and appellate experience. Ray began his law career in 1990 as a trial attorney at Andersen, Davidson & Tate, PC., where he became partner in 1995; he primarily focused on the areas of business, construction, real estate and family law. Since 2002, he has served as presiding judge in Division 1 of the Gwinnett Superior Court. Ray is also the founder and presiding judge of the Gwinnett County Drug Treatment Court, on which he has served since 2005. Ray also served as a state senator from January 1997 until January 2002.
Among other honors and recognitions, Ray received the Friend of Suwanee Award in 2002, the Legislative Service Award of the Georgia Municipal Association in 2001 and the Legislative Service Award of the Georgia Conservation Voters in 2001. Ray is a member of the Council of Superior Court Judges, State Bar of Georgia and Gwinnett County Bar Association.
Ray graduated magna cum laude in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in Insurance from the University of Georgia’s Terry School of Business. He then went on to get his master’s of Business Administration in Finance at the University of Georgia in 1986 and graduated cum laude from the University of Georgia’s School of Law in 1990. Ray lives in Lawrenceville with his wife of 22 years, Kelle Chandler Ray, and their three sons, Chandler, Davis and Avery.
Elizabeth “Lisa” Branch
Branch currently serves as a partner at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP in Atlanta, dealing with commercial litigation and government affairs. Previously, she served in Washington, D.C., as associate general counsel for Rules and Legislation for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as well as counselor to the administrator in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. She served as a judicial clerk for the Hon. J. Owen Forrester, of the United States District Court of Northern Georgia, in her early career.
Branch is presently eligible to practice in all superior and state courts of Georgia, the Georgia Court of Appeals, the Georgia Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts of North Georgia and Middle Georgia, the U.S. Court of Appeals 11th Circuit Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. She is a member of a variety of professional societies and serves in leadership positions, including her role as vice chair of the American Bar Association’s Homeland Security Coordinating Committee, a member of the Executive Board for the Federalist Society Atlanta Chapter and co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice.
A native and current resident of Atlanta, Branch graduated cum laude from Davidson College. She then attended Emory University School of Law, where she served as the Emory Law Journal editor and graduated with distinction in 1994.