Profile: Judge Elizabeth Gobeil

Judge Elizabeth Gobeil recently joined the Court of Appeals after serving six years as Director and Appellate Division Judge at the State Board of Worker’s Compensation. Judge Gobeil answered some questions about her first few months on the bench of the Court of Appeals of Georgia.

Please tell us a little about your background. Where did you grow up? What’s your educational background?
Judge Elizabeth GobeilA native of Thomaston, Georgia, I grew up the youngest of four children of Mack and Bea Dallas. After graduating from the Thomaston public school system, I attended Emory University where I received my B.A. in History in 1991. I received my J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1995.

After a stint in Washington, D.C., my husband, Bart, and I moved back to Atlanta.  I practiced law for several years until Governor Deal appointed me to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation in 2012. Again, thanks to Governor Deal, I was sworn in on June 5, 2018, as the 86th judge to serve on the Court of Appeals of Georgia.  I serve on the seat vacated by Judge Elizabeth "Lisa" Branch when the President appointed her to the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

How did your previous jobs prepare you to serve on the Court of Appeals?
As a Director and Appellate Division Judge at the State Board of Workers' Compensation, I served for close to six years on a three-judge panel hearing all appeals from administrative law judge decisions. Like the Court of Appeals, we applied a set standard of review to a closed record from the trial court below. Further, this role gave me practical experience applying the Georgia Code of Evidence and the Georgia Civil Practice Act to litigated claims.

Prior to joining the Board, I practiced law both in law firm and in house counsel settings, which exposed me to a wide array of matters ranging from compliance to litigation. Like being at the Court of Appeals, I never knew what would walk through my door each day. Through that experience, I learned how to manage a constantly shifting workload of diverse legal issues.

Early in my legal career, I gained experience with state criminal and civil actions when I clerked at the Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office and the Griffin Judicial Circuit.

What motivated you to study law? 
I always had an interest in the law given my family members who chose that path (including two of my siblings, Lucinda Dallas and Bill Dallas who both graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and my grandfather, William McKenzie Dallas, who graduated from Columbia Law School).  Working at the Federalist Society after college confirmed my interest in pursuing a law degree.

What are your passions when you are off the bench?
Being on the road a lot, I especially value time with friends and family (including our beloved Bernese Mountain dog, Finn McCool). My husband and I enjoy taking advantage of Savannah's many great outdoor activities and relaxing at our family cabin on the Flint River. I am also an avid reader, an amateur cook, and "a creative spirit in search of an artistic talent" (e.g., painting).

What do you enjoy most about being a judge or what is the greatest reward of your job?
The realization that our work matters. Of course, that knowledge is a double-edged sword. While it is rewarding to know your work impacts lives, it is also a burden for the same reason. Judges are not perfect, the law is not always clear, and the law is not always fair. However, judges have a unique opportunity - and indeed duty - to apply the law fairly and impartially. Doing so means I will not always like the outcome in a given case.  But, I know that our duly elected legislators are there should any perceived unfairness warrant a change in the law.

Who has influenced your career as a judge?
First, Governor Deal. I literally would not be in this position without him and am grateful he entrusted me with this great responsibility. I also have the good fortune of a husband, friends and family who helped shape me into the person I am and who have encouraged me along the way.  In addition, and realizing this may sound trite, I have to say Justice Scalia, for several reasons. Regardless of one's views of his jurisprudence, Justice Scalia elevated and enhanced discourse on the proper role of the judiciary. His thoughtful contributions challenged me from an early age to think critically about judicial philosophy and the impact - both positive and negative - judges can have on the Constitutional principles of separation of powers and checks and balances on power.  I also appreciate Justice Scalia’s wit and clarity of expression. While tough to match, his example nonetheless encourages me to be a better communicator. Further, Justice Scalia appreciated life beyond the law. In embracing his humanity, he fostered a respectful and collegial culture both on and off the bench.  Finally, he influenced me simply because I had the opportunity to meet him at an impressionable time when I was deciding to apply to law school.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Judge Branch, Chief Judge Dillard, my other colleagues on the Georgia Court of Appeals, and my colleagues on the Georgia Supreme Court have been incredibly helpful and welcoming to me. I admire their professionalism and appreciate their willingness to share their guidance with me. I also am grateful for Judge Phipps for ably filling the vacancy until my arrival. Finally, I respect the judges on the frontlines throughout Georgia’s court system.  They have to make tough calls, often with little time for consideration and without the luxury we have of reviewing cases in hindsight.



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