- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia’s top judge plans to leave the state’s highest court in early January.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Hugh Thompson, who is 73, announced his decision in a news release Tuesday. Gov. Nathan Deal will be responsible for appointing his replacement.

Thompson’s four-year term as chief justice ends in August 2017.

But the court is expanding from seven to nine justices in January, and he said it makes sense for his replacement to start at the same time as the other two new justices.

Thompson said he also wants to allow Presiding Justice P. Harris Hines to have a longer time as chief justice before he retires in 2018.

Thompson, who has been a judge for 45 years, was appointed to the high court in 1994 by Gov. Zell Miller.

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