Robert S. Highsmith Jr.
Robert S. Highsmith Jr. practices regulatory and administrative law, public policy litigation, government contracting and government relations. He represents diverse large corporate and governmental clients in contested matters, large transactions and government affairs before myriad Georgia state and local governmental agencies, including the Public Service Commission, Department of Community Health, Department of Revenue, the General Assembly and the City of Atlanta. He also advocates before Georgia's congressional delegation.
Mr. Highsmith has extensive experience advocating client regulatory and policy interests across a wide range of substantive areas, including:
- natural gas and energy
- tax incentives and economic development
- government procurement
- government investigations
- alcohol beverage regulation
- federal and state appropriations
He routinely handles a wide range of matters including:
- administrative litigation
- public policy litigation
- regulatory policy
- bid protest and procurement litigation
- internal investigations
- State Attorney General investigations
- tax incentives for economic development
- legislative lobbying
- campaign finance and election law compliance
Mr. Highsmith has an active public policy litigation practice, with a focus on state constitutional issues and regulatory appeals.
Mr. Highsmith's recent matters include:
- representing the Southeast's largest natural gas utility in multiple contested matters before the Georgia Public Service Commission
- leading negotiations on behalf of a major Atlanta sports franchise for the renovation of the team's home arena
- leading a multidisciplinary team designing and implementing the largest economic development incentive transaction in Georgia history, more than $1 billion, on behalf of a national real estate developer for a $5 billion mixed-use project. Mr. Highsmith conceived, wrote and lobbied for the passage of the enabling state statute, advocated during contested and heavily politicized proceedings before the Atlanta City Council, and appeared as lead developer counsel in judicial bond validation proceedings
- serving as lead litigation counsel to one of Georgia's largest hospital systems opposing efforts to subject the system to asymmetric and anticompetitive disclosure regulation
- leading the lobbying team that stopped state takeover of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in 2018, 2019 and 2020
- leading the legal team negotiating with the State of Georgia on behalf of a Class 1 railroad for the lease of a major state-owned rail line
- successfully defending the awards of several multibillion-dollar Medicaid managed care contracts in multiple states to one of the nation's largest providers of government-sponsored healthcare programs
- successfully defending the innovative sales practices of a large manufacturer of electric vehicles against regulatory challenges by an association of auto dealers that involved both administrative and legislative resolution
- successfully defending the award of a multibillion-dollar state pharmacy benefit management contract to one of the nation's largest pharmacy benefit management companies
- successfully defending two large governmental authorities against alleged violations of government transparency laws
- several State Attorney General investigations
- serving as outside general counsel to the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) from 2016 to 2020
- serving as a lead lobbyist for Georgia's largest Medicaid managed care organization, two global telecommunications conglomerates, a large national pharmacy benefits management company, the world's busiest airport measured by passenger traffic and a large mass transit agency, among others
Mr. Highsmith served as an executive counsel to former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. As Perdue's lead legislative lawyer, Mr. Highsmith drafted and lobbied for Perdue's legislative package each year. He also advised Perdue on the full gamut of executive legal matters, including the state budget process, government procurement, transportation funding, water resource planning and redistricting litigation. Mr. Highsmith serves on Gov. Brian Kemp's Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC), which recommends judicial appointments statewide to the governor. He is the only member to have also served on the JNC under former Govs. Nathan Deal and Sonny Perdue.
Having served as outside counsel for two Georgia governors and several other Georgia elected officials, Mr. Highsmith is among Georgia's foremost authorities on governmental ethics, open records and transparency, campaign finance and election law. Mr. Highsmith formerly served on the State Ethics Commission, a quasi-judicial body with statewide jurisdiction over ethics issues involving public officials, lobbyists and state vendors, as an appointee of former Gov. Roy Barnes.
Mr. Highsmith previously served as assistant general counsel to the Georgia Republican Party, chief of staff to the Republican Caucus of the Georgia House of Representatives, and policy director to the 1998 Republican nominee for governor of Georgia.
In the fall of 2012, Mr. Highsmith was appointed Lecturer in Yale College, traveling to New Haven, Connecticut, weekly to teach "Lobbying and the Law," a for-credit undergraduate seminar that he designed.
At the University of Georgia, Mr. Highsmith's mock trial team won national first runner-up honors in the National Institute of Trial Advocacy's Tournament of Champions.
In addition to his legal work and various accomplishments, Mr. Highsmith is also a licensed commercial pilot.
- The University of Georgia School of Law, J.D.
- Yale College, B.A., English
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
- U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia
- U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia
- All State Courts in Georgia
- Governor's Judicial Nominating Commission, consisting of judges and lawyers who recommend judicial appointments statewide to the Governor, 2006-Present
- Federalist Society, Board of Advisors, Atlanta Lawyers Division
- Atlanta Housing Authority, Commissioner, 2017-Present
- Georgia Code Revision Commission (publisher of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated), 2012-2014
- Joseph Henry Lumpkin Inn of Court, Master
- Logan E. Bleckley Inn of Court, former Barrister
- Republican National Lawyers Association
- Energy Bar Association
- Lawyers Club of Atlanta
- State Bar of Georgia
- The Legal 500 USA, Government - Government Relations, 2016-2022
- One of Georgia's Most Influential Politically-Connected Attorneys, James Magazine, 2019
- Atlanta Magazine, Atlanta 500 Most Powerful Leaders: Professionals, 2019, 2020
- The Best Lawyers in America guide, Atlanta Government Relations Lawyer of the Year, 2016, 2018, 2020, 2022
- The Best Lawyers in America guide, Government Relations Practice, 2008-2023
- Client Service All-Star, The BTI Consulting Group, Inc., 2017
- Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated