January 2023

Happy New Year Courts Journal Readers:

The Judicial Council/Administrative Office of the Courts marks its 50th anniversary in 2023, and we’ll be noting that milestone throughout the year. Our year-long commemoration will provide an opportunity to educate the legal community and the public about the Judicial Council, Georgia’s policymaking body for the judicial branch, and the AOC, a service agency that staffs the Judicial Council and serves as a state-wide resource for all Georgia judges. As part of the ongoing 50th anniversary celebration, we are honored to share a letter from former President Jimmy Carter under whose leadership the JC/AOC was formed when he was Governor of Georgia in 1973.

The Judicial Council of Georgia in 1973, being sworn in by former Governor Jimmy Carter
A letter in celebration of the JC/AOC’s 50th anniversary from former President Jimmy Carter.

In further commemoration of this milestone, we are creating a searchable archive of JC/AOC annual reports. Our own Bruce Shaw designed a 50th anniversary commemorative logo for pins, Zoom backgrounds, email signatures, and more. You’ll see it everywhere and we hope it makes you smile! Judicial Council Fellow for 2023 Judge Tain Kell (ret.) is producing a series of short videos interviewing both current and former Judicial Council members, which will be posted publicly.  We are also planning a few events, including a service project with Habitat for Humanity tentatively set for September 2023–more details to come!  Thank you all for helping us to finalize the 2022 Annual Report which has been published, is being distributed to the General Assembly.

The JC/AOC FY22 Annual Report.
Our 50th anniversary commemorative logo.

The 2023 Georgia legislative session began on January 9th and the JC/AOC is keeping close track of all proposed legislation affecting the Georgia judicial branch with a new online tool.  The Georgia Capitol was dressed up beautifully to serve as the venue for many swearing-in ceremonies and, during his inauguration, Justice Carla McMillian swore in Governor Kemp for his second term of office.  Justice McMillian also provided well wishes for the 2023 Lunar New Year. Thank you Judge Doyle for sharing videos of the ceremonial cannons that were fired at the end of the inauguration festivities; they were a blast!  We also enjoyed the social media post of Justice Ellington swearing in State Rep. Houston Gaines with an incredible backdrop, especially for Dawgs fans!  Superior Court Judges Williford and Bagley spoke on a panel about professionalism at the Family Law Section CLE during the State Bar of Georgia’s Mid-Year Meeting. We learned through a news story that Steve Castlen, Clerk for the Georgia Court of Appeals, made an inspirational humanitarian trip to Ukraine. We loved the post by Savannah CASA about Judge Cheferre Young from the Macon-Bibb Juvenile Court as well as the news out of Moultrie that Juvenile Court Judge William McIntosh recently swore in a new CASA volunteer in the Southern Judicial Circuit.

JC/AOC’s legislation monitoring tool tracks legislation related to the courts.
The State Capitol for Governor Kemp’s inauguration.

Thank you CStCJ President Judge Vi Bennett for singing and talking at our January All Staff Meeting.  We were honored by the invitation extended to our IT Division to host a “help desk” at the CSCJ’s January conference and that event also included a talk by our CTO, Ben Luke. The  JC/AOC IT staff also launched a new IT newsletter.  Our own Noelle Lagueux-Alvarez attended and took pictures of a moving and inspirational graduation for participants who had completed Cobb County’s Mental Health Court–presided over by Judge Ann B. Harris.  We loved hearing DeKalb County Juvenile Court Chief Judge Fatima El-Amin, among many, speaking at the King Center celebration on the MLK holiday.  Congratulations to Judge Ben Richardson who won an MLK Unity award and kudos to Justice Verda Colvin who will deliver UGA Law’s Hines Jurist in Residence Lecture on February 1st and UGA’s Holmes-Hunter Lecture on February 28th.  Congratulations to those installed as the Gate City Bar Judicial Section, now chaired by Judge Brian Ross of the DeKalb State Court.

Wayne County State Court Judge Vi Bennett spoke at the January All Staff Meeting.
Amber Range, Ben Luke, and Kriste Pope from JC/AOC’s IT division at the CSCJ Conference.
The Court Tech Talk newsletter.

The Georgia Child Support Commission recently completed a comprehensive review, including an economic study, of Georgia’s Child Support Guidelines, codified at O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15. A copy of the report documenting that review may be found on the Georgia Child Support Commission’s website here and the Commission appreciates comments from the bench, the bar, and the public alike. Written comments may be submitted to the Commission at any time here, or may be given during the comment period offered at all full Child Support Commission meetings. The 32nd annual Georgia Bar, Media, and Judiciary Conference will take place in person at the Start Bar Center in Atlanta on Friday, February 24th, and a complimentary registration code for that conference will be sent shortly via separate email to all judges statewide. Judge Benson of the Tift County State Court provided a civics lesson for local 4th graders and the judges in Forsyth County did as well with Judge McClelland hosting Classical ConversationsPeer Courts, and Regional High School Mock Trial competitions starting in February.  ICYMI, listen to Good Judge-ment Podcast Ep. 108 on Voir Dire and Ep. 109 on Bench Conferences in Criminal Cases.  You’re invited to attend an Access to Justice virtual webinar on February 13th about the intersection of faith and justice and State Bar of Georgia President Sally Akin’s Signature Professionalism CLE on February 22 hosted by the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism.  Please nominate a Georgia DFCS case manager or a child welfare attorney for a Hines Award; the nomination period closes at the end of February.  Please take advantage of this helpful NCSC video–which can be used during juror orientation–about the responsibilities of being connected to technology while on jury duty. We leave you with reflections from recently-retired Chief Judge Emeritus, Linda Cowen of Clayton County State Court after 27 years on the bench.

The 2023 Hines Award nominations are open. Click the image above to navigate to the submission forms.
Reflections from a Newly Retired Judge by Judge Linda Cowen.

Call on us anytime.  Talk to you in February.

Your JC/AOC Courts Journal team:  Michelle BarclayNoelle Lagueux-AlvarezBruce Shaw, and our contractor, John Ramspott