August 2020

Dear Courts Journal Readers:

This month, our top stories are the Fifth Order Extending Declaration of Statewide Judicial Emergency which was entered on August 11, 2020, and the virtual Judicial Council Meeting that occurred on August 14, 2020 and which was live streamed and archived on  During the Judicial Council meeting, the report of the Judicial COVID-19 Task Force was presented and accepted, reports from the Legislation, Budget, Strategic Plan and Technology Committees were presented, and new judgeship recommendations were voted upon.  During Director Clanton’s report, she shared the parable of the carrot, the egg, and the coffee bean that she had heard from Judge Walter Davis.  We are all striving to be the coffee bean.  

A general session of the Judicial Council of Georgia was held on August 14.
Judge Walter Davis at the JC/AOC staff meeting in June.

COVID-19 continues to impact the judicial branch of Georgia and we mourn the loss of Judge Payne and Judge McGovern.  JC/AOC staffer Elaine Johnson wrote a reflection on Judge Horace Johnson. We also keep learning that so many of our judges have suffered the virus, but thankfully, recovered.  Staffer Noelle Lagueux-Alvarez interviewed Judge James Prine from South Georgia who shared his recovery story.  We have been looking back on history this month which reminds us that the terrible 1918 flu pandemic was coming to an end 100 years ago, just as the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution–which gave women the right to vote–was ratified on August 18, 1920.  The centennial anniversary of ratification was a great reason to once again promote our 19th Amendment virtual celebration with an introductory video by Justices Warren and McMillian and a reading of the extremely short, yet powerful, text of the 19th Amendment by some of the women judges serving on the Judicial Council.  Our virtual celebration of the 19th Amendment also included many book readings by judges all done in partnership with social studies leaders at the Georgia Department of Education.  We’ve even added a few new readers this month, including Judge Linda Cowen and Judge Quinn Kasper.

Judges Jon Payne (left) and Joseph McGovern both tragically died in August due to complications arising from COVID-19.
We interviewed Judge James Prine about his transition to the bench and overcoming a mild case of COVID-19.
Our centennial celebration of the 19th amendment continues with two new “Read Aloud” videos.

Staff for the Access to Justice Committee attended the virtual national Equal Justice Conference where Chief Justice Melton gave the keynote address (one of two he made this month about social justice and equality) and Justice Benham received a lifetime achievement award.  We also teamed up with Assistant Director for the Council of Accountability Court Judges, Josh Becker, to do a profile of Justice Benham and his reflections on the early days of drug courts in Georgia.  We admire Judge Jane Barwick’s use of mediation and we assisted the Chief Justice’s Commission On Professionalism in hosting a wonderful virtual CLE that had 1,300 lawyers in attendance and which presented the work of the Judicial COVID-19 Task Force along with the State Bar’s many efforts to protect livesPoll results of the attending lawyers from that CLE are posted at

Poll results from the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism CLE event.

Chief Justice Melton gave a keynote speech at the Equal Justice Conference.

Trust, Respect and Collaboration will move us forward.

“When we [the Supreme Court at the time] moved into the old building, in 1956, there was a ceremony… at that ceremony, there were two governors, the former and the current, the president state bar and leadership from across the judiciary in the bar leadership….and at that ceremony, the former governor praised the sitting Supreme Court justices for standing up against the usurpation of state authority against federal intrusion into local matters and what they were talking about is praising our court for standing in the gap in protecting its citizens from Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.

In that ceremony, there were seven white justices not even varying in terms of height, nor weight. In February 2020, when we had our recent ceremony for our new building. We have nine justices now. We have African Americans present on the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. We have an Asian American woman on the Court. We are a different court. And with that, comes a renewed focus not just amongst our court, not just amongst our judges, not just amongst the legislature who help support the funding for the building, but amongst the community as a whole to uphold the rule of law for all.”

– Chief Justice Harold D. Melton at the 2020 Equal Justice Conference.

The State-wide Business Court opened for business in August generating a few press profiles.  JC/AOC staffer John Botero and partners will be hosting an event on September 8, 2020 to provide an opportunity for the public to learn more about How to Become a Court Interpreter in GA.  The Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution approved an amendment to the Rules for Mediation in Cases Involving Issues of Domestic Violence and made their video Mediation Guide for Parties & Attorneys available in Spanish. An Access to Justice Committee meeting was hosted by Chair Justice Charlie BethelJ4C hosted a Court Improvement Initiative virtual meeting. The Council of Superior Court Judges held a Town Hall with Chief Justice Melton and the Chief also joined an Ethics class with the Council of Municipal Court Judges President and the Georgia Municipal AssociationJudge Clyde Reese, Judge Christopher Ward, and Judge Holly Veal had positive press recently.  The August episodes of the Good Judge-ment podcast are Ep. 43 Judicial Comment and Ep. 44: Offers of Settlement.  Bob Bray shared his virtual leftovers with us after their Council meeting which made us laugh.  We learned that Judge Dax Lopez was inducted into the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame.  Finally, we leave you with Lifetime Achiever award recipients:  Judge Adele Grubbs; Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane; and Judge Pinkie Toomer.

Judge Adele Grubbs
Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane
Judge Pinkie Toomer

Please stay safe. Call on us anytime.  Talk to you in September.  Check out the Accountability Courts newsletter and the Court Professionals newsletter if you haven’t already.

Your JC/AOC Courts Journal team:  Michelle Barclay, Keia Evans, Noelle Lagueux-Alvarez, Bruce Shaw, and our contractor, John Ramspott.