Greetings Courts Journal Readers:
Quite a bit happened in the month of February. The planet had a supermoon which was beautiful. Courts in south Georgia closed for a few hours due to extreme weather, including a tornado. Gwinnett had a small earthquake. We had some snowfall in north Georgia and flurries in Atlanta. But mostly, we had lots of rain this month which did not stop the Nathan Deal Judicial Center dedication although the historic ceremony was moved inside a tent and streamed (a video summary is here). Our top story is the February 14 Judicial Council meeting. The meeting was streamed and archived in case you missed it. The Judicial Council now stands at 28 members with the addition of Statewide Business Court Judge Walter Davis recently added by Supreme Court order. Highlights from the meeting included a special presentation by Mr. David Emadi of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission and reports from the Legislation, Budget, and Cybersecurity Insurance for the Judiciary Committees.
On February 26, the State of the Judiciary Address was delivered by Chief Justice Melton which was streamed and archived. The Chief Justice spoke about the Supreme Court’s move from the old Judicial Building on Mitchell Street to the new Nathan Deal Judicial Center noting, “we are a different court now than when our court first convened in the building we have left behind.” Recognizing the increase in diversity on the Supreme Court of Georgia and throughout the Georgia judiciary over the last six decades, Chief Justice Melton reflected that all judges have more in common than they have what separates them. He also spoke about improving access to justice, the importance of cybersecurity, and he praised the beginning work of the Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission. Chief Justice Melton ended his remarks recognizing the exemplary career of Justice Robert Benham, who will retire from the Supreme Court of Georgia on March 1 after nearly 36 years serving Georgia’s appellate courts, calling him “the father of the modern court.”
The 2020 legislative session slowed down a bit with a week-long break, but the CMCJ and CPCJ held their days at the Capitol beforehand. Legislative updates are kept online and emailed out twice a week. The JC/AOC has been posting judge profile cards in honor of Black History Month and we created a summary of all of our posts. Thank you to all of the judges who agreed to participate in this project as we have had lovely feedback celebrating all of you.
We were moved while attending a Veterans Court graduation in Cobb County led by Judge Reuben Green. Judge Jason Thompson is overseeing a new Veterans Court launched in Griffin. There was also a Drug Court graduation in Cobb County led by Judge Tain Kell. Judge Brian Fortner also posted pictures of the Douglas County State Court DUI/Drug Court graduation with 15 graduates this month.
DeKalb County Chief Magistrate Court Judge Berryl A. Anderson (and Judicial Council member) did a poignant StoryCorps piece with her mother which we asked to share. We are preparing a pictorial essay “A Day in the Life” of Judge Anderson for the March issue. We also celebrated World Read Aloud Day with Judicial Council members Judge Asha Jackson and Judge Bubba Samuels, as well as JC/AOC staffer Darron Enns. They all read a new book titled Tomorrow I’ll be Kind and donated the book to their local elementary school in the name of the late Justice Harris Hines, who used to end his speeches with the words “Be Kind”.
Justice Warren visited our February AOC staff meeting. Judge Bill Adams (ret.) let us know that Middle Georgia Justice just expanded to include a Self-Help Center. A panel from the Court of Appeals hit the road again, this time to visit Albany State University.
Congratulations to new Bulloch County State Court Judge Joseph Cushner and Fulton County Juvenile Court Judges Coy Johnson and Shalanda Macon-Jaliwa Miller on their recent appointments. More congratulations to Chief Judge Simpson, Judge Auslander, and the Athens-Clarke County DUI Treatment Court team who, once again, were named one of only four “Academy Courts” by the National Center for DWI Courts to serve as a national role model and training site. Judge Walker (ret.) kicked off Georgia CASA Day last week. There was a delightful article about Judge Phipps’s new window view in the Daily Report which includes poetry.
A sub-committee on Involuntary Commitment under the Behavioral Health Innovation and Reform Commission met twice this month with Justice Boggs, Judge Amero, Judge Weaver and Judge Harris in attendance. Judge Harris testified at the first meeting about the role of probate courts in the involuntary commitment and treatment process. JC/AOC staffer John Botero launched an informative newsletter for Georgia Court Professionals. The J4C team conducted MD CANI classes in Fulton and Cobb Counties. The Child Support team led a training in Macon. An Expungement/Record Restriction clinic has been scheduled in Dalton, Georgia on March 7 sponsored by the A2J committee, which also published a Deaf and Hard of Hearing Counter Card. We wrote a staff profile of JC/AOC staffer Kristy King.
Justice Boggs and Judge Miller were guest speakers, separately, at Mercer Law School this past month. Justice Benham participated in ceremonies to recognize his last day on the bench and his last day as Chair of the Access to Justice Committee. We are excited to report that Justice Bethel is the new chair of the A2J committee. The Bar, Media, and Judiciary Conference will take place on February 28 and will kick off with a live-from-the-conference broadcast of Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Political Rewind.
Chief Judge Brian Amero and Judge T. Russell McClelland are our latest additions to the video series, Meet the Members of the Judicial Council. Finally, the Suicide Awareness Program put on by the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism with the support of many partners, including the JC/AOC, is April 28. And don’t forget about the State Bar of Georgia’s Wellness Retreat on May 1-3 at Barnsley. Registration will be available soon. We leave you with this cool sculpture of Lady Justice from Fannin County’s Fire and Ice Festival.
Talk to you in March