August 2021

Greetings Courts Journal readers:

Our top story for August is Chief Justice Nahmias’s first General Session as Chair of the Judicial Council which occurred on the 13th.  That meeting is archived on our YouTube channel with the agenda and materials posted on The August 2021 General Session was scheduled to be held in person in Columbus, with the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit and Columbus Bar Association hosting a welcome reception, but was reverted to meeting via videoconference due to the rise of the Delta variant.  Masking requirements at the Nathan Deal Judicial Center were updated on August 4th following CDC recommendations, and the JC/AOC followed suit.  On August 5th, the Georgia Supreme Court reverted to oral arguments via videoconferencing, at least for now.   The next Judicial Council General Session will be held virtually on Friday, December 10, 2021, at 10 a.m.  We know many of you are facing great challenges in carrying out the vital work of our courts during this latest surge of COVID-19 cases.   Please call on us if we can support you in any way.

We had some press about our upcoming Twitter Town Hall on September 17th to celebrate Constitution Day. We have many judges participating and many children submitting questions.  We’ll get those questions out to participating judges in advance of the event.  We’ve done our best to identify and invite all Georgia judges on Twitter, but if we missed you, please join us!  Just send an email to one of us listed at the bottom of this newsletter.  We were lucky to be able to interview Judge Walter Davis about the State-wide Business Court’s First Year in Business.  We also loved interviewing Council of Municipal Court Judges President Judge Lori Duff in her office as we are determined to get video interviews of our 2021 Judicial Council members.  We’ll come to you!  We saw judges post farewells to summer interns across the state. We said goodbye to our own Alice Culpepper as she headed back to UGA, but she gave us one final interview with Judge Connie Williford about the Peach-Crawford Accountability Court.  Alice told us she loved traveling around the state attending your accountability court graduations, ”very inspiring”.

State-wide Business Court Judge Walter Davis.
a profile of Judge Lori Duff.

As part of its upcoming economic study, the Georgia Child Support Commission seeks public comment on the Child Support Guidelines Statute and the Basic Child Support Obligation Table. Judges, litigants, and the general public may find more information and make a comment through the Commission’s website.  We enjoyed the swearing in of Justice Shawn LaGrua by Judge Michael Key to the Child Support Commission.  Congrats to Judge Pinson who was sworn into the Court of Appeals on August 30th!  The Judicial Council’s Access to Justice Committee hosted a records restriction clinic with the Georgia Legal Services Program and the Georgia Justice Project as well as local partners.  Please let us know if you want help scheduling a clinic in your judicial circuit. Justice Verda Colvin presented on professionalism to the incoming UGA Law School class, Justice LaGrua did the same for Georgia State’s College of Law, and Justice McMillian administered the oath of professionalism for Emory Law School virtually during its new student orientation. Justice McMillan reminded them to remember the 4Cs: competence, character, civility, and commitment to the public good.  Justice Colvin was interviewed by WABE this month. She was also the keynote speaker to congratulate and inspire the most recent graduates of the State Bar of Georgia’s BASICS program, a 10-week World of Work Program for inmates who are within one year of release.  We enjoyed the good news about the Justice Robert Benham Scholars Program Fund at UGA Law School which will support those who have overcome significant adversity and who have a demonstrated connection with/intent to return to and serve rural or legally-underserved communities.

Judge Andrew Pinson being sworn in to the Court of Appeals of Georgia.
Justice LaGrua being sworn in to the Georgia Commission on Child Support.
Judicial Council’s A2J Committee Record Restriction Clinic.

The Georgia Supreme Court’s Justice for Children Committee’s Court Improvement Initiative (CII) went forward with its regularly-scheduled meeting in a hybrid format which was challenging, but doable, and those attending in person adhered to strict masking protocols. Chief Justice Nahmias joined the meeting by Zoom to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this work, to recognize the many Juvenile Court Judges who have served as CII Chairs over the years: Judge Michael Key, Judge Carlton Van Banke, Judge Bradley Boyd, Judge Velma Tilley, Judge Vince Crawford, and Judge Amber Patterson, as well as to present a Supreme Court Amicus Curiae Award to long-time staffer, Michelle Barclay.  The Georgia Uniform Mediation Act working group members received a much-deserved commendation from Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution Chair Judge Cindy Morris. Congratulations are in order to: the Honorable Rhonda Kreuziger who was sworn in as the newest Superior Court Judge in the Griffin Judicial Circuit; the Honorable Heather N. Dunn who was sworn in as Juvenile Court Judge in Forsyth County; the Honorable Keisha Martin Chambless sworn in as Forsyth County’s New Chief Magistrate; and to the Honorable Angela Landgaard who was sworn in as Fayette County’s first Associate Probate Court Judge.  We send best wishes to Chief Judge Ben Studdard (byline-Director Clanton) and Judge Russell Jackson on their retirements.  We learned that the Council of Superior Court Judges recognized the late Judge Horace Johnson of the Alcovy Judicial Circuit by presenting its Emory Findley Award to Michelle Johnson, Judge Johnson’s wife, on July 28.  The award, named after the late Judge Findley, recognizes judges for their outstanding leadership and dedication to the continued improvement of our court system.  We’ll close with a recommendation to listen to the August Good Judge-ment podcast episodes on the 4th Amendment and to review the good information in the August issue of the Council of Accountability Court Judges monthly newsletter.

Top left, clockwise: Recently appointed Judges Rhonda Kreuziger, Heather Dunn, Angela Landgaard, and Keisha Martin Chambless .
Top: Chief Judge Ben Studdard and Judge Alvin Wong at Judge Studdard’s retirement celebration. Bottom: Chief Judge Jeffrey Bagley recognizing retiring Judge Russell Jackson for his service.

Call on us anytime.  Talk to you in September.

Your JC/AOC Courts Journal team:  Michelle Barclay, summer intern Alice Culpepper, Noelle Lagueux-Alvarez, Bruce Shaw, and our contractor, John Ramspott.