Happy Spring Courts Journal readers!
On March 8th, Chief Justice Michael Boggs presented his first State of the Judiciary to the Georgia General Assembly, which was live-streamed and archived. In that address, Chief Justice Boggs highlighted the distribution of ARPA funds to judicial circuits statewide to address the backlog of serious violent felony cases and the innovative solutions employed by judges across the state including Judge Render Heard, Judge Roxanne Formey, and Judge Robert Leonard. The Judicial Council/AOC continues our year-long 50th anniversary celebration with a series of videos, which this month features: former Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, Chief Judge Brian Rickman, Vice Chief Judge Amanda Mercier, Judge James Sizemore, and one of the Judicial Council/AOC’s original employees, Rusty Sewell, who was employed by the agency from 1973-1977. March is also Women’s History Month and we’ve enjoyed making collages of Georgia’s women judges in each class of court. Rounding out Women’s History Month 2023, we share the words of Fulton County Magistrate Court Judge Ashley Drake, “in the country of my family’s heritage, women can’t be judges on criminal cases. We should not take it for granted. We should be proud.”
The General Assembly adjourned sine die right around midnight on March 29, and the JC/AOC’s final weekly report is posted to our legislative tracking website. Stay tuned for final bill summaries and the final Enacted Legislation report. There is still time for students to submit entries for our Law Day Art Contest as the deadline is midnight on April 3rd. This year’s Law Day theme is Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility and Collaboration, and we hope to see drawings of our state’s many beautiful, and often very historic, courthouses. Thank you Judge Connie Williford for speaking at our All Staff Meeting. Thank you also to the Council of State Court Judges and its Executive Director, Bob Bray, for treating us to delicious pies to celebrate Pi Day on March 14th! The Judicial Council’s Standing Committee on Judicial Workload Assessment met this month to discuss the appropriate classification for abandoned vehicle cases, the study of Superior Court judgeships and Circuit boundaries, and to approve a Time & Motion Study that will be considered by the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council of Georgia’s Board of Court Reporting also met this month to cover several topics including court reporter fees. A number of judges participated in reading events for school children, including: Bartow County Chief Magistrate Judge Brandon Bryson who participated in Read Across America Week (March 2-6) with his daughter’s kindergarten class at Cartersville Primary School and Douglas County Juvenile Court Judge Talia Nurse read to students at Eastside Elementary School, which is located just one mile from the courthouse in Douglasville, for their “Ladies Love Literacy” event.
The portrait unveiling for former Chief Justice Robert Benham took place on March 28. Justice Verda Colvin delivered a wonderful professionalism keynote at a recent conference marking the 60th anniversary of the landmark Gideon v. Wainwright decision. We applaud the 44 law students from GSU College of Law who participated in an Alternative Spring Break; those students traveled all over the state to work on housing instability, rural justice, family violence, and community development issues. Thanks to funding from the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism, the Judicial Council’s Standing Committee on Access to Justice (A2J) hosted their first training, featuring Cobb County Magistrate Judge Edmondson-Cooper, on accommodating all court participants—attorneys, witnesses, etc.—who may be deaf or hard of hearing to ensure meaningful access to justice. Registration for future classes on that topic may be found here, and those classes will be archived online. The A2J Committee is also sponsoring a webinar on the legal work involved in the record restriction process, and registration for that may be found here.
Congratulations to the new Superior and State Court Judges who were sworn in by Governor Kemp in March, including Judges Margaret Chason and Lawton Heard, South Georgia Judicial Circuit; Judge Bert Poston, Conasauga Judicial Circuit; Judge Katherine Paulk, State Court of Coffee County; Judge Chris Arnt, Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit; Judge Michael Hubbard, State Court of Carroll County; Judge Ryan Hope, State Court of Clarke County; and Judge Kelly Robertson, State Court of Hall County. Congratulations to the graduates of ICJE’s Train the Trainers Program. The Council of Accountability Court Judges held its Winter Forum this month and we like the new look of its newsletter. Thank you Fulton County for your updated Courthouse Safety Guidelines. Thank you Judge Amanda Petty and Judge Jason Thompson for allowing our staff to observe your court hearings. In case you missed the Georgia Bar, Media, and Judiciary Conference, see news coverage of that event and, when available, watch videos from that conference here. Listen to the Good Judge-ment Podcast as March episodes include Ep. 112: Closing Arguments – The Parameters; Ep. 113: No-Knock Search Warrants; and Ep. 114: Daubert in Criminal Cases. Our own Assistant General Counsel, Darron Enns, drafted the following notice regarding the Superior and State Court Appellate Practice Act. Please share widely, and we will as well.
H.B. 916, the Superior and State Court Appellate Practice Act, will repeal and replace the complex notice of appeal and certiorari review statutes in OCGA Chapters 3 and 4 of Title 5 with a single, modern, logical, and relatively simplified “petition for review” process for superior or state court review of judicial and quasi-judicial decisions from municipal courts, non-Article 6 probate courts, magistrate courts, and other lower judicatories (as defined). H.B. 916 was signed into law by Governor Kemp on May 13, 2022, with an effective date of July 1, 2023.To help the Bench, the Bar, and the public prepare for the new “petition for review” procedure, the Judicial Council of Georgia has produced a training video and materials, which is approved for one hour of CLE and available at jcaoc.georgiacourts.gov/hb916. For judges, please contact your applicable training council for CJE credit information. If you have any questions about H.B. 916, amendment recommendations, or concerns, please email: HB916@georgiacourts.gov.
Call on us anytime. Talk to you in April.