September 2021

Greetings Courts Journal readers:

With September comes Constitution Day, and we celebrated it thoroughly with a Twitter Town Hall on 9/17.  An op-ed advertising that event and addressing the importance of civics education, written by our Chief Justice on behalf of the Supreme Court of Georgia, was published in the AJC.  In that op-ed, Chief Justice Nahmias referenced a recent webinar during which Justice Gorsuch told the story of Gregory Watson, a 19-year-old sophomore who wrote a college paper in 1982 about a proposed constitutional amendment written by James Madison that never made it into the Bill of Rights.  In his paper, Watson argued the amendment should still be ratified. After his paper received a “C” grade, Watson was so disappointed, but it galvanized him to write to state legislators across the United States to lobby for the ratification of Madison’s Amendment. In 1992, the Madison Amendment became the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Our goal with the Twitter Town Hall, and all of our civics events, is to help young people better understand our government and to recognize their own power in making changes in our government.  We thank Justice McMillian for making a short commercial for the Twitter Town Hall in which 15 judges: Justices Charlie Bethel and Carla McMillian; Court of Appeals Judges Anne Barnes, Sara Doyle, Stephen Dillard, and Elizabeth Gobeil; Superior Court Judges Rachelle Carnesale and Robert Leonard; Juvenile Court Judges Render Heard and Neal Brunt; State Court Judge Jason Thompson; Probate Court Judge Sarah Harris; Magistrate Court Judges Cassandra Kirk and Eric Ballinger; and Municipal Court Judge Lori Duff answered pre-submitted questions from students across the state as well as live, publicly-submitted questions from Georgians during the one-hour event.  We received some good press both before and after that event.  The new  Public Information Officer for the Supreme Court of Georgia, Kathleen Joyner, joined us for our Constitution Day Twitter Town Hall and also graciously agreed to an interview with us.

We so enjoyed Council of State Court Judges President Judge Alvin Wong’s virtual visit to our JC/AOC September staff meeting.  It was a privilege to hear him talk about the challenges he faced as a young attorney in the days of disco that helped shape him into the jurist he is today.  We send congratulations to Chatham County Superior Court Judge Lisa Colbert who was appointed to the Child Support Commission, to Rockdale County Superior Court Judge Nancy Bills who was appointed to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, to Dougherty County Superior Court Judge Victoria S. Darrisaw who was appointed to the JQC, and to Juvenile Court Judge Amanda Heath who was appointed to the Superior Court for the Augusta Judicial Circuit. We also enjoyed reading about the Cobb County Bar Association’s Law Day awards: Cobb County Superior Court Chief Judge Robert Leonard received the Thomas J. Charron Public Service Award; Judge Allison Salter received the Cobb County Trial Lawyers Association Award; Judge Brendan Murphy received the Criminal Defense Section’s Jimmy Berry Champion of Justice Award, and the Cobb County Magistrate Court, as a whole, received the Liberty Bell award.

Judge Alvin Wong speaking at the JC/AOC staff meeting.
Recent appointments include (clockwise, top-left): Judges Amanda Heath, Lisa Colbert, Victoria Darrisaw, and Nancy Bills.
Awardees (clockwise, top-left): Judge Robert Leonard, Judge David Darden presenting an award to Judge Allison Salter, and Judge Brendan Murphy.

The inaugural meeting of the newly-established Judicial Council Standing Committee on Court Interpreters took place on 9/14, chaired by Justice Carla McMillian.  A Justice for Children Committee meeting took place on the same day with Chair, Chief Justice Nahmias, introducing the new director, Diana Rugh Johnson, who spoke about upcoming work and priorities.  A Board of Court Reporting meeting took place on 9/10 with Judge John Edwards voted in as Chair and Randi Strumlauf as Vice Chair. The Judicial Council’s Access to Justice (A2J) Committee met and noted a change of Chairs. Justice Verda Colvin will now chair the A2J Committee as Justice Bethel is assuming multiple leadership roles, including vice chair of the Justice for Children Committee as of October.  The A2J Committee recently sent out a survey to all magistrate court judges regarding eviction filings, barriers to serving the public in eviction cases, and judicial needs in addition to publishing statewide divorce filing forms (with and without children), approved by the Council of Superior Court Judges.  An instructional video for those divorce forms is being created in partnership with Attorney Audrey Bergeson and AVLF and will be posted soon.  The Judicial COVID-19 Task Force met on 9/22 to discuss statewide COVID concerns and noted a recent successful jury selection held via Zoom in Fulton County.  We enjoyed reading this article about Bryan County State Court having recently established a Family Violence Court Program.

The late Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Stephen S. Goss is being memorialized with a scholarship bearing his name at UGA’s School of Law.  The Council of Accountability Court Judges Executive Director, Taylor Jones, has been named to the National Council of State Treatment Court Coordinators. Her dedication and experience in Georgia’s accountability courts will serve that group well.  Forsyth County held a Topping Out and beam signing ceremony to commemorate a milestone in construction of its new Juvenile Justice Center. The State Bar of Georgia’s Dispute Resolution Section hosted a discussion on the Uniform Mediation Act on 8/20 featuring GCDR Commission Member Charles Auslander and GODR Executive Director Tracy Johnson as panelists which was recorded and archivedJustice Warren participated in a Virtual Lunch Q&A with the YLD Women in the Profession Committee. Chief Justice Nahmias gave a keynote speech, 11 judges from various classes of court participated in panel discussions, and our very own Tracy Mason spoke on a panel for a three-hour CLE program sponsored by the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism that was co-chaired by Chief Judge T. Russell McClelland and State Bar President Elizabeth Fite titled Professionalism After the Statewide Judicial Emergency Order. The NCSC published a Pandemic Lessons Learned guide and is also accepting submissions for the 2022 edition of Trends in State Courts.  The Good Judge-ment Podcast has 2 good episodes this month: Ep. 69: Contempt Actions and Ep. 70: Protective Orders.   We learned about Northeastern University School of Law’s Salus Populi Judicial Education Program which will be offering free classes to educate the judiciary about the social determinants of health on 10/8, 10/22, 11/5, and 11/19. We leave you with a request for nominations for the 2021 Chief Justice Harold G. Clarke Award, deadline on 10/8.  Be well. Be safe.

The late Judge Stephen Goss.
The Topping Out of the Forsyth County Juvenile Justice Center.
Judge Charles Auslander and Tracy Johnson presenting on the Uniform Mediation Act.

Call on us anytime.  Talk to you in October.

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