Keep the donor card after reaching 65 – It is never too late to give the gift of life.

Many of our elderly clients believe that they are too old to be an organ donor. In general, most are mistaken. There may be other reasons that prevent someone from being an organ donor, but age alone is not one of them. There are reports of a 90-year-old who, after dying suddenly, donated her liver to someone that would not otherwise have seen his 61st birthday. For both families, this became a reason for celebration.

It is estimated that organ donation by older Americans has declined by 10% from a decade ago. Every day many people, young and older, die while on an organ donation waiting list. Georgia’s Advance Directive for Health Care enables you to empower your health care agent to permit organ donation. You may also express your desire on your driver’s license or consider using the online registration at Donate Life Georgia or Donate Life America to be entered in the state or national registries.

If you wish to be an organ donor, please discuss this with your family and make sure that your wishes are clearly expressed in all of your legal documents.

Welcome, Rachel D. Conley, to the firm!

Thompson, Meier & King, P.C. is pleased to announce the addition of Rachel D. Conley as an associate attorney. Ms. Conley received a dual degree in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Georgia and obtained her Juris Doctorate from the Mercer University, Walter F. George School of Law. She served as a judicial intern for two judges in Macon before becoming a judicial staff attorney to Hon. David L. Cannon, Jr., in the Superior Court of Cherokee County, where she served for three years prior to joining Thompson, Meier & King. Ms. Conley concentrates her practice in the area of domestic and family law.

Thompson, Meier & King, P.C. expands

We are proud to announce Thompson, Meier & King, P.C.’s expansion with the opening of our Blue Ridge office. Thompson, Meier & King has been active in all courts in the Appalachian Circuit since the firm’s inception and has received various awards and recognition within the legal community. It will be our pleasure to be able to better serve clients and the communities in Gilmer and Fannin Counties through our new location of 730 East Second Street, Suite 105, Blue Ridge, Georgia. Please call us for further information or to schedule your appointment.

Two of our attorneys helped coach Mock Trial

The Cherokee High School Mock Trial had another successful year competing against high schools across North Georgia. This year’s team was coached by Judge David Cannon, Jr., Ashley Carlile, Esq. and Cynthia Propst, Esq. The mock trial team placed third in this year’s Regional Mock Trial Competition, held at the Bartow County Courthouse on January 30th, 2016. The team also won three outstanding attorney awards and four outstanding witness awards at the Regional Competition. As a result of the win, the team advanced to the District Competition, which took place on January 27th, 2016 at the Bartow County Courthouse. The team advanced past the first level of the District Competition but was ultimately eliminated in the second round of the single elimination competition. The team still managed to bring home one attorney award and one witness award from the competition.

Mediation a wise alternative

Dana Thompson

The Cherokee Board of Commissioners has proclaimed this week “Mediation Week in Cherokee County.” Along with the American Bar Association, our commissioners are raising awareness of the process of mediation (not to be confused with meditation) as an effective and efficient way of resolving disputes, expediting justice, relieving court congestion and preventing costly delays in the justice system.

Most lawsuits settle before going to court. Often, though, the parties have made an enormous financial and emotional investment in the dispute before it is resolved. Trials are unavoidable in some cases, but fortunately, other means of settling conflicts have become more common.

In 1990, the Supreme Court of Georgia established a Commission on Alternative Dispute Resolution to implement a statewide alternative dispute resolution system. In 1993, the Office of Dispute Resolution for the 9th Judicial Administrative District (a 14-county area in north Georgia, of which Cherokee is a part) was established and our judges, who supported the establishment of the office, have since ordered or encouraged parties to participate in mediation prior to a final hearing in their cases.

Ten years after the establishment of the office, approximately 1,930 cases were referred to mediation. Last year, the District ADR office received over 6,500 referrals.

This column will address some frequently asked questions about mediation.

Q. What is mediation?

A. Mediation is a process in which disputing parties select a neutral third party to facilitate a mutually beneficial, negotiated settlement. Unlike arbitration, a mediator does not render a judgement which is binding on the parties. An informal and non-adversarial process, its objective is to help the disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

Q. What is the role of the mediator?

A. Most mediators provide an environment which encourages open, constructive communication between the parties. Mediators are trained to assist the participants in identifying issues and interests, explore possible bases and avenues for settlement, and help the parties reach a voluntary agreement that is acceptable to both parties.

Q. Why mediate a case?

A. Mediation has several advantages, particularly when utilized early in a conflict.

Flexibility. No one is more familiar with the specific circumstances of a case than the parties involved, which means that the parties are in the best position to craft an agreement that best suits their needs. The parties are not limited to standard damages or remedies, and the mediator will encourage consideration of a wide range of options. Mediation produces innovative solutions.

Cost effective. If a matter settles, further expenses of litigation can be avoided. If the matter does not settle, the financial investment in mediation is usually minimal compared to the cost of extended litigation, and the parties generally have a better understanding of their cases and the position of the other side.

Efficient. Parties are often frustrated by the time it takes to resolve a case. Mediation puts the process in the control of the parties, who choose the mediator, set the meetings and prescribe the terms of the settlement.

Confidential. Mediations are conducted in private, removing the dispute from the public eye. Prior to mediation, participants must sign a confidentiality agreement which provides that all communications made by the parties during the process will be kept confidential. Also, if desired, the settlement agreement itself may, under certain circumstances, remain confidential.

Supports Relationships. Disputes often involve family members, parties to a business relationship, or parties to whom a continuing relationship is important. Divorcing parents, with the strong encouragement of the courts, are frequent participants in mediation. Mediation reduces hostility and is more likely to preserve, or at least prevent the destruction of relationships between the parties and allows communication in the future.

Q. How successful is mediation?

A. In general, the process has a very good track record.

Q. Is mediation used only in lawsuits?

A. No. Mediation is increasingly being used as a means of addressing conflicts before they rise to the level of a lawsuit. Many commercial contracts include mandatory mediation in the event of a dispute. Businesses have established mediation programs to deal with co-workers disputes, unfair employment practices, harassment, discrimination, and other employment related issues. Government agencies are being required to implement mediation or other ADR programs. Schools have developed programs which teach and enable children to mediate conflicts between students. Individuals are calling upon mediators to help them resolve conflicts. Recognition of the heavy cost of litigation has made mediation a popular alternative.

More on mediation can be found at www.adr9.com or godr.org.

Dana M. Thompson is an attorney with the Canton firm Thompson, Meier & King. She is a certified mediator with the Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution and the Ninth Judicial District Office of Dispute Resolution. One of the first mediators in Georgia, Ms. Thompson has mediated cases since 1993 and also serves as a Special Assistant Attorney General.

Law Day Awards

The State Bar of Georgia recently awarded the Blue Ridge Bar Association the Award of Merit, Law Day Award, Best Newsletter and Best Website.

Lauren Keller and Cynthia Propst of Thompson, Meier and King were among the award recipients for their participation in the 2014-2015 Law Day Committee.   As part of the Law Day Committee, Lauren and Cynthia helped lead two service projects in the community, an Easter Egg Hunt with the Cherokee Family Violence Center and a volunteer day at Goshen Valley Boys Ranch, and collected donations for Georgia’s Annual Legal Food Frenzy, which benefitted the Georgia Food Bank Association.  The Law Day Committee also helped to organize the Law Day luncheon and created a scrapbook memorializing all of the great local events from the past year.

The Law Day Award, along with all awards received by the Blue Ridge Bar Association, are on display at the Law Library in the Cherokee County Justice Center.

Patricia King now a registered neutral with GAOC and Commission on Dispute Resolution

trish-kingThompson, Meier & King is pleased to announce that the firm has another mediator among the partners.  Patricia “Trish” King is now a registered neutral with the Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts and the Commission on Dispute Resolution, following 90 hours of training through Henning Mediation and Arbitration Services, Inc., with an emphasis on Domestic Mediation.  Trish brings to her skill as a mediator over 25 years of extensive experience in family law, having concentrated her practice throughout her career in child custody and visitation, divorce, property division, separation issues, child support, alimony, modification actions, enforcement of court orders, pre and postnuptial agreements, paternity and legitimation, adoption and child welfare.  Over her career, Trish has represented parties, including as an advocate for children, in numerous mediations and knows from a litigant’s standpoint the benefits of mediating.  She looks forward to utilizing her experience in assisting the parties in their efforts to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution to their dispute.

Law Day brings appreciation for rule of law

Cynthia Propst
This year, the Blue Ridge Bar Association was pleased to participate in the celebration of Law Day on May 1. Every year, Law Day strives to promote the ideals of equality and justice under the rule of law in the United States. This year, throughout the month of April, the Blue Ridge Bar Association celebrated this year’s theme, the Magna Carta and its protection of personal liberties.

In 1215, the Magna Carta was established as a charter of liberties granted by England’s King John to his barons to quell their rebellion and restore their allegiance. The ideas embodied in this historic document have withstood the test of time and have become a symbol of liberty and the rule of law.

In particular, the idea that no person is above the law is embodied by the Magna Carta and is also a cornerstone of America’s judicial system. It is also currently a front-running issue facing America’s judicial system with events such as those in Charleston, South Carolina and Ferguson, Missouri.

To further the ideal that no person is above the law and to celebrate the Magna Carta, the Blue Ridge Bar Association took part in several events. Members of the Bar Association partnered with Goshen Valley Boys Ranch, a home for boys in the state foster care system. On April 11, members of the Bar Association turned out to help with landscaping projects around the campus, including weeding, laying mulch and digging out old shrubbery.

A Law Day social was held April 23 at The Study in downtown Canton. Local lawyers gathered together to celebrate Law Day with light appetizers and discussion on this year’s Law Day theme.

The Bar Association also partnered with the Rotary Club of Canton to hold the annual Law Day luncheon on April 28. The goal of the luncheon was to provide a forum for discussion of the idea that no person is above the law.

Those in attendance had the pleasure of hearing Judge John J. Ellington speak. Judge Ellington is the 66th judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals and has held the position since 1999. Judge Ellington became one of the youngest trial court judges ever appointed to the State Court bench when he was appointed State Court Judge of Treutlen County, Georgia in 1992.

Those in attendance also witnessed the presentation of the prestigious Liberty Bell Award and Robert S. “Bob” Stubbs Distinguished Service Award. The Liberty Bell Award is given each year by lawyers to a non-lawyer and was created to recognize individuals who encourage greater respect for law and the courts by contributing to the effective functioning of our institutions of government.

This year’s recipient, Pam Carnes, is the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce CEO and president. Ms. Carnes first joined the Chamber in 1991 and has held various positions there including interim president and membership director.

Ms. Carnes also served on the Georgia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Board of Directors from 1998 to 2010, and has been locally involved with the Service League of Cherokee County as well as an active member of First United Methodist Church of Canton. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Foundation and volunteers as a Reinhardt University Ambassador. By dedicating her time and her work to these multiple agencies, Ms. Carnes clearly contributes to the effective functioning of local government every day.

The recipient of this year’s Robert S. “Bob” Stubbs Distinguished Service Award is Jane Johnson, the Chief Bailiff at the Cherokee County Justice Center, who retired earlier this year after 28 years of service and dedication to the Courts.

The Robert S. “Bob” Stubbs Distinguished Service Award is not given every year and recognizes a non-lawyer for his or her work in the legal community. It is only given when the individual has made significant accomplishments in the legal community.

Ms. Johnson began work in 1987 when the Historic Marble Courthouse was still the main courthouse for the community. She cared for judges and juries, seeing to their needs and calling the court to order. Over the course of her career, she’s worked for multiple judges, and was in charge of hiring numerous bailiffs. Ms. Johnson played a large part in making the Cherokee County Justice Center what it is today. Even in her retirement, Ms. Johnson continues to take care of the legal community by now serving as a part-time bailiff.

This year’s Law Day Celebration of the Magna Carta and the principle that no one person is above the law was embraced by the Blue Ridge Bar Association. Through the numerous events held to celebrate the event, members of the Blue Ridge Bar Association have gained a greater appreciation for the rule of law, the Magna Carta, and the principle that no one person is above the law.

cropped-logo-header.jpgCynthia Propst is an attorney at Thompson, Meier, & King. She focuses on estate planning, probate law, and criminal defense. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia and Penn State University, the Dickson School of Law.

Celebrating equal justice for all

Each year on May 1, the country celebrates the ideals of equality and justice under the rule of law in the United States and works to cultivate a respect for the legal system that contributes to our freedoms. This day is known as Law Day. Law Day was originally the idea of former American Bar Association president, Charles S. Rhyne, as a way to celebrate the legal system.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower went on to declare the first Law Day in 1958 and its formal observance was codified in 1961.

This year’s Law Day honors the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Since its inception on June 15, 1215, the Magna Carta has stood for the protection of personal liberties and has also come to embody the idea that no person is above the law.

In the spirit of Law Day, bar associations and legal education associations throughout the country often participate in philanthropic and educational activities to benefit their respective communities. Locally, the Blue Ridge Bar Association and Rotary Club of Canton will be celebrating Law Day this year through a variety of service activities and events.

On March 27, the Blue Ridge Bar Association hosted an Easter Egg Hunt at Brown Park for the children of the Cherokee Family Violence Center. Thanks to donations from the community, about 40 children and their families were able to come out to gather eggs and toys. The Canton Police Department and Canton Fire Department also assisted in the festivities. Even the Easter Bunny made an appearance.

The Blue Ridge Bar Association will also be sending volunteers to Goshen Valley Boys Ranch to help out with various projects April 11. Located in Waleska, Goshen Valley provides homes for young men and boys who have been abused or neglected. Goshen also provides counseling, education, tutoring and other groups to assist the residents in breaking the cycle of abuse and neglect.

On April 10, the members of the Blue Ridge Bar Association will meet to consider nominations for the Liberty Bell Award and the Robert S. “Bob” Stubbs Distinguished Service Award.

The Liberty Bell Award is the most prestigious award given by lawyers to a non-lawyer. The award recognizes an individual who encourages greater respect for law and the courts, stimulates a deeper sense of individual responsibility so that citizens recognize their duties as well as their rights, contributes to the effective functioning of our institutions of government or fosters a better understanding and appreciation for the rule of law.

Locally, the award is given to a Cherokee County resident to recognize that individual for contributions outside of the person’s regular employment.

The Robert S. “Bob” Stubbs Distinguished Service Award recognizes a non-lawyer for his or her work in the legal community. This award is only given when a member of the community has made significant accomplishments in the legal community and therefore is not awarded every year.

The Blue Ridge Bar Association will also be collecting donations for the Georgia Legal Food Frenzy. This annual competition between Georgia’s law firms, legal organizations and law schools raises food and funds for regional food banks across the state.

The culmination of the local Law Day celebration will be on April 28 at the Law Day luncheon. The luncheon will be hosted by the Blue Ridge Bar Association and Rotary Club of Canton at the Bluffs.

On that day, the Blue Ridge Bar Association will present the Liberty Bell Award and Robert S. “Bob” Stubbs Distinguished Service Award.

Additionally, the Blue Ridge Bar Association is pleased to announce the Law Day Speaker will be the Honorable Judge John J. Ellington of the Georgia Court of Appeals. Judge Ellington became one of the youngest trial court Judges in Georgia when he was first appointed to the bench in 1991.

He has served on the Court of Appeals since 1999. He is a three-time recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Judicial Service Award, which recognizes outstanding service on the Bench and commitment to improving the practice of law. He has also served in several leadership positions in business, professional, civic and religious organizations.

cropped-logo-header.jpgLauren Keller is an attorney at Thompson, Meier & King, which focuses on family law, criminal law and estate planning. She is a graduate of Florida State University and the University of Georgia School of Law.