Attorney Patricia A. King was recently named the Georgia Juvenile Court Attorney of the Year at the Georgia Conference on Children and Families (GCCF) in Augusta, recognizing her work in the area of child advocacy. GCCF is the largest annual interdisciplinary event in Georgia designed to bring together communities across the state serving children and families. Ms. King was awarded the honor by First Lady of Georgia Sandra Deal.
Mediation week is once again upon us. Last year, the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners proclaimed the third week of October as “Mediation Week” and the American Bar Association continues to designate this week as such.
When parties hear they must mediate their case prior to a final hearing or a trial, their first thought or question is generally, “Why?” or more likely “Are you kidding me? Why should I have to pay the mediator and my attorney to try to settle my case when I have not been able to reach an agreement in months or even years?” or “I’m not going to settle because he, she, they or it are wrong.” The simple answer is because mediation is statistically quite successful.
Mediation has and can resolve the case and bring months or years of litigation and financial and emotional expense to an end, even when the parties had previously felt there was no hope for settlement. Mediation has been successfully utilized in a wide variety of situations and cases that one would not generally think would be receptive to such a process, such as disputes involving aging parents, same gender relationships, congregational conflicts, health care issues, complex employment matters and a myriad of other cases.
The benefits of mediation are numerous. It can be cost effective; it allows for flexibility and creativity in developing a resolution; it’s efficient; and it is confidential. It also gives the parties the opportunity, if necessary, to express their emotions and it sometimes changes wrong perceptions or provides an opportunity for new information to be exchanged. Mediation may give a party the opportunity to be heard directly by the other side; it can help parties heal from hurt feelings and enable them to walk away from all the emotions that surround fault; it can help parties evaluate options; and it can preserve or terminate relationships more amicably. Mediation can also help the parties get a realistic understanding of their case. Parties to a mediated agreement are more likely to adhere to the terms of the agreement since they are the ones that developed the agreement.
The mediator will seek to assist the parties in reaching a mutually satisfying resolution to their conflict by facilitating the discussions and/or negotiations between the parties. The mediator focuses on the interests and needs of each party, as opposed to their positions, rights or desires. The final outcome is one agreed upon by the parties. In many cases, the parties will feel their voices have been heard and understood, and they have found a way to move forward.
So what may make a mediation successful? There are a number of factors that lead to a successful mediation. A few that seem to play a part in every mediation are:
- Treat everyone with respect, even if the parties disagree with the other’s rendition of the facts or there is animosity between the parties. No one wants to participate in reaching a resolution if they feel they are being treated poorly or called names.
- Patience, patience, patience. Mediation takes time. It takes time to work past hurt feelings or wrongs, as well as for parties to express their feelings, views, positions and interests.
- The person who has the authority to make the agreement needs to participate in the mediation. The ultimate decision maker needs to be present or immediately available. This way everyone can fully participate in the exchange of information and events as they unfold during the mediation, as well as have the opportunity to and express opinions, concerns and ideas for resolution.
- The participants need to be willing to compromise.
- Information needs to be shared. Many times parties resolve their case when one or all of the participants have learned something new during mediation.
Remember, there are no joint winners in court.
As Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor so eloquently stated: “The courts of this country should not be the places where resolution of disputes begins. They should be the places where the disputes end after alternative methods of resolving the disputes have been considered and tried.”
Patricia A. King is a partner of the law firm Thompson, Meier & King, P.C. in Canton. King’s practice focuses primarily in the areas of Juvenile and Family Law, and she is certified mediator with the Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution.
Leadership Cherokee, a program of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, graduated its 28th Anniversary Class during a September 16th ceremony. With the completion of this year’s class, the Alumni count now totals over 570 graduates.
Members of the Leadership Cherokee Class of 2016 selected three of their peers to receive special annual recognitions. The Cristal Stancil Leadership Award honorees were Shannon Gibbs, Cherokee Fire & Emergency Services, and Michael Zenchuk, Mayor Pro-Tem of the City of Holly Springs. The Bob Frongillo Magic Spark Plug Award was presented to Jack Tuszynski with Family Life Publications. Outgoing 2016 Leadership Cherokee Chair, Katie Wise of LGE Community Credit Union, was recognized by Incoming Chair, Heath Tippens with the Cherokee Office of Economic Development.
The Leadership Cherokee program kicked-off with a retreat where the group participated in both indoor and outdoor team building exercises that enabled them to learn not only about each other, but themselves through a look at personality types and communication styles. Over the course of the nine month period, Leadership Cherokee exposed the group of existing and emerging leaders to a broad range of sessions that focused on topics such as economic development, infrastructure, government, justice, arts, education, recreation, tourism, public safety, healthcare and social/human services.
The nomination deadline for the Leadership Cherokee Class of 2017 is October 1st. For information on the Leadership Cherokee Class of 2017 contact the Chamber office at 770-345-0400 or visit the Chamber’s website, CherokeeChamber.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cynthia 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.
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.
Lauren 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.
A person going through a divorce should always seek that advice of an attorney. The divorce process can be very complicated, especially when dealing with issues of child custody and child support. As emotions are heightened during the divorce process, it is important to keep in mind how child custody and child support issues are handled in the State of Georgia.
In most cases, the Courts encourage an active and healthy relationship between both parents and the child(ren). In order to accomplish this goal, the Courts look at “best interest” factors when determining where a child should live primarily. These factors help the Court determine which parent is the most appropriate to be the primary physical custodian of the child(ren). In accordance with O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(1), there is no presumption that the child should live with the mother or the father.
In many cases, parents are able to agree to the Parenting Plan that governs the visitation between both parents without the Judge having to make a ruling on the issue. The Parenting Plan also details which parent is the primary physical custodian, sole physical custodian, and whether the parties share joint legal custody or not. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement about child custody and visitation, the Judge will be the one who will make the final decision.
In some cases, when the parties are unable to reach an agreement about child custody issues, the Court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). A Guardian ad Litem is usually an attorney who practices in the field of family law. It is the GAL’s duty to conduct an independent evaluation of both the parties as well as the child(ren) involved in the case and make a recommendation to the parties and Court about child custody and visitation or parenting time.
There are many possible outcomes for a child custody disputes. Please contact our office to make an appointment with one of our seasoned Family Law Attorneys to discuss your rights related to any child custody issues you may be facing.