Archive | Printer-Friendly | Send to a Friend | | Advertise December 2011
Dear GTLA Members,

If you have ever wondered about the need to engage your legislators, recent developments should remove any doubt.  Neighboring states in 2011 passed draconian tort reform packages, including caps on noneconomic damages in all cases (Tennessee), medical malpractice caps (North Carolina), and substantial restrictions in both Florida and Alabama.  Here, we’ve heard rumblings of threats to the worker’s compensation system.  Recent developments have the auto insurance industry up in arms and determined to come after us this session. And there will be the usual smorgasbord of immunity-for-this and immunity-for-that proposals.

If that’s not enough, Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Kyle Wingfield recently penned an editorial touting a proposal to change the way medical malpractice cases are handled. The proposal comes from a guy named Richard Jackson who has made a ton of money in the healthcare provider staffing business and has formed a wonderfully named organization called "Patients for Fair Compensation." They propose to replace the jury system with a "workers’-compensation-like system" for administering claims of medical malpractice. The impetus behind their proposal, they claim, is that doctors are forced to engage in defensive medicine because of the supposedly omnipresent threat of lawsuits and the ‘stigma’ and ‘professional hassle’ associated with being sued. They propose claims should be adjudicated by panels of physicians and, where "preventable harm" is proven to have occurred, a panel of business experts and economists should then award compensation according to a scale similar to the disability benefits an injured worker can receive in a workers’ compensation case.

So, what can and should you do? These proposals and their promotion by some powerful political forces – including by some of the most well-connected lobbying firms in the state – should sound the clarion call to all of our members to do three things right now:

(1) Reach out to your local legislators or any legislators with whom you have a good relationship and remind them that you want to be a resource for them in the coming legislative session and that they should consult you if any legislation comes up that would affect their constituents’ constitutional right to trial by jury or their right to seek justice for harm they suffer on the job;

(2) Make a contribution to the Civil Justice PAC – or, if you already contribute to the PAC, then increase your contribution – so we can continue assisting legislative supporters of the Georgia Civil Justice System, regardless of party affiliation. In 2010, an astonishingly low percentage of members – barely 1 in 3 – contributed to the PAC. We have to improve that percentage if we are to be successful in the years to come; and

(3) Make a personal decision TODAY to contribute to the Directed Giving Program next year during the election season so that Georgia’s Trial Lawyers will have the necessary means to defend supporters of the Civil Justice System  and to take on adversaries of your clients’ rights, your profession, and your ability to pursue justice for the people of Georgia.

Working together, we can and will continue preserving the Civil Justice System and the Constitutional Right to Trial by Jury. This requires ALL OF US to make an effort – not just for the benefit of your individual clients’ cases – but for the benefit of all Georgians who rely on the Civil Justice System and our preservation of that system through political engagement before, during and after the legislative session.

The 2012 legislative session starts in less than a month. We ask you to do your part NOW so that we can be successful in 2012.  We will see you under the Gold Dome!

Geoff Pope
GTLA President
Ringler Associates
On Friday, December 9, GTLA honored Georgia Supreme Court Justice George H. Carley with the 2011 Champion of Justice Award during a luncheon at the Holiday Workshop at the St. Regis Hotel in Atlanta.

Justice Carley was accompanied by his wife, Sandy, to whom he has been married for more than 50 years. Georgia Supreme Court Justices P. Harris Hines, Carol W. Hunstein and David E. Nahmias were also in attendance.

GTLA President Geoff Pope served as Master of Ceremonies.  Justice Carley was introduced by Chief Justice Carol Hunstein and GTLA Champion Member Tommy Malone.  Hunstein described Carley's work ethic and gently poked fun at his love of dissenting opinions while GTLA Champion Member Tommy Malone praised Carley's respect for the law and love of coat and ties.

Justice Carley graciously accepted the award with a brief speech that displayed his keen sense of humor.  
Our Lawyer of the Day program was a tremendous success in 2011. 

The 2012 Legislative Session begins in January and we invite you to join us as a Lawyer of the Day. It serves as a great opportunity for you to meet with your legislators at the Capitol during the legislative process. You will assist the GTLA Lobbying Team in warding off attacks on the Civil Justice System.

We encourage you to sign up to be a Lawyer of the Day during the 2012 Legislative Session.  If you were a Lawyer of the Day last year, we'd love to see you again.  If you were not -- even if you have never been to the State Capitol -- we'd like to join us.

Here's how GTLA member Jack Clay of The Law Office of Jack Clay, LLC described his experience:

"Our time at the Capitol with the General Assembly...was eye-opening and productive. Aside from the hustle-and-bustle of the legislature and lobbyists scurrying to the committee meetings and small group meetings with our elected officials, we were able to get firsthand experience and insight into our legislative process in Georgia. Sometimes, laws are passed in almost the blink of an eye. At other times, these laws are debated, changed, changed again, and debated even more before they are passed. Things really can move at lightning speed. It is important as attorneys that we give back to our communities and state by being involved [sic] and being genuinely concerned with new laws and the hard work done by our elected officials."

Micah Gravley, Statewide Grassroots Director, and GTLA Staff will be available to lead you through the Capitol and answer any questions you may have.
You desire opportunities for speaking engagements.  We desire to place our members in front of as many audiences as possible across Georgia in 2012.  

We both win when you sign up for the GTLA Speakers Bureau. Apply today.
The West Georgia Trial Lawyers Association had another successful year in 2011.  In the spring, we partnered with the Carrollton Fraternal Order of Police for our second annual children’s bicycle helmet giveaway at Carrollton’s Mayfest celebration.  Our members raised funds from local law firms and civic organizations to purchase 300 bicycle helmets.  We worked side by side with bicycle patrol officers in fitting children for their new helmets and leading them through a bicycle safety road course.  We had tremendous community response to our efforts to help our local police and youth through this event.

In October, WGTLA hosted Senator Bill Hamrick (R - District 30).  He spoke to our group about
 the importance of having attorneys in the General Assembly and the many ways he has been called upon to lend his expertise as a practicing attorney on a variety of issues before the legislature.  He described his work as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including the three-year effort to update the Georgia evidence code.  During this luncheon, our members also had the opportunity to thank Sen. Hamrick for his sponsorship of HB 41 to drastically reduce the increased costs for preparation of trial records for appeal, which helped Georgia’s courts remain accessible to all.  

Recently, WGTLA was honored to have GTLA Champion Member and State Bar President Ken Shigley join our group for a cocktail reception.  WGTLA members had a chance to hear from Ken about his work at the State Bar and efforts being made there to improve the practice of law in this state for all of us.  Between his bar duties and his private practice, Ken is a very busy man, so we were very grateful for the time he took to come meet with our group.  All members of the bar, whether GTLA members or not, benefit from Ken’s commitment to serve others.  

The West Georgia Trial Lawyers Association would not be what it is today without the support and guidance of GTLA and its staff, most notably Grassroots Director Micah Gravley.  He has been an invaluable resource to us as we founded and grew our organization.  His help has made this TLA a rewarding experience for everyone involved.  If you are not already involved in a local TLA, please join or start one.  It will be one of the most fun ways to forge new relationships to help your law practice and your community at the same time.

J. Travis Studdard
Perkins Law Firm, LLP
West Georgia TLA

The Savannah Trial Lawyers Association began its August to June business year by welcoming GTLA President Geoff Pope to the coast for cocktails at Bonna Bella Yacht Club, an ironically named flip-flop-and-t-shirt style bar that sits along a tidal creek and overlooks an expanse of marsh.  Geoff's appearance, along with the unusually cool August evening and vendor-sponsored beer, lured in about 40 local trial lawyers to the 2011-2012 year kickoff event.  

The group then settled into its normal routine of meeting for lunch on the last Tuesday of every month, but with a few new twists.  The venue changed to a private room at the Savannah Golf Club and the meetings were slightly reorganized.  In addition to the usual guest speaker, portions of the meetings were designated for sharing local verdicts, orders, defense tactics, etc.  Parliamentarian Brad Stephens also began giving a monthly report on recent significant appellate court cases of interest.  The highlights of the fall lunch meetings were the presentations by guest speakers Buck Rogers, Rob Kelly and -- in one of his first speaking engagements after taking the bench -- Chatham County State Court Judge Greg Sapp.  

STLA ended the year with its 2nd Annual Holiday Party at bar at The Marshall House.  In the casual event hosted by Casemetrix, local trial lawyers and local members of the legislature celebrated together; thus, capping off a 2011 full of achievement and setting the stage for more success in 2012.  

Paul W. Painter III
Painter Law, LLC
Savannah TLA


Save the Date!

PAC Champions, PAC Board Members, and PAC-Supported Legislative Champions are invited to help us kick off the 2012 legislative session in style.

The Civil Justice PAC invites all PAC Champions to a cocktail reception in honor of our Champion Supporters & Champion Legislators on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The reception will be held at the home of Sandi and Darren Penn.  Cocktails and hors d-oeuvres will be served.  

An RSVP is required.

To become a PAC Champion or inquire about your giving status, please contact Dawn Painter at 678-491-0462 or
Thank You to Our Newest GTLA Champion Members!
E. Marcus Davis & Mark Link

Welcome New GTLA Members!
Alex Bartko, Tyler H. Bridgers, Madeleine N. Peake, D. Michael Sweetnam & Linda Yu 
Collision Specialists, Inc.
Empire Settlement Funding
Donovan Reporting PC
Fast Funds, Inc.

Founded in 1956, the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association (GTLA) is dedicated to strengthening and upholding Georgia’s civil justice system and protecting the rights of Georgia citizens and consumers.

GTLA works in the legislative, political and media arenas to ensure that Georgians know and understand the importance of their rights to justice and to make certain that these rights, which are at the very core of what it means to be American, are safeguarded and protected.

Georgia Trial Lawyers Association
101 Marietta Street, NW
Suite 3350, Atlanta, GA 30303
Phone (404) 522-8487 | Fax (404) 522-3705

We would appreciate your comments or suggestions. Your email will be kept private and confidential.