greekletters

With college students  going back to school this week and next, many new freshman or transfer students are probably considering joining Greek Life on campus. Most schools have some sort of sorority/fraternity groups, with objectives being to provide an outlet for new students to get to know each other, form group bonds, and to give back to the community, to name a few. Over the last few years, some dangerous and sometimes fatal “hazing” practices by fraternities and sororities have come to light, and many have begun to pose the question: are these organizations as beneficial as they seem?
Some groups suggest that affiliation with a Greek organization leads to higher rates of success later in life. An article by USA Today stated that “85% of Fortune 500 executives were part of Greek life… And college graduation rates are 20% higher among Greeks than non-Greeks.” Psychologically speaking, this can be true. Feeling supported by like-minded individuals definitely contributes to better mental health and in turn, higher likelihood to succeed in life. Being a part of a Greek organization also connects you to generations of alumni with the same affiliation, which is certainly a plus when searching for jobs and making career connections. Sororities and fraternities also have a rich history in our country, the first being founded in 1831. Having a connection to such a renowned historical tradition is very important for some, especially “legacy” families, students who’s mother, grandmother, and so on were members of the same sorority. These organizations also undoubtedly benefit many charities. Each year most groups organize a fundraising event to benefit the charity affiliated with their organization. For example, Phi Mu at the University of Georgia raised $143,942 this year for the UGA Miracle program supporting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Unfortunately, there have been a number of events giving sororities and fraternities a bad and scary reputation. There is always the stigma that Greek groups are associated with partying, drinking and hazing. In some cases, the hazing of potential members has gone way too far. Over the last few years there have been some highly publicized cases of deaths by hazing from groups around the country. The Washington Times reported that since 2005, more than 60 people have died due to fraternity incidents. Recently in California, a family sued after their 19-year old from California State University Northridge died after being forced to hike 18 miles with his fellow Pi Kappa Phi pledges. The Clemson University community was shocked by the death of Tucker Hipps, a pledge of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, after reportedly being killed in a fight with his fraternity brothers over breakfast food. Hipps’ parents are filing a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Sig Ep brothers. Reports of alcohol abuse, sexual assault, and flagrant racism also have been widely publicized over the last few years.
Although many of these violent reports are mostly associated with fraternities, there have been a number of lawsuits against sororities for dangerous hazing practices as well. A student at Rutgers University pressed charges against her Sigma Gamma Rho sisters after being beaten with paddles and sent to the hospital. In 2002, two girls pledging Alpha Kappa Alpha died after being forced to walk backwards into the ocean and drowning. Mostly, reports against sororities tend to be within the realm of humiliation, which also shouldn’t be ignored.
Reports like this are shocking and make us think twice about the Greek organizations we hold highly in respect. Of course, these incidents are based on individual circumstances, and cannot be relegated to a group as a whole, but are a cause for concern and caution when considering Greek Life. The bottom line for students is, if something makes you uncomfortable, don’t feel like you have to do it to be accepted by your peers. Report any behavior that places someone’s life in danger. Watch out for your friends.  Stand up for yourself and what you believe in, because that defines your identity, which is what college is mostly about.

black car

 

Ridesharing services have been advancing in the app world over the last few years. Quite a few companies have become enormously popular for their efficiency and ease compared to traditional taxi companies. GPS based with pre-set payment settings, the whole interaction takes place online and even shows you a map counting down the moments until your driver arrives. Uber has quickly become a household name, and alongside Lyft, dominate the ridesharing sphere. There are, however, a number of safety concerns associated with the process. It is a rather strange concept to get into a stranger’s personal car and trust them to drive you safely to your destination. Recently, Uber has been attempting to address many of these concerns as well as handle a number of injury lawsuits that have occurred.

Fortunately from an insurance perspective, these ridesharing companies have got you covered. There is major debate between the taxi companies and Uber/Lyft regarding this topic, because taxi companies believe they better protect against possible insurance disparities after an injury. Largely in response to this criticism and attack by traditional taxi companies,  Lyft and Uber now both have  liability policies that provide additional coverage in the event that the passenger is injured in a driver’s vehicle and the driver’s insurance doesn’t cover all of their injuries, which is almost always the case. Not only that, but even in the event of an accident in which the company driver is not at fault, and the other motorist at fault is uninsured, they will still provide coverage if you are injured.

The Georgia Legislature passed a ridesharing bill this session (2015) that essentially sought to level the regulation  of Uber and Lyft with that of traditional taxi companies.  House Bill 225, which passed the Senate by a 48-2 vote, is the culmination of efforts to require the app-based transportation industry to meet the same standards that apply to other transportation providers, such as taxis and limousine companies.  “The world as we know it in transportation has changed because of transportation companies like Uber and Lyft,” said Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, who carried the bill in the Senate. “This creates a new framework that allows them to grow with light regulation and common-sense policies.”  Governor Deal signed the bill into law in March 2015 which mandates companies like Uber must have $1 Million in insurance coverage for its passengers. There continue to be squabbles between the traditional taxi companies and Uber, but free market principles of competition should control the outcome.

As with any driving company, Uber conducts background checks on all of it’s potential drivers. According to their website, they include “county, federal, and multi-state criminal” checks. They also have a rating feature on the app, where each passenger can anonymously rate and post comments about their experience with every driver. Unfortunately, no system is perfect, and we can’t always assume that people are good just because they don’t have a criminal background. Uber was briefly discontinued in India following a claim that a woman was raped by her Uber driver. Now the service is back, but with a number of added safety features like a panic button, and the ability to share in real-time location and trip information with others.  iphone

Uber also recently settled a case in which one of their drivers hit a family on New Years Eve in San Francisco, killing a six year old girl. This sparked a debate about the user interface aspect of the app, because drivers must use it while driving and it is not hands-free, as is required by California law. I’ve often blogged on the danger of distracted driving and, in this case, it seemed to be the distraction of the Uber driver that led to the settlement.

Hopefully,  these ridesharing companies can continue to improve upon their services so incidents like these don’t happen again. If you choose to use Uber, as it really is an interesting and useful invention, always be aware of your surroundings. Stay safe, Georgia!

Robin Frazer Clark pursues justice for those who have personal injury claims as a result of being injured in motor vehicle wrecks, trucking wrecks, defective products, defective maintenance of roads, premises safety, medical malpractice and other incidents caused by the negligence of others.  Ms. Clark is the 50th President of the State Bar of Georgia and a Past President of Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and has practiced law in Georgia for 26 years.  Mrs. Clark is listed as one of the Top 50 Women Trial Lawyers in Georgia and is a Georgia Super Lawyer.  Robin Frazer Clark~Dedicated to the Constitution’s Promise of Justice for All.

 

 

 

 

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As many of you may know, the summer is peak time for music festivals. These events draw eclectic crowds of all ages, and cater to a wide range of musical and cultural interests. Recently there was Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee, Firefly in Dover, Delaware, Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, and many more happening all over the country. These events attract massive crowds by the hundreds of thousands, and unfortunately, they’re no Woodstock. Every year people die at major music festivals, accompanied by hundreds of arrests and injuries. Considering the mass drug and alcohol use that typically takes place, this is not entirely surprising. Some people are beginning to point the finger at the electronic dance music community (EDM) as a whole, as there seems to be more drug related deaths at those festivals. One major electronic festival, Electric Zoo in New York City, was forced to cancel their final day this year due to deaths involving MDMA. Often in these circumstances, it is difficult to allocate responsibility. It is entirely foreseeable that in that large of a crowd, something will go wrong. Police presence and safety measures are not, unfortunately proving up to the task of reasonable safety for such a large crowd.  Families of several victims of an incident at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, however, are attempting to hold the festival corporations accountable for wrongful death.

Continue reading →

safetyfirst

One of my favorite holidays, the Fourth of July, celebrating our Nation’s Independence, has just passed. It’s the time to celebrate our nation’s formation and relax, wherever you might be, with family and friends over the long weekend. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most dangerous weekends of the year due to an array of safety hazards. I hope it was a safe holiday for you and your family. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Driving: Independence Day weekend consistently results in the highest amount of fatal crashes in the U.S. Between 2008 and 2012, there was a calculated average of 127 fatal car accidents each year just on July 4th. Just about everyone is going to be on the road, and will likely be distracted and hurried. Distracted driving, as I’ve written about before, has become a major problem over the last decade due to cell phones. For your own safety and those around you, put them away while driving! Alcohol is also a significant factor in crashes, and accounted for 41% of deaths last year. So needless to say, DON’T drive drunk. The ride app Uber is a great new tool and when in doubt, call a cab. Also, DO remember to buckle up. The CDC reports that it can reduce injuries and deaths in a crash by 50%.

Fireworks: Because of the new laws put in to effect July 1st, it is now legal to set off fireworks in Georgia between certain times on holidays. This is great news for fireworks fanatics, because you won’t have to drive to Alabama anymore for your sparklers; however, it is very important to be cautious while using them. In 2013, there were eight deaths and 11,400 injuries in the US just due to fireworks. If you’re lighting them yourself, DO make sure you’re in a clear outdoor area with no surrounding trees or brush. Keep a safe distance from them as they go off, and always have a water source nearby, just in case. I also recently read about fireworks triggering PTSD for veterans, as the loud explosions can cause distress for those dealing with the disorder. If you know of veterans in your neighborhood and plan to set off fireworks this weekend, it may be courteous to let them know.

Swimming: We can all expect the pools to be crowded this summer, with those celebrating and trying to escape the summer heat. The majority of pool-related injuries are in the age group of 10-12, and are caused by diving into shallow water or hitting heads on the diving board, so keep an eye out for those who may be diving unsafely. I have a lot of information on pool safety in my previous blog post. For those visiting the beach this weekend, practice safe swimming as well! Rip tides are always something to look out for, and claim lives each year. If you get caught in one, swim or float parallel to the shore until you are out of it. They often originate near piers or jetties, so try to stay at least 100 feet away from them if possible. If you’re vacationing in the Carolinas this weekend, pay close attention to marine life. There have been 11 shark attacks in North and South Carolina this month. Thankfully none have been fatal, but they have caused serious injury in some cases.

I wish you all a safe and happy holiday weekend!

Robin Frazer Clark pursues justice for those who have personal injury claims as a result of being injured in motor vehicle wrecks, trucking wrecks, defective products, defective maintenance of roads, premises safety, medical malpractice and other incidents caused by the negligence of others.  Ms. Clark is the 50th President of the State Bar of Georgia and a Past President of Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and has practiced law in Georgia for 26 years.  Mrs. Clark is listed as one of the Top 50 Women Trial Lawyers in Georgia and is a Georgia Super Lawyer.  Robin Frazer Clark~Dedicated to the Constitution’s Promise of Justice for All.

 

poolcrowded

Georgia, unfortunately, often leads the nation in pool and spa deaths.  2015 appears as if it will be no exception. Already, in the month of May alone, three children have died in Georgia pools or spas.  Fortunately, there are numerous resources for learning about pool safety and I recommend you review them, regardless of whether you already think you have sufficient knowledge about pool safety.  The Georgia Department of Public Health has many recommendations and it is a good place to start.

Probably the first line of pool safety is to teach your child to swim. And I don’t mean dog-peddling, or holding on to the edge of the pool at all times, I mean actual swimming for a good distance on the child’s own power. Sometimes swim lessons can be expensive, and I realize that, but they are absolutely necessary. Your local YMCA has year-round swim lessons and I recommend you enroll your child in one now if he or she isn’t already able to swim completely and competently on his or her own. On June 18, 2015 the World’s Largest Swim Lesson (WLSL) will occur and you can find host pools here in your area. The National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) sponsors this important endeavor every year.

In the meantime, here are 5 things you can do right now to make sure the pool your child swims in is safe:

1.  Check to make sure the pool drain is properly guarded and  covered.  Federal Law, The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act , mandates that all pools and spas have their drains covered adequately so that a child may not be sucked down onto the drain and locked on to it. This act also requires a safety button or value to be operable immediately adjacent to the pool so that if somehow someone does get sucked onto the drain, the safety switch can be accessed immediately to eliminate the powerful suction of the pool pump to release the suction power. Many children, prior to the enactment of this safety act, have been eviscerated by the suction power of a pool pump. Be vigilant and make sure your local pool is complying with this safety act.  A proper drain cover should look like this:

pooldraincover

2.  Make sure an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) is present and it’s location well-marked.  Although there is no Federal requiring this yet, every pool should have immediately accessible an Automatic External Defibrillator.  A lay person needs no special training to operate one. If a swimmer is found unresponsive and no pulse, the AED, once placed on the simmer, can determine for itself whether it needs to initiate a shock to the swimmer’s heart.  AED’s have saved countless lives. It’s location should be well marked with a sign that looks like this:

AED sign

3.  Make sure the pool water is completely clear and you can see to the bottom of the pool. This may sound ridiculously silly and simple, but the number of deaths of swimmers who were found at the bottom of pools with no notice is alarming. Always maintain a direct line of sight with your child when he or she is in the water. Do not simply assume that if a lifeguard (even more than one) is present your child is completely safe. Murky water in a pool is often a contributory factor in inability to locate a missing swimmer or inability to recognize when a swimmer is having difficulty.

4.  Learn CPR.  The more people who are sitting around a pool who are trained to give CPR the better chance someone who may be drowning has to survive. The Red Cross is the easiest place for you to sign up for CPR Lessons.  It’s simple, and easy and inexpensive. The Red Cross also now has a neat emergency app that  gives you quizzes about pool safety that you can take and share with your family.  The life you save may be your son’ s or your daughter’s or even a complete stranger’s, but you won’t regret it.

5.  Avoid the “everyone is watching, no one is watching” scenario.  We have all heard of drownings at family events and pool  parties in which it is difficult to understand how someone drowned when so many people were “right there.”  Unfortunately, with lots of people present around the pool for a party, you might be lulled into that false sense of security that there are so many people present a child could not possibly drown in the pool because someone and see him or her and intervene before a drowning takes place. There is the “I thought you were watching” him mentality that sneaks into our psyche when there are alot of people present. But simply having alot of people present does NOT mean alot of people are watching your child for the purpose of preventing a drowning.  In fact, it may mean just the opposite. Those people are busy eating, drinking and conversing. They are not paying attention to whether a child is at the bottom of the pool or is having difficulty in the water. Please don’t be lulled into that false sense of security. You must keep your child in eyesight at all times.

It’s going to be a long, hot Georgia summer. Let’s enjoy it with safe swimming.

Robin Frazer Clark pursues justice for those who have personal injury claims as a result of being injured in motor vehicle wrecks, trucking wrecks, defective products, defective maintenance of roads, premises safety, medical malpractice and other incidents caused by the negligence of others. Ms. Clark is the 50th President of the State Bar of Georgia and a Past President of Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and has practiced law in Georgia for 26 years. Mrs. Clark is listed as one of the Top 50 Women Trial Lawyers in Georgia and is a Georgia Super Lawyer. Robin Frazer Clark~Dedicated to the Constitution’s Promise of Justice for All.

 

 

 

 

In recent months, a series of serious automotive recalls has hit the headlines. Two major companies, Takata and General Motors, have begun issuing recalls of millions of cars due to defective safety features. For almost ten years, these companies have avoided these potential issues and as a result, many people have died. These companies must now publicly face the consequences of their actions and take responsibility for the deaths caused by these incidents.

In a recent article by Claims Journal, General Motors attorney Kenneth Feinberg stated that GM is now taking responsibility for at least 100 deaths caused by faulty ignition switches in some of their vehicles. This number is a sharp increase from the 13 documented deaths caused by the malfunctioning switches last year. Feinberg stated that each claim found to be legitimately caused by a faulty switch would begin with $1 million in compensation, and increase based on the specifics of the accident.

The exact issue with the switches is that they can sometimes slip from the “on” position to the “off” position, which causes the cars to stall and disables the air bag functioning. Obviously, this poses a huge safety risk in the case of a crash, and is something that General Motors should have thoroughly investigated when the claims began almost a decade ago. They believe the car models most affected by ignition recalls are Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Saturn. In the interest of public safety GM has created a website dedicated to information regarding the recall. To check if your car is on the list, click here.

In a similar story, it was revealed last week that Takata, a major Japanese air bag production company, admitted amongst another decade of claims that their air bags are potentially defective in some vehicles. This has sparked the largest recall in American history, declaring over 33.8 million airbags malfunctioning. Specifically, they deploy too aggressively causing a metal inflation component to explode shrapnel. Currently, Takata is taking responsibility for 6 deaths and over 100 injuries caused by the air bags. However, it is too early to discern compensation. The main concern now is to address vehicles currently on the road with potentially malfunctioning air bags. To see if your vehicle is at risk, click here.

Understandably, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has taken a lot of heat after these claims have come forth to the public eye. Their actions have especially been criticized due to the fact that in both cases the of General Motors and Takata, NHTSA briefly opened investigations of their functioning, but quickly closed them due to “insufficient evidence”. It is their job to bridge the gap between consumer claims and corporate action, and clearly there is room for improvement. Hopefully these grave incidents can serve as a lesson and pave the way to safer roads.

Robin Frazer Clark pursues justice for those who have personal injury claims as a result of being injured in motor vehicle wrecks, trucking wrecks, defective products, defective maintenance of roads, premises safety, medical malpractice and other incidents caused by the negligence of others.  Ms. Clark is the 50th President of the State Bar of Georgia and a Past President of Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and has practiced law in Georgia for 26 years.  Mrs. Clark is listed as one of the Top 50 Women Trial Lawyers in Georgia and is a Georgia Super Lawyer.  Robin Frazer Clark~Dedicated to the Constitution’s Promise of Justice for All.

 

LCA logo

Lawyers Club of Atlanta
 
 From the President

I share with you my recent tribute to a wonderful man and judge, Judge Herbert Phipps, Chief Judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals.  Judge Phipps will, at the end of this month, hand over the position of Chief Judge of the Court to Judge Sara Doyle, and so it is a proper moment to acknowledge his work and lifetime of public service and take stock in the sort of person we have had at the helm of the Court.  Enjoy.

Greetings, Friends!

          I have been extremely fortunate to have served in leadership positions in many bar organizations, and if there is one common theme to that experience, it is the intangible reward of getting the opportunity to get to know and work with some of Georgia’s greatest leaders in our beloved profession. People who, but for my work alongside them in some bar association, our paths might never have crossed. Once such person is Judge Herbert Phipps, a Past President of the Lawyers Club of Atlanta (and first African American President).  When I think of Judge Phipps¸ I do not first think of his shining public service as the current Chief Judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals (the busiest appellate court in the United States, as Judge Ellington will remind us), but rather of his humanity and the example his life offers to us.

Over the years, I have enjoyed talking with Judge Phipps about his life and his place in the world. Many of these conversations happened over a drink at Lawyers Club. I would listen intently to stories told as only Judge Phipps can tell them, and then would ask him to tell one more, because they were so enthralling. It is not hyperbole to say that some of the stories Judge Phipps has told me seemed so outrageous I thought they had to have been made up.  But they were all true. Running through all the stories is the common thread of Justice:  Justice for the minority, justice for the disenfranchised, justice for the “little guy.” And Justice is one subject Judge Phipps knows much about.  Judge Phipps was raised in Baker County, Georgia, a county so segregated that for years he didn’t realize that white children went to school, too. It was a place where racism was so open that lawyers would use a racial epithet to describe their own clients in court.  While in college, Judge Phipps was active with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the civil rights movement.  During this time he was working on voter registration in Albany, Georgia and was jailed for several days in a cell next to Dr. Martin Luther King.  Judge Phipps’ only crime was being in a phone booth at night.  He was never charged and was ultimately released.  Dr. King shared the meals, brought to him by church ladies, with Judge Phipps.   Injustice was all around him.  But he could see that if one had the power of the law behind him, he might be able to turn around some of that injustice and start spreading the sweet richness of Justice, instead. So he decided to go to law school.  As he so poignantly described in his address when he was named Chief Judge, “I decided that if I get ready, maybe my moment will come.”  And so he got ready by becoming a lawyer. The only lawyer even willing to speak to him about a job after law school was (now famous) civil rights lawyer C. B. King in Albany, Georgia.  Mr. King hired Judge Phipps and so began an historic career of service in the Georgia Bar.

          If I have not yet convinced you about what kind of human being Judge Phipps is, ponder these words from Judge Phipps’s 2013 Law Day speech:

“For generations, lawyers have been at the forefront of the fight for equal justice. Yet, there is still a gap between the theory and the practice of equality. Lawyers must continue to be in the vanguard of the struggle to close that gap. While we are grateful for the gains that have been made, and for those who helped to make them, the question before us on Law Day 2013 is: What are you and I doing to finish the work that remains to be done? As lawyers and judges, we have the special training to do more public good than does a member of any other profession. This profession entrusts us with awesome power, from which flows great responsibilities. Often we will find that justice in the most fundamental sense is being denied persons in our presence, in our community, and in our state. Yet many who have the power and influence to do the right thing, and to encourage others to do likewise, will look the other way, or not even care. A good lawyer is sensitive to the injustices of society, and accepts a reasonable share of responsibility for correcting them. Obviously, one lawyer cannot right every wrong. But do not underestimate what one committed person can do to make the Dream a reality – Equality for All.”

That’s the kind of person who has led Lawyers Club of Atlanta and who may be the person you sit next to at the bar while enjoying a libation expertly prepared by Kenny Smith.  Who else might you meet there?  Maybe the lawyer who, after having been refused admission into the University of Georgia law school, later represented the person who integrated the college? Maybe the first Jewish lawyer to serve as President of the Lawyers Club?  Maybe the first woman lawyer to win a state-wide race for a seat on the Georgia Court of Appeals?  Maybe the lawyer who, as a young student at Emory University, marched against white racists and hatred in Forsyth County in the ’80’s?  Maybe the lawyer who founded the Diversity Program of the State Bar of Georgia?  Maybe the lawyer (now Judge) who defeated a sitting judge who would make litigants kneel in court and pray to Jesus Christ prior to trial, regardless of the litigants’ faith?  Maybe the lawyer who shared a jail cell with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?  Whoever you find yourself with, as my good friend and LCA member Judge John Ellington would do, ask them “What’s your story?”

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats,

Robin Frazer Clark
President, Lawyers Club of Atlanta

Robin Frazer Clark pursues justice for those who have personal injury claims as a result of being injured in motor vehicle wrecks, trucking wrecks, defective products, defective maintenance of roads, premises safety, medical malpractice and other incidents caused by the negligence of others.  Ms. Clark is the 50th President of the State Bar of Georgia and a Past President of Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and has practiced law in Georgia for 26 years.  Mrs. Clark is listed as one of the Top 50 Women Trial Lawyers in Georgia and is a Georgia Super Lawyer.  Robin Frazer Clark~ Dedicated to the Constitution’s Promise of Justice for All.

goodmanbentlywreck

Each state keeps the grim statistics of deaths and injuries from car wrecks on major holidays.  Georgia is no exception.  The final statistics for Georgia have not yet been released by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, but this year’s Memorial Day traffic was supposed to be the heaviest ever for this holiday, so you can bet the number of wrecks went up. This news couldn’t come at a worse time for Georgia as it has just recently been reported that Georgia traffic deaths are on the rise.

“With traffic related deaths up 25 percent, Georgia DOT is urging drivers to Drive Alert, Arrive Alive. Their new campaign prompting drivers to wear their seatbelts, stay off the phone and focus on driving.
Georgia isn’t the only state with an increase in roadway deaths. As of May 17, 327 people have died on South Carolina highways, this compared to 282 highway deaths during the same time period in 2014.
A spokesperson with the Georgia DOT says, the main causes of this dangerous trend are speeding, impaired driving, and not buckling up.
“They’re not driving alert, they’re on their cell phone, or they’re texting, or they’re writing down something,” Don Grantham with the Georgia DOT says.”

I’ll keep you posted on the numbers when they come out.  In the meantime, Stay safe, Georgia Drivers.

Robin Frazer Clark pursues justice for those who have personal injury claims as a result of being injured in motor vehicle wrecks, trucking wrecks, defective products, defective maintenance of roads, premises safety, medical malpractice and other incidents caused by the negligence of others. Ms. Clark is the 50th President of the State Bar of Georgia and a Past President of Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and has practiced law in Georgia for 26 years. Mrs. Clark is listed as one of the Top 50 Women Trial Lawyers in Georgia and is a Georgia Super Lawyer. Robin Frazer Clark~Dedicated to the Constitution’s Promise of Justice for All.

 

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Lawyers Club of Atlanta
Newsletter – May 2015
 
From the President

The Bridge Builder

An old man going a lone highway

Came in the evening, cold and gray,

To a chasm vast, both deep and wide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim;

The swollen stream was as naught to him;

But he stopped when safe on the farther side

And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,

“You are wasting your strength in labor here;

Your journey will end with the closing day,

You never again will pass this way.

You’ve crossed the chasm deep and wide

Why build you this bridge at eventide?”

The laborer lifted his old gray head,

“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he

said, “There followeth after me today

A youth whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm which has been naught to me

To that young man may a pitfall be.

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim.

Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”

– Will Allen Dromgoole

 

Greetings, Friends!

When Past President Edward Krugman handed me the Lawyers Club of Atlanta gavel last May, I told you then I had some pretty big shoes to fill. And that is where I find my thoughts now as I pen my last President’s Message as your President…contemplating the shoes of others I have stood in during the last 27 years of practicing law.

I am here standing in the shoes of so many other lawyers who led and cleared the path for me and for you. As we gather in May to honor our 50-year members, which has always been one of my favorite meetings, it is appropriate that we consider those who blazed the trail before us, branch by branch, so that our path might be just a bit smoother. Here are just a few examples of Georgia Trailblazers, in whose shoes I have stood the last 27 years:

Chief Justice Carol Hunstein-1st woman Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. Justice Hunstein contracted polio when she was two, survived her first bout of bone cancer at age four, lost her mother at age 11, married at 17, became a mother at 19, and a single mother by age 22. That same year, Justice Hunstein lost a leg to cancer and was told by doctors she had only a year to live. But that didn’t stop her from getting her law degree. She opened a private law practice in Decatur in 1977 and, spurred on by a trial judge who repeatedly called her “little lady” in open court, Justice Hunstein decided to run for the bench. She defeated four men and in 1984 became the first woman elected to the DeKalb County Superior Court. She has served on the Georgia Supreme Court since 1992.

Judge Anne Workman: When she graduated from Emory Law School less than ten percent of the class of 1972 – one hundred in number – were women, as were less than four percent of all lawyers in the nation. The downtown law firms came to the Emory campus for employment interviews with the male students, but would not interview the women students at all. Judge Workman’s first attempt to get a legal job after law school was fruitless, but she recounted it very humorously. She had always loved criminal law and wanted to be a prosecutor when she graduated from Emory. She approached the district attorney at the time about employment in his office. Judge Workman recalled:   “He told me in a very matter of fact manner that there were some places a woman did not belong and that a courtroom was one of them. But that was alright because I could have a baby and he couldn’t. It was not the reasoning I had hoped to hear; but in one way it was helpful as it provided a considerable amount of focus and direction to me to prove him wrong. You take motivation where you find it. It took twelve years, but in 1985 when I was sworn in as a state court judge, I saw him and reminded him of our long-ago conversation. I remarked that I must belong in a courtroom now because it had my name on it.”

Sr. Judge Horace Ward– In 1979, Judge Horace Ward became the first African American federal judge in Georgia, having been nominated by President Jimmy Carter. He had previously served in the Georgia State Senate and as a State Court and Superior Court judge in Fulton County.   Since 1993, Judge Ward served the Northern District of Georgia in senior status. He is also well known in Georgia history from his efforts to gain admission to the then-segregated University of Georgia Law School in the 1950s. For years, the Board of Regents denied Judge Ward admission to the law school, stating that the fact that no black had ever been admitted to the university was merely coincidental. Meanwhile, the Board of Regents decided to “modify” the admissions criteria by requiring that candidates take an entrance exam and that they get two additional letters of recommendation-one from a UGA law school alumnus and the other from the superior court judge in the area where the applicant resided.   Judge Ward filed suit against the Board of Regents to gain admission, which, after years of delay, was eventually dismissed on the basis that Judge Ward had “refused” to reapply under the new admissions guidelines (which Ward’s attorneys had argued was yet another ploy to keep Ward out). Judge Ward decided not to appeal and attended law school at Northwestern University, from which he graduated in 1959. In what can only be described as a moment of poetic justice, Judge Ward was a member of the legal team representing Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes when they were admitted as the first African American students at UGA, thus ending 175 years of segregation at the university.

Judge Clarence Seeliger– Judge Seeliger was a trailblazer for racial justice and equality. He hired the first African American employee of DeKalb County State Courts and courageously removed the Confederate flag from his courtroom at great personal risk. Judge Seeliger made it clear that no one, not even judges, was above the law. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” Seeliger’s life embodies that principle.

Each time a barrier is removed in the leadership of our courts, our Legislature, our profession, a door opens to a new generation of potential great trailblazers, which might include the next Horace Ward, the next Carol Hunstein, the next Clarence Seeliger or the next Anne Workman. Some very big shoes, indeed.

Please be sure to join us on Wednesday, May 20, as we honor our 50 year members who, also, have some pretty big shoes for us to fill. Come and celebrate 17 lives well lived and 17 legal paths blazed. Our 50-year members stand as beacons to promote the cause of justice, to respect the rule of law and to protect the rights of all citizens of the State of Georgia. In this example we should all take pride.

 

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats,

Robin Frazer Clark,

President

2014-15

 

Georgia roadway deaths on the rise, but why?

 

I saw in this morning’s AJC an article on the front page about distracted driving. Unfortunately, the article reports that distracted driving has gone up, that roadway deaths on Georgia roads have increased by a third and that distracted driving may very well be to blame for that increase.  Online today I also read of the tragic death of a Roswell High School student from a car wreck with another teenager Saturday night.  We do not yet know what caused this tragic accident.

As the mother of a 20 year old college student and a 17 year old senior in high school, both of whom drive on a regular basis, this is the sort of news that leads to a lot of sleepless nights. I know you parents out there can sympathize. The question is what can we do to reduce the number of such highway deaths? Has distracted driving made a difference?

Most of us may think of “distracted driving” being solely texting while driving (something I labeled “TWD” years ago).  Texting While Driving is now illegal in Georgia (and has been since 2010) and in 45 states total.  14 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.  That means simply making telephone calls on your mobile phone while driving is illegal, much less texting while driving. But what is the distinction between texting while driving and calling while driving?  Is there one?  Can’t punching in someone’s cell phone number while driving be just as distracting as texting a message while driving? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2012 driver distraction was the cause of 18 percent of all fatal crashes – with 3,328 people killed – and crashes resulting in an injury – with 421,000 people wounded. 

In Georgia, the number of teens killed in 2012 went down to 23 in 2012 from 37 in 2011. This is half the number of teen drivers killed ten years earlier when more than 45 teen drivers were killed on Georgia roadways.

What about other distractions in the car?  Eating?  Drinking (even just water)?  This year in Cobb Co. a driver was arrested for distracted driving for eating a hamburger while driving. That case has since been dismissed.  Distracted is distracted. I’m not sure there is a huge difference between being distracted from driving while talking on the cell phone versus texting while driving. Some studies suggest, however, that texting is inherently more dangerous than talking on a cell phone because with talking you (theoretically) keep your eyes on the road all the time. Other studies seem to suggest there is not a material difference in the device used to distract a driver; the outcome is the same.

It is obvious we must remain vigilant.  Don’t allow a driver of a car in which you are a passenger ever to text while driving. And if the driver won’t listen to you, ask to be let out of the car and call a cab or Uber.  Sure, your friend may get mad at you but better to have a mad friend than be killed from distracted driving. Discuss the subject with your family. In my family, we have all agreed not to text while driving. We have also agreed that if we know  a family member is behind the wheel not to text that person. It can wait. My daughter has suggested that we all text “X” to the rest of the family when we start to drive a car to let everyone know “Hey, I am going to be driving for the next little while so don’t send me a text.”  So far that suggestion is a work in progress.  I simply cannot always remember to do it before I begin to drive.   Communication is critical.  It may save your child’s life.  And it may save your child from taking another person’s life.