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Articles Posted in State Bar of Georgia

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The concept of an “Open Court” has been back in the news lately with the efforts of numerous groups to try to convince the United States Supreme Court to broadcast live the oral arguments on the marriage equality case coming up in April. I am a proponent of that. In this day and age of online streaming and immediate tweeting there is simply no good, legitimate reason not to allow all Americans live access to what is going on in the Country’s highest Court as it is happening. But the Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, apparently, disagree. I understand that one objection to live broadcasting of arguments from Justice Kagen and Justice Sotomayor is they are afraid broadcasting arguments live might induce counsel before them to engage in theatrics and shenanigans. Folks, that is ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous.  The Georgia Supreme Court has been broadcasting oral arguments before it for years without even a hint of theatrics from the counsel who appear before them. Members of the State Bar of Georgia are required to use the utmost deference before any judge, but particularly the Supreme Court. All members of the Bar know the proper etiquette to employ before the Court. The Court doesn’t have to worry about anything unseemly happening.  And should there be any doubt about this whatsoever the Court is constantly manned by Georgia State Patrol Troopers. No one is going to do anything they shouldn’t do. This would be the same for the United States Supreme Court.  The Georgia Court of Appeals, unfortunately, does not, at the moment, permit cameras in their courtroom.  There is no explanation why other than perhaps a budgetary one. It is my understanding that when a new Judicial Building is built, in the footprint of the current Georgia Archives building, the Georgia Court of Appeals will then be equipped to allow live broadcast of oral arguments.  I hope that is sooner rather than later.

The United States Supreme Court may be feeling the heat. It typically makes audio recordings of oral hearings before it available at the end of the week. In the marriage equality case, the Court announced it would make the audio recording available the day after the hearing. In its most recent announcement on the subject, the Court has even moved that up and has indicated it will now make the audio recording of the argument available to the public that afternoon, the same day as the oral argument.  If this is true, ask yourself:  what is the difference between that and simply allowing all Americans to hear the argument in real time, in the privacy of their homes or at their work desks?  I can imagine “oral argument parties” where citizens host viewing parties complete with coffee and Krispy Kreme doughnuts (make mine a Java Chip, please), or maybe Mimosas and Bloody Marys, so that they may enjoy the arguments in the company of their friends who are of like mind.  After all, most things have richer meaning when they are shared experiences.

The push for transparency of the United States Supreme Court is nothing new…it has been going on for years.  Here is why it is so important.  Our nation was founded on the concept of self-government, that “We The People” decide how our government will behave and “We The People” will decide how to govern ourselves according to the Rule of the Law and the sacred Constitution, which men fought and died for so we could be a Free Nation. The United States Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the Law. It is the only body in our Nation that decides with finality whether something does not violate the U. S. Constitution.  Do men and women not respect something and hold onto its principles more when they have been involved in its making?  When they can see for themselves the fairness and equality used in its creation?  Lack of information breeds suspicion.  Secrecy creates mistrust.  With suspicion and mistrust comes their ugly cousin, contempt. Why would the United States Supreme Court wish to risk such a side effect of their rulings?  Why wouldn’t the Supreme Court want their opinions to be embraced by “We The People,” such that their opinions would have the stamp of  authority with the public they rightfully should? It could easily be accomplished simply by livestreaming their oral arguments.

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On December 20, 2013, we lost an icon of the State Bar of Georgia, our Executive Director of 23 years, Cliff Brashier. Yesterday, I had the distinct honor of delivering remarks at his Memorial Service held at the State Bar of Georgia Bar Center. Cliff was one of my dearest friends and represented the best that lawyers can be. I miss him dearly. Below are my remarks.

REMARKS AT THE MEMORIAL SERVICE OF CLIFF BRASHIER, STATE BAR OF GEORGIA BAR CENTER, JANUARY 8, 2014

Today I consider myself one of the luckiest persons on the face of the Earth. I do this because I was lucky enough to have formed a friendship with Cliff Brashier. Whatever sacrifices I had to make, both professional and personal, to serve as President of the State Bar of Georgia were more than worth it given that my service as President gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to work alongside Cliff Brashier.

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May 1st is traditionally known as “Law Day” in America, a day in which the rule of law is celebrated. It was officially designated “Law Day” by Congress in 1961. Law Day underscores how law and the legal profession contribute to the freedoms that all Americans share. Georgia lawyers have already been holding events around the State to celebrate Law Day 2013. The State Bar of Georgia recently hosted hundreds of school children at the State Bar Center to celebrate Law Day in a program called “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All!” Below are my remarks for this wonderful celebration.

Remarks of Robin Frazer Clark

Realizing the Dream: Equality for All!

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You probably recall Robert Fulghum’s popular book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, which was first published in 1988. Its premise was that the world would be a better place if we simply adhered to the basic rules of kindergarten, such as sharing, being kind to one another, cleaning up after ourselves, etc.

If I had the opportunity to suggest a sequel specifically for lawyers, its title might be All I Really Need to Know about Professionalism I Learned on the Golf Course. As golf stands out from other sports as a “gentleman’s game,” the ideals of professionalism in the practice of law are aimed at ensuring our field remains a “high calling” and not “just a business like any other,” enlisted in the service not only of the clients, but of the public good as well.

The game of golf is governed jointly by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club (R&A) of St. Andrews, Scotland, and the United States Golf Association (USGA). But, as stated in the USGA’s “The Spirit of the Game” document, “Unlike many sports, golf is played, for the most part, without the supervision of a referee or umpire. The game relies on the integrity of the individual to show consideration for other players and to abide by the Rules. All players should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times, irrespective of how competitive they may be. This is the spirit of the game of golf.”

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Here is my last weekly update of the 2013 Georgia General Assembly Session for the State Bar of Georgia, which was extremely successful for the State Bar with the passage of the Juvenile Justice Reform bill and the passage of an amendment making legal malpractice claims nonassignable to third parties. I am very proud of the Bar’s Legislative efforts this year, our superb lobbying team, and our new grassroots program. Thank you, also, to all the legislators who gave of their time to represent the citizens of Georgia so selflessly. We appreciate your sacrifice.

Thursday, March 28, marked the last day of the 2013 legislative session, one of the most successful on record for the State Bar of Georgia. This session saw the passage of several major initiatives of the State Bar, highlighted by a comprehensive rewrite of the Juvenile Code.

The passage of Juvenile Justice Code was a major success for the State Bar and most importantly for Georgia’s justice system and for the citizens of our great state. This new approach, focusing away from the old system of youth detention, puts an increased focus on community based programs and counseling with the ultimate goal of returning these troubled youths to our neighborhoods as productive members of society. A major initiate of Gov. Nathan Deal’s Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, passage of the Juvenile Code was truly a bipartisan effort from the outset and stands to help improve our state for years to come.

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As President of the State Bar of Georgia, I recently had the distinct honor and high privilege of being the keynote speaker for the DeKalb Bar Association’s Annual Bench & Bar Dinner at the Emory Conference Center. This year the DeKalb Bar honored Judge Clarence Seeliger, a trailblazer in Civil Rights in DeKalb County, Georgia, with its Pioneer Award. The honor was well deserved. Below are my remarks from the wonderful event.

Remarks at DeKalb County Bar Association Bench & Bar Dinner

March 7, 2013

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Last night I had the great honor and distinct privilege, as President of the State Bar of Georgia, to recognize Judge Carla Wong McMillian, recently appointed by Governor Nathan Deal, as the first Asian Pacific American state appellate judge in the Southeast. This was an historic appointment by Governor Deal and the State Bar of Georgia salutes him, as well, in breaking this barrier for Asian Pacific Americans. I was proud to stand with the Honorable Al Wong, Judge, State Court of DeKalb County and the very first Asian Pacific American state court judge in Georgia, to recognize this nod to the need for vigilance and diversity.

Judge Wong McMillian’s colleagues from the Georgia Court of Appeals joined us, as did many members of the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association (GAPABA) who co-sponsored the reception. Thank you also to Thomas Worthy, Governor Deal’s Deputy Executive Counsel, for joining us. My remarks from the evening are copied below. It was a wonderful night to celebrate diversity and take pride in the extraordinary appellate bench we have in Georgia. As I said last night, “each time a barrier is removed in the leadership of our courts, a door opens to a new generation of potential judges, which might include the next Thurgood Marshall, the next Sandra Day O’Connor, the next Robert Benham, the next Leah Ward Sears or the next Carla Wong McMillian. And that is something to be celebrated.”

Robin Frazer Clark

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Yesterday, as President of the State Bar of Georgia, I testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee in support of HB 242 which is a comprehensive Juvenile Justice Reform Act. It includes both Juvenile Criminal Justice reform and a rewrite of the Juvenile Code, which is Title 15 of the Official Code of Georgia. Below are my remarks to the House Judiciary Committee:

REMARKS OF ROBIN FRAZER CLARK TO THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE GEORGIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY

I am Robin Frazer Clark and am the President of the State Bar of Georgia, which is made up of nearly 44,000 lawyers, including judges, prosecutors, public defenders, private pratitioners and even Legislators. On behalf of the State Bar of Georgia, let me first thank you as members of the Georgia General Assembly for your dedication to the citizens of Georgia and your personal sacrifice I know each of you make to be here and make a difference. We appreciate you.

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