Georgia Bar Journal
GSB Vol. 14, NO. 1, Pg. 56.
Supreme Court's Legal Needs Study: Changing Georgia's Civil Justice System
GSB JournalVol. 14, NO. 1August 2008Supreme Court's Legal Needs Study: Changing Georgia's Civil Justice SystemLen HortonSome problems seem never to be solved but merely talked about over years that can extend into decades. The reality is that talk is typically far easier than bringing about the fundamental change often necessary to solve an important problem. In facing the problem of providing access to civil justice for poor Georgians, the Supreme Court of Georgia, under the leadership of Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, is focusing on the actions necessary to effect fundamental change.
The Court was aware of the need for poor Georgians to have improved access to justice in civil legal matters. For years this problem had been discussed, but, if anything, the problem had gotten worse. The Court realized that fundamental change was needed if "with liberty and justice for all" is to be more than mere words. Just as the Court had taken on the problems of Georgia's criminal indigent defense system under the leadership of former Chief Justices Robert Benham and Norman Fletcher, the Sears-led Supreme Court of Georgia decided to take on the problem of ensuring civil justice for Georgia's disadvantaged.
In 2005, the Court, by unanimous vote, established the Committee on Civil Justice. The committee was charged with strengthening "Georgia's civil justice system by developing, coordinating and supporting policy initiatives to expand access to the courts for poor and vulnerable Georgians." Its co-chairs are Anne Lewis, a partner at Strickland, Brockington & Lewis, and Teri McClure, senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of United Parcel Service. Jill Radwin, an attorney with the Administrative Office of the Courts, serves as the committee's executive director.
The committee decided that the first issue it would have to tackle would be to understand the nature and extent of the problem. In 1994, a study was conducted to try to answer the question, but those results were clearly out of date. Moreover, several important questions had not been asked by that survey.
The A.L. Burruss Institute of Public Service and Research at Kennesaw State University, headed by Dr. Carol...