GSB Vol. 17, NO. 5, Pg. 26. 2012 State of the Judiciary Address.

Authorby Chief Justice Carol Hunstein

Georgia Bar Journal

Volume 17.

GSB Vol. 17, NO. 5, Pg. 26.

2012 State of the Judiciary Address

GSB JournalVol. 17, NO. 5February 20122012 State of the Judiciary Addressby Chief Justice Carol HunsteinThe State of the Judiciary address was originally given by Chief Justice Carol Hunstein on Thursday, Jan. 25, in the House Chambers at the State Capitol. The following is reprinted with her permission.

Lt. Gov. Cagle, Speaker Ralston, President Pro Tem Williams, Speaker Pro Tem Jones, friends in the legislative and executive branches, my fellow judges, ladies and gentlemen:

Thank you for the opportunity once again to present to this distinguished body the annual State of the Judiciary address. This yearly tradition underscores our commitment to work together as co-equal branches of government in our common mission of serving the citizens of this great state. Together we can achieve far more than we can alone.

I am privileged to report to you today our accomplishments of the last year, the challenges we face and our plans for the future. I am honored that joining me are my friends and colleagues on the Supreme Court of Georgia-Presiding Justice George Carley, Justices Robert Benham, Hugh Thompson, Harris Hines, Harold Melton and David Nahmias. I want to pay special tribute today to my dear friend, George Carley- now presiding justice but soon to be chief justice before he retires later this year after 32 distinguished years on the bench. We in the judiciary are going to miss this brilliant jurist and wonderful colleague.

Also here are my friends and colleagues on the Court of Appeals of Georgia-including Chief Judge John Ellington, former Chief Judge Charles Mikell and the newly appointed Judge Michael Boggs. And we are honored to have in the gallery many judges from around the state.

On behalf of all these judges and the judiciary, I want to sincerely thank you for the work that you do. We are deeply appreciative to you in the Legislature and to Gov. Deal for your interest in-and ongoing support of-the judicial branch.

Above the bench of the Supreme Court of Georgia is a Latin phrase etched in stone. It says: "Fiat Justicia, Ruat Caelum."

It means: "Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall."

This pronouncement is the essence of an independent judiciary. It stands for the notion that above all else, the rule of law is the foundation of our nation, and regardless of anything else, we must protect it. That is our duty as judges. It is our job to uphold the law regardless of the outcome, regardless of public opinion, regardless of political favor. Our forefathers understood this principle through their embodiment in the United States Constitution of the three branches of government and the separation of their powers.

"In order to form a more perfect union," our United States and state constitutions creatively check each branch's authority and balance its limitations by guaranteeing its independence while at the same time ensuring the interdependence of all three branches.

You write the laws; the governor executes them; we interpret them. Simple but brilliant. In Georgia, at this time in our history, our three branches of government share a symbiotic relationship. Together as a whole, we can be stronger than our individual parts.

Never has this relationship come to greater fruition than through our work this past year on criminal justice reform. Nearly a year ago, I joined Gov. Deal, Speaker Ralston, Lt. Gov. Cagle, Rep. Jay Neal and others in an unprecedented news conference where all three branches of government stood as one in our pledge to reform Georgia's criminal justice system.

Through legislation introduced by Rep. Neal, the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform embarked upon a detailed analysis of Georgia's sentencing and corrections system. Our primary goal was-and remains-the public safety of our citizens.

We began this process united in our conviction that our state can no longer afford to spend more than $1 billion a year to maintain the nation's fourth highest incarceration rate and the nation's No. 1 highest rate of people under some kind of correctional restraint.

We began united in our belief that warehousing non-violent offenders who are addicted to drugs or are mentally ill does nothing to improve the public safety. Indeed, in the long run, it threatens it.

And we began united in our commitment to come up with alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders that protect the public safety by addressing the roots of crime and reducing recidivism.

Georgia has a rich history of being tough on crime. This state did not just settle for a "three strikes, you're out" law. In 1994, we became the first in the country to pass a "two strikes, you're out" law. As a government, we must continue in our...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT