December JC/AOC Director's Report

Due to surprisingly snowy weather last Friday, we wrapped up our Judicial Council meeting early to get home before the roads got too icy, so I'm sending a written Director’s report on projects, trainings, awards, and staff to you.
 
As the statewide service agency to the judiciary, it has been an extraordinarily productive time since the last Judicial Council meeting in October.
 
Products and Rules
 
We distributed the first printing of the 2017-2018 Courts Directory on Friday.  Please review this working draft if you received one and let Ashley.Stollar@georgiacourts.gov know if you see anything that needs to be changed. We have moved our Courts Directory online and many of you access it on a regular basis. It is linked from our website: http://www.georgiacourts.gov  which helps us stay current with judges’ contact information.  We’ll  continue to do an annual printing as requests for this service keep coming in. Over 400 courts have requested the Directory this year.
 
Justice Michael Boggs and JC/AOC's James Rodatus serve on the National Task Force on Fines, Fees and Bail Practices. They have been working hard to complete a bench card of best practices related to felony probation, which was discussed at the meeting.  Thank you to the judges who provided feedback on the preliminary draft over the past few months. We’ll be making this approved felony probation bench card widely available and you’ll be able to locate it here.
 
Another product that is in the works is a Judge’s Guide to Mental Illness in the Courtroom. This bench card was produced by the Judicial Council Access Fairness Public and Confidence Committee, in partnership with the State of Georgia ADA Coordinator, and the National Council of State Governments.  According to national statistics, almost 18% of all adults in the US have a mental illness. Appearing in court is an anxiety provoking experience for most people, and litigants may exhibit behaviors that are poor fits for interacting with the courts. Many of you have experienced this first hand and we hope this product will be valuable to you.
Please review the draft bench card and let me know your suggestions by January 8, 2018.
 
Please note that the new JQC rules were adopted by the Supreme Court of Georgia on November 14, 2017, and can be found on the Supreme Court and JQC websites. https://www.gasupreme.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/JQC_Final_Rules_Order.pdf
 
Projects
 
Thank you to the Supreme Court for adopting the new civil filing and disposition forms approved by the Judicial Council last October. Our annual data collection process begins January 2, 2018, and will last until March 15, 2018. We are shooting for 100% participation again by all the courts.
 
We continue to work closely with the Council of Accountability Court Judges. Our IT Division recently assisted Taylor Jones with the launch of a data repository that links with accountability courts’ existing case management systems. Also, at any given time, at least one of our outstanding researchers is working directly with accountability court data, observing court, or meeting with staff to ensure the work of these courts is captured, analyzed, and reported accurately.   We are also glad and pleased to report that their renovated offices located at the AOC are finished and their new staff in place.
 
Trainings and Awards
 
Over the past two months, the JC/AOC has hosted and/or participated in multiple judicial branch trainings across Georgia. On October 22-25, we hosted a National Enhancing Judicial Skills Workshop for Domestic Violence which was made possible by a grant from our friends at CJCC (https://cjcc.georgia.gov/), and in partnership with GCFV (https://gcfv.georgia.gov/). This workshop was led by national and local experts, including Judge Peggy Walker, Judge Cindy Morris, and Judge Nancy Bills.
 
The Committee on Justice for Children, staffed by the AOC, co-hosted a Child Welfare Summit with executive branch partners including the Office of the Child Advocate and the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services. Approximately 500 hundred people attended. Justice Boggs and Justice David Nahmias spoke on two separate days along with the Governor and Mrs. Deal.
 
Justice David Nahmias

Jerry Bruce, staff support for the Justice for Children Committee, was a featured speaker at the Fulton County Juvenile Court Adoption Day hosted by Judge Brad Boyd. His remarks can be found here: https://livestream.com/accounts/7043450
 
The JC/AOC also supported a recent Eliminating Barriers to Justice Conference at Georgia State Law School with many partners on November 15. The Chief Justice was the opening speaker. Mike Cuccaro from the AOC moderated a panel which updated lawyers on Georgia policy. The conference generated front page news in the Daily Report.
 
Also, at the Georgia Council of Court Administrators Fall Conference, AOC division leader Jorge Basto presented on Technology Leadership, discussing recent changes in technology delivery and support.  Jorge also accepted the program of the year award on behalf of the Court Process Reporting System. This is a juvenile data sharing system between the judicial and executive branches. We are grateful for this award as resources have been spent to make this system helpful to people making hard decisions in these court cases. The GCCA also honored AOC IT employee Kriste Pope with their distinguished service award.
 
In State Court news, we were honored to photograph the portrait unveiling of former State Court Judge Kent Lawrence from Athens-Clarke County. Judge Lawrence was an early champion for accountability courts, and also a legendary football star at the UGA. I hope you were able to see some of the great photos from the unveiling event on our Facebook page. I am including one below.
 
Kent Lawrence Portrait

On November 17, State Court Judge and Council President Greg Fowler hosted a Law Day Ceremony in Chatham County to congratulate and award three Chatham County students who participated in the 2017 Law Day Coloring/Poster Contest. Thank you, Judge Fowler, for helping us promote this civics lesson about our system of government and for promoting a positive view of the judicial branch (one of our strategic plan objectives).
 
Judge Greg Fowler

Law Day Awards - Chatham

 
Judge Joe Bishop allowed us to follow him for a day with a video camera as we documented the story of a judge “riding the pine” and traveling from courtroom to courtroom. We thank Judge Bishop for his time and service as it gave us a chance to promote a positive image of the judicial branch of Georgia.
 
See:  http://journal.georgiacourts.gov/article/riding-pine-chief-judge-joe-bishop
 
Turning to international news, at our last meeting I updated you on the Republic of Georgia project which continues with great success. The international judges enjoyed spending time with the 7th JAD judges at a dinner hosted by District Court Administrator Jody Overcash and Judge David Emerson in late October. At that event, I was fortunate to meet Chief Justice Hines’s former law partner, Grant Brantley, who shared some light-hearted stories about the Chief’s early days as a trial attorney. I don’t believe the Chief ever lost a case!!!
 
Most recently, we had a visit from the Honorable Fumiya Mori from Nagoya District in Japan who met with our Human Resources Manager & EEO Officer Stephanie Hines about suggested best practices for managing judicial branch personnel.
 
Judge Fumiya Mori

Your AOC is developing the reputation on the international scene for judicial support.
 
Staff Updates
 
We have chosen attorney Tabitha Ponder to staff the Access, Fairness, Public Trust and Confidence Committee. You’ll likely meet her at our next meeting. Thank you to Justice Boggs and Justice Britt Grant for participating in the final interviews for this hire recently.
 
I’m very pleased Maleia Wilson has joined our agency as our new budget director. Maleia brings extensive financial/accounting experience from the Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Public Health and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. She will work closely with Drew Townsend, our Fiscal Division Director, and Tracy Mason to make sure that all our fiscal accounts and budget projections are in order.
 
I also want to thank Judges Amanda Mercier and Carla McMillian who, separately, visited our staff meetings to tell us a little bit about their story and their journey to the Court of Appeals.  Judges taking their time to do this is important to our staff as it helps remind us of our purpose in providing good service to the Georgia judiciary.
 
Juvenile Court Judge Vincent Crawford will be our featured speaker at the AOC End of the Year meeting later this month, and we can’t wait to hear about his experiences on the bench in DeKalb County.
 
I’ll be sharing photos of our judicial bib recipients at our next Judicial Council meeting in February.
 
Probate Judge Sarah Harris sent me a photo last week about joy. She said:
 
This photo defines the goodness in our communities and is evidence of multi-agencies and individuals working hard for families and children across Georgia. This young man is 22 years old with Down’s syndrome and Autism. He was in the Foster Care system for about 8 years. His biological mother could not care for him. With the creative work of his DFCS caseworker and her supervisor he now has a permanent home with his foster family of the last 8 years. I appointed the foster family as co-guardians. The young man wanted to sit in the witness stand and talk into the microphone. When I asked him what he wanted to say he pointed to his foster parents and said, “I love you, you love me, I’m happy.” This is why I go to work every day.

Judge Sarah Harris

This email made my day and is a wonderful way to close my report. 
 
As I always say, the AOC is a service agency. We work for you, the members of the Judicial Council. Please let me know how we can work to serve you best.  I wish you all a wonderful holiday and New Year’s break and look forward to seeing all of you in 2018.
 
Respectfully,
 
Cynthia H. Clanton, Esq.
AOC Director
Judicial Council/Administrative Office of the Courts
(404) 656-6692 office
cynthia.clanton@georgiacourts.gov

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Administrative Office of the Courts 244 Washington Street, SW Suite 300 Atlanta, GA  30334

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