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Attorneys and Public Service in Georgia

by Arman Deganian
President, DeKalb Bar Association

Now that the recent election is behind us, we have all had some time to reflect on the results. To be more accurate, unless you live under a rock, you probably haven’t been able to avoid reflecting on the election, as it has dominated national and local headlines. We’ve all seen those headlines. We know the issues. However, there is one local trend that has not gotten a lot of attention. If you take a close look at the makeup of, for example, the Georgia House of Representatives, you will see that attorney representation has been trending downward dramatically for years.

The reasons for this can certainly be debated. However, even the most casual observer has likely noticed that candidates who happen to be attorneys have been attacked during their campaigns simply for being an attorney. This is a troubling trend for those of us in the profession. I’m not quite certain what led us down this road, but it is apparent to me that we as attorneys in our communities need to do everything we can to stay active in the political process and continue to pursue public service throughout the State of Georgia.

We as attorneys in our communities need to stay active in the political process and continue to pursue public service throughout the state of Georgia.”

For example, in the Georgia House of Representatives attorneys made up only 16.1% of membership as recently as 2011, which is relatively low nationally. In fact, many of the members of Judiciary Committee are not attorneys. Think about that for a moment. I’m not suggesting that one must be an attorney to serve on the Judiciary Committee. However, it is a troubling trend in my opinion. What is also troubling is that being an attorney while campaigning seems to be a bit of a scarlet letter for candidates, especially in more conservative districts. There is a bit of a brightside though. The current House leadership has thirteen members, and, of those thirteen members, five are attorneys. It is encouraging that, of the relatively few attorneys in the House, our profession is strongly represented in the leadership of the House.

I hope that those of us in our profession that wish to serve the public will not be dissuaded by the seemingly negative perception that attorneys are no longer welcome to take part in the political process in Georgia. I have many friends and colleagues on both sides of the aisle that are currently serving the public in Georgia, and I am proud to say that I can call them friends. Folks like them who represent the public and our profession at the Capitol are, in my opinion, the only panacea to combat this seemingly negative perception that has developed recently in Georgia.

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