Judge Mark Anthony Scott, Family Law Chair Charles Bailey, Judge Courtney L. Johnson, Judge J. P. Boulee, and Judge Gregory A. Adams
At its October 4, 2018 breakfast meeting, the Family Law Section hosted a panel of four judges of the DeKalb Superior Court: Judge Gregory A. Adams, Judge J.P. Boulee, Judge Courtney L. Johnson, and Judge Mark Anthony Scott. The panel discussed their perspectives on practice and procedure, professionalism and ethics, and other valuable behind-the-bench insights.
Section Chair Charlie Bailey introduced the program and Vice-Chair Amy Lynn Daldry facilitated the panel discussion. The audience participated by asking thoughtful questions and the judges gave valuable insight into their perspectives on issues such as attorney preparedness in court, attorney submission of briefs, speaking with minor children in chambers, and the Court’s use of guardians ad litem.
Be Prepared for Court
Judge Adams, Judge Boulee, and Judge Scott each commented on the importance of attorneys being prepared to present their cases in court. Judge Adams emphasized his preference for pre-marked exhibits and trial notebooks as well as the need for attorneys to have spoken with one another prior to court to see if settlement or a narrowing of the issues is possible. Both Judge Boulee and Judge Scott spoke about how attorneys need to focus on and anticipate the issues within their cases in advance of trial; for example, thinking about potential objections in advance and working through statutory issues that may arise. Judge Scott also encouraged attorneys to use electronic equipment for the presentation of evidence; however, he also reminded attorneys to check to make sure to test the equipment in advance, so that they are not trying to figure out how the court equipment works on the morning of trial!
Regarding briefs that are submitted to the court for the judge’s consideration: Judge Johnson, Judge Boulee, and Judge Adams all stressed their preference for attorneys to submit their briefs in advance because they prefer to read them before court. Judge Boulee reminded attorneys that his staff attorneys prepare memos regarding each case at least two to three days in advance of the calendar, so it is important that attorneys try not to send briefs at the last minute, such as the evening before court.
Speaking of Children
Regarding the issue of speaking with children in chambers, all of the judges agreed that they are reluctant to do so; however, they are willing if the attorneys insist. The consensus among the judges was that speaking with children in chambers does not happen regularly, as Judge Adams stated, for example, that he has only spoken with children in chambers two times this year. Judge Boulee mentioned that when children have signed an affidavit of election, he will speak with the child in chambers regarding the affidavit.
GALs are Great
A big takeaway from the panel was that all judges are in agreement about the critical role that guardians ad litem play in high conflict custody cases. This was a lengthy discussion where the judges discussed that they rely heavily on the expertise of guardians ad litem to provide insights into the case. The judges rely on the guardians ad litem to submit timely and thorough reports for the judges’ consideration. Judge Scott and Judge Boulee each emphasized the need for more guardians ad litem within the county, particularly those who are willing to volunteer their time through organizations such as the DeKalb Volunteer Lawyers Foundation.
The section had a great turnout for the breakfast and the discussion was lively and informative between the audience and the judges. Thanks to the generous contributions from those in attendance, the Family Law Section collected $40 to donate to Nia’s Place.
Amy Daldry, Honorable Gregory A. Adams, J. P. Boulee, Courtney L. Johnson, and Mark Anthony Scott.
The Family Law Section invites you to our next breakfast on Thursday, November 1, 2019 at 7:30 a.m. in the historic Old DeKalb County Courthouse. Please spread the word to fellow domestic relations attorneys! RSVP now for the next FLS breakfast, held the first Thursday of most months.