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Debbie Blanton Was Guest Speaker at August Family Law Breakfast

by M. Debra Gold

Deborah “Debbie” Blanton, director of the DeKalb County Courts Multi-Door Courthouse Dispute Resolution Center (ADR Center), spoke at the Family Law Section’s monthly breakfast in August. Ms. Blanton is a familiar face around the county. She has served in various capacities in both the public and the private sector, including DeKalb Juvenile Court and the Ninth District Alternative Dispute Resolution Office, since the mid-1980s. In 2003, she returned to the DeKalb County ADR Center and has served as the director since January 2008.

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Save These Dates in September

Several DeKalb Bar events are planned for September that give you a special reason to get up in the morning, an opportunity to wind down in the evening and take a break on a Friday afternoon. A Family Law Section breakfast meeting is Sept. 3, and a general membership breakfast meeting is Sept. 10. Later in the month on Sept. 24 is an after-work-hours celebration where new board members will be introduced and new DeKalb Bar initiatives will be announced. Sept. 25 brings an opportunity to be among the first to see a new portrait of Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein.

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THE SHADOW CURSOR: Statutory Electronic Service

“Come on. Do I look like the mother of the future? I mean, am I tough, organized? I can’t even balance my checkbook!”

– Sarah Connor, in The Terminator

New to civil practice this fall is statutory electronic service. The Civil Practice Act (CPA) now allows post-complaint pleadings and documents to be served by email to consenting parties or their attorneys. O.C.G.A. § 9-11-5.

But electronic service should not “terminate” good docket control.

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ASK THE BARRISTER: How on Earth Does One Prove a Hypothetical?

Dear Barrister:
I have a client, a grandmother, who has been denied access to her grandchildren by her daughter-in-law. The children’s father is serving time outside the state for tax evasion. The children have not seen him in seven years. During that time, until about six months ago, they were spending every other week with their grandmother. My client wants to file a petition for visitation. OCGA § 19-7-3 requires her to prove that the grandchildren would be harmed if the visitation is not granted (and that their best interests will be served by the visitation). How on earth does one prove a hypothetical?

Sincerely,
Dispirited in DeKalb

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The Practice Corner: Hanging Out Your Own Shingle

by Daniel DeWoskin
Trial Attorney
www.atlantatrial.com

Recently, I have been involved in countless conversations with colleagues about starting up new law practices and joining existing practices. The economy is perhaps the most significant reason for this topic coming up so much more now than in years past, but many attorneys are using what might normally be considered adverse changes to their career path as an incentive to achieve better, more satisfying employment.

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Prosecutor Jill Polster Serves on War Crimes Case at The Hague

Assistant District Attorney Jill Polster

Jill Polster

LONG VERSION: 985 words
NOTES: This article uses the first name rather than “Ms.”
Jill Polster Serves on War Crimes Case at The Hague
Assistant DA assists with prosecution of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
By . . . (needs a byline because it’s written from a personal point of view: “For people like me . . .” second paragraph)
The DeKalb County District Attorney can now boast of an attorney on staff with international prosecutorial experience. Jill Polster, an assistant district attorney, recently served a three-month appointment as a Visiting Professional in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands. The majority of her duties involved the prosecution of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, the former Vice President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Boasting aside, Jill’s experience at the ICC is remarkable.
For people like me, who know very little (okay, nothing) about the ICC, it is the world’s first permanent international court. Launched on July 1, 2002, and founded by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the ICC has jurisdiction over crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. According to the ICC website, 110 countries are presently state parties to the Rome Statute. The United States is not a state party because of sovereignty issues and its unique position as a world peacekeeper. The court would welcome the United States’ membership, and Jill states that, even short of becoming a state party, the international community would benefit if the United States could find a way to support the court while preserving its interests.
The ICC consists of four parts, termed Organs of the Court: the Presidency, the Judicial Divisions, the Office of the Prosecutor, and the Registry. The Presidency and the Registry attend to judicial and non-judicial administrative matters. The Judicial Divisions consist of 18 judges organized into three divisions: Pre-Trial, Trial, and Appeals. The Office of the Prosecutor investigates and prosecutes situations that are referred by a state party, are referred by the United Nations Security Council, or are authorized by the Pre-Trial Division. Since its inception, the ICC has opened investigations into four situations: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, and the Central African Republic.
Jill primarily worked on the situation in the Central African Republic in the case of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo. The prosecution against Bemba is at the pre-trial stage of proceedings. Bemba is alleged to be responsible, as military commander of rebel forces against the legitimate government of the Central African Republic, for murder, rape, and pillaging.
Assigned to work with Dr. Petra Kneuer, the senior trial Lawyer in charge of the prosecution team, Jill and three other lawyers researched and drafted the charges against Bemba. Dr. Kneuer is German, and the three other attorneys on the drafting team were Italian, Albanian, and English. Jill was the only native English speaker, which was of great value because court documents must be submitted in both English and French. Dr. Kneuer relied on Jill to review legal documents and correspondence. One of Jill’s most vital contributions was an in-depth analysis of the theory of command liability, which holds military leaders criminally responsible for atrocities committed by soldiers. The culmination of the team’s work is the 38-page Amended Document Containing the Charges, which is akin to an indictment. Jill authored the section on mens rea for command liability and also other, smaller sections. The three-judge panel denied the charges holding Bemba individually liable, but confirmed the charges based on the theory of command liability.
Jill also participated in monitoring and summarizing the daily events and legal issues of the trial against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo concerning the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Dyilo, the former leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots militia, was the first person to be arrested under a warrant issued by the court. He is charged with war crimes for allegedly enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years into the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) and using them to participate actively in hostilities. The Lubanga trial started right before Jill’s arrival, and is the first of the four situations to go to trial.
Jill recalls her first day of work at the court on Feb. 2, 2008, and her first thought was that the court is “HUGE.” Not only is the building massive, but the organization itself is much bigger than expected. In fact, the court has outgrown the building in which it is temporarily housed. Jill met a multitude of people from all parts of the globe – the Netherlands, Germany, France, Albania, Africa, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, and beyond. So it was a surprise to Jill to share an office with a civil attorney from the United States who was raised in Marietta, Georgia, and practices in Manhattan, New York.
Jill rented an apartment, which she found via the internet. For transportation, she relied on public buses, trams, and trains. She describes mastering public transit as one of the most satisfying achievements of her stay. Although Jill had to attend to mundane domesticities, made more annoying by the fact that her apartment had a washer but no dryer (remember, it was winter in a cold climate), she made the most of her time off, traveling to Amsterdam, France, Germany, London, and Belgium. Her friends and family also made the most of Jill’s time in the Netherlands, providing Jill with enough visitors from home to stave off any homesickness. Jill jokes that she deserves permanent membership privileges for the number of visitors that she took to the Anne Frank House.
Jill is proud of the work she accomplished during her months at court. She cherishes the friends she made during her time there, even now thinking of them daily. She misses the ease of Dutch public transportation. Jill says she will return to The Hague when the Bemba case goes to trial. But for now, she is glad to be back to the life she’d temporarily put on hold – and her boss, her husband, and all of us are glad to have her back.

The DeKalb County District Attorney can now boast of an attorney on staff with international prosecutorial experience. Jill Polster, an assistant district attorney, recently served a three-month appointment as a Visiting Professional in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands. The majority of her duties involved the prosecution of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, the former Vice President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Boasting aside, Jill’s experience at the ICC is remarkable.

For people like me, who know very little (okay, nothing) about the ICC, it is the world’s first permanent international court. Launched on July 1, 2002, and founded by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the ICC has jurisdiction over crimes of genocide, crimes

Read More
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