by M. Debra Gold
As the new Family Law Section of the DeKalb Bar continues to grow, Judge Mark A. Scott spoke before the largest turnout yet at the Sept. 3 breakfast meeting. Judge Scott sees himself as a nontraditional judge and notes that some of the other judges may better define the circuit and where it is going. Nonetheless, he felt honored and pleased to have the opportunity to address the group as he has been designated as the liaison between the DeKalb Bench and the DeKalb Bar Family Law Section.
In his characteristic manner, Judge Scott kept section members amused with his quips and stories. He noted that while he tries to find the humor in most things he finds it very sad to see litigants going through such hard things as divorce and child custody matters. When it comes to family law cases, Judge Scott focuses on doing what he believes is right for the children. He noted that he has a great deal of discretion in this area and he relies on the litigants and their advocates to present their cases in such a way as to ensure that he properly uses his discretion to serve the best interests of the children. Judge Scott encourages litigants to mediate. He often asks parties if they are certain they want him to resolve their issues because they know what is best for themselves and their children. He cautions the litigants that mediation is their best route as they really have no idea of how he may view their case.
Judge Scott said that he is still learning and growing and hopes to continue doing so. In this vein, he said that he is open to changes in his courtroom. For example, he noted that he was one of the first judges in DeKalb County to allow litigants to file for judgment on the pleadings in cases that have an agreement on all issues. He recognizes that it is his job to deliver justice and that this sometimes means that despite a backlog in cases, he wants to give each litigant his or her day in court. He noted that the balance is sometimes difficult as he needs to keep cases moving. Judge Scott keeps an open door policy and is interested in the Bar’s observations of how he runs his courtroom. He asks for honest feedback and suggestions on how he may improve his courtroom.
Judge Scott mentioned that he is aware of some talk from attorneys about starting a family law court in DeKalb County similar to the program that was set up in Fulton County. He said that the circuit is open to positive changes and that it is his intention to work productively with the Bar to see such changes take place. He noted, however, that change is an ongoing process and that the process begins with good dialogue between the Bench and the Bar. In the end, Judge Scott envisions that DeKalb County will serve as a model for other circuits in the state. He invites the Bar to be proactive and creative in working with the Bench to reach this goal.