Before election to the State Bar Board of Governors, during the 1990’s I went through a sequence of offices in the Tort & Insurance Practice Section — Secretary-Treasurer, Section Chair, and then a few years as Legislative Chair. When I became Section Chair in June 1994, I sat down at breakfast with a mix of plaintiff and defense lawyers to map a consensus legislative strategy. While I was by then in plaintiffs’ practice, some of the most respected insurance defense lawyers in the state were involved.
That month I appointed small ad hoc task forces co-chaired by defense and plaintiff attorneys and filled with both plaintiff and defense lawyers with practical experience on the issues they would address. Each had sixty days to report back with a bill drafted. By the end of the summer we had half a dozen legislative proposals and had found some allies. Our bills cleared the State Bar Advisory Committee on Legislation and the Board of Governors by October, and we lined up sponsors in the General Assembly. Along with other members of our team, I met with legislators and testified before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
Along the way, we did meet some opposition that slowed us down. And we added another one in a subsequent year. However, with perseverance we eventually saw several of our proposals enacted into law. Those include:
- O.C.G.A. § 33-24-56.1. Full compensation rule on reimbursement of first party insurance benefits out of injury settlements helps facilitate reasonable settlements of tort cases.
- O.C.G.A. § 9-11-30(b)(4). Amendment authorizes use of video depositions by notice, rather than old requirement of a court order or stipulation of counsel prior to video recording of depositions.
- O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(f)(3)(B)(iii) conforms to the federal rule and the Hague Convention, permitting international service of process by mail unless prohibited by the receiving country.
- O.C.G.A. § 9-10-93 provides for venue over resident and nonresident defendants in the county of the resident defendant. Previously it was necessary to have independent grounds of venue against resident and nonresident defendants, so that it was sometimes impossible to include both in the same action.
These statutes are clearly not of equal magnitude with the Civil Rights Act of 1965. However, they are illustrations of a process of developing consensus within the Bar on practical, nuts and bolts issues affecting the practice of law, and then patiently working through the steps to get them enacted into law.
Ken Shigley is a member of the State Bar of Georgia Executive Committee and currently a candidate for Secretary of the State Bar.