As I complete my term as president, one word comes to mind — gratitude. I am grateful to each and every one of you for the opportunity to serve as your GTLA president. I am grateful for our dedicated and hard-working executive committee, our tireless staff and our gifted legislative team. Most of all, I am grateful for the support that I have received in pursuing goals for this organization.
I am reminded of the words of Gen. George Washington upon his resignation from the military: “..I resign with satisfaction the Appointment I accepted with diffidence. A diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our Cause….”
Throughout my presidency, I was motivated by the rectitude of our own cause, the cause of civil justice, as I know you are too. Along the way, rather than being worn down by the rigors of the presidency, I have found that I have been inspired.
Frankly, I was inspired by being elected as your president in the first place. You elected a legal malpractice lawyer to lead you, proving once and for all that we are an organization based on principles of civil justice and that we believe those principles apply equally to everyone, even ourselves.
Ever since my election, I have continued to be inspired by our members inside and outside the courtroom. I have reveled in our members’ trial successes such as Lance Cooper’s diligent pursuit of justice against GM and his clients’ subsequent brave decision to rescind the settlement, the unprecedented verdict of Jim and Jeb Butler in the Walden v. Chrysler case and many, many more important verdicts too numerous to name here. I have been equally impressed with our members’ successes in the appellate courts including the GTLA Amicus brief penned by Lyle Warshauer, Laura Shamp and Lucy Atkinson, that led to the important, favorable ruling in the case of Gala v. Fisher, and the appeal by Natalie Woodward that expanded remedies for victims of online “abuse.”
I have also been inspired by our members’ activities outside the courtroom, particularly as I traveled throughout the state and had the privilege of getting to know lawyers from all parts. By the time this article is printed, the worldwide premiere of Cedartown lawyer Bill Lundy’s movie, A Larger Life, will have already taken place. I write this in advance, however, with complete confidence that it will be an important and memorable event for all GTLA members as we witness Bill’s innovative approach to taking the story of plaintiffs’ law to the people.
In the legislature, it has been an inspiring year as we continue to gain the support of legislators, one by one, as we help them to understand our mission and the importance of the civil justice system. I witnessed our entire legislative team, led by Bill Clark, fighting exhaustively to beat down every danger to the civil justice system. In addition to fighting back bad legislation, this legislative session culminated in the passage of legislation that, if signed by the Governor, will significantly expand the rights of victims of childhood sexual abuse. Your legislative team and I were all motivated by the stories of survivors and by the supporters of the legislation who put so much on the line to gain its passage.
Meanwhile, our efforts to reach out to all segments of the trial lawyer community to expand our membership succeeded beyond even our expectations as we watched our membership soar under Membership Director Brittany Gurley’s watch to a record level. Throughout the year, Communications Director Chris Kelleher performed a masterful job communicating with our members and providing the best organizational PR I have ever seen. His most notable achievement this year (although there are so many) was having Governor Deal declare April as Georgia Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Of course, at the helm of our staff and all of our efforts is the indefatigable Emily Wring, managing all the fires and still putting on fantastic, memorable events.
And then there was our finest hour. Our executive board set aside their politics and personal views to act solely and purely in the interest of civil justice by voting unanimously to sign an amicus brief in DeBoer v. Snyder, thereby making the statement that all people are entitled to bring wrongful death and loss of consortium claims. I could not be more proud of this, and all of GTLA’s accomplishments throughout the past year.
So it is with tremendous gratitude for all of this that I thank you all, knowing the inspiration you have given me will last my whole career long.