We were delighted that two former Georgia chief justices, Norman Fletcher and Leah Ward Sears, chose to recognize former Chief Justice Harold Clarke's leadership in creating the ADR system in Georgia's courts ("Former chief justice is remembered for raising the bar," Daily Report, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013). We write to tell your readers more about what Justice Fletcher called Justice Clarke's "legacy."
While we cannot claim to speak for the ADR [alternative dispute resolution] community in Georgia, we have presumed to do so regarding Justice Clarke's ADR legacy. We have done so because we have been eyewitnesses to and beneficiaries of his visionary support and decisive efforts to institutionalize ADR in our courts.
The Justice Center of Atlanta came into being in 1977 to test the viability of ADR, particularly mediation, as a less expensive, fair, efficient and speedier alternative to the litigation of disputes. As fate would have it, we worked there together in the late 1980sEdie as a staff member and Ansley as a mediator. Ansley also happened to be Justice Clarke's law assistant.
During their frequent lunchtime jogs through Oakland Cemetery, Ansley shared with Justice Clarke her growing enthusiasm for the mediations she conducted at the center, and his interest in ADR was piqued. He envisioned ADR as the key to reducing the crippling case loads in the courts while providing citizens with more productive processes to resolve their differences outside of litigation. He turned his keen mind and astute sense of practicality to exploring the potential use of ADR by Georgia courts. In 1990, he formed the Joint Commission on Dispute Resolution to do just that.
Armed with considerable powers of persuasion, Justice Clarke won over allies and converts in the legal community and the judiciary to the cause of ADR.
Key among those early flag bearers were Jack Watson, then a partner at the law firm of Long, Aldridge & Norman, who served as permanent chair of the Joint Commission, and Evans Plowden Jr., then president of the State Bar of Georgia, who served as co-chair of the Joint Commission. Jack and Evans helped turn Justice Clarke's ADR dream into reality in 1993 with the creation of the Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution. Jack served as permanent chair of the new Commission, and Evans served as co-chair. We know Justice Clarke was grateful for their leadership.
In the famous "Presidential Parkway Case" decision of June 23, 1989, Justice Clarke's words are prescient regarding his ADR legacy:
"I believe the [State of Georgia] Constitution points the courts in the direction of using mediation and other alternative dispute resolution procedures as tools within the judicial workshop available to repair the good order of society."
From his eloquent words as chief justice to his decisive actions in creating the Supreme Court's Commission on Dispute Resolution, Justice Clarke has provided access to quality ADR for Georgians who use the court system. Today, his system helps resolve tens of thousands of court cases each year without resort to trial. His vision has fundamentally changed the face of legal practice and legal education in our state.
All ADR professionals, judges, lawyers and citizens of Georgia owe him a huge debt of gratitude.
Edith B. Primm, Esq. Executive director, Justice Center of Atlanta Immediate past chair, Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution Ansley B. Barton, Esq. Founding director, Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution