Ocwen asks judge to throw out securities fraud lawsuit, By Dena Aubin


4/18/17 REUTERS LEGAL 20:51:34
REUTERS LEGAL
Copyright (c) 2017 Thomson Reuters
April 18, 2017
https://1.next.westlaw.com/Document/I7e567ed0247911e785d8d01a01423e7e/View/FullText.html?transitionType=CategoryPageItem&contextData=(sc.Default)

Ocwen asks judge to throw out securities fraud lawsuit
Dena Aubin
(Reuters) – Lawyers for mortgage servicer Ocwen Financial have asked a federal judge to toss a securities fraud lawsuit accusing it of misleading investors by hiding servicing misconduct and potential conflicts of interest in 2013 and 2014.
In a motion on Monday in a West Palm Beach federal court, Ocwen’s lawyers said they have produced over a million pages of documents in the long-running case and plaintiffs have still not been able to find evidence supporting their fraud claims. The lawyers asked for a judgment in Ocwen’s favor before trial.
Filed in 2014, the lawsuit accused Ocwen of artificially inflating the price of its shares by hiding the risk of regulatory action over its servicing practices.
Ocwen’s shares fell 27 percent in December 2014 when the company agreed to pay $150 million to resolve claims by New York’s Department of Financial Services of improper foreclosures and other servicing problems, the lawsuit said.
Based in West Palm Beach, Ocwen is one of the country’s largest mortgage servicers, with more than 1.5 million customers, according to its website.
The lawsuit seeks damages for investors who bought Ocwen’s stock between May 2013 and December 2014.
Plaintiffs’ lawyer David Kessler declined to comment. Lawyers for Ocwen could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to the complaint, Ocwen falsely assured investors that it was complying with the government’s mortgage servicing guidelines and that its compliance set it apart from peers.
Specifically, Ocwen stated at a December 2013 investor presentation that it complied with the 2012 national mortgage settlement, an agreement between the U.S. government and five major banks accused of mortgage servicing abuses. Ocwen was not part of that settlement but had to abide by it after it acquired mortgages from the participating banks.
In reality, Ocwen’s servicing system was not able to accommodate the huge numbers of mortgages it acquired while complying with the settlement’s servicing requirements, the investors’ complaint said.
Ocwen also assured investors it had procedures in place to prevent conflicts of interest involving its then-chairman William Erbey, according to the complaint.
While serving as Ocwen’s chairman, Erbey also was a major shareholder in four mortgage-related businesses that he created and spun off from Ocwen, the lawsuit said. Ocwen failed to assure that Erbey recused himself from any transactions between Ocwen and Erbey’s related companies, the investors alleged.
In Monday’s motion, lawyers for Ocwen said the company’s statements that it complied with the settlement were true when they were made. Plaintiffs had cited potential violations found by the settlement’s monitor in December 2014, but that was one year after Ocwen made the compliance statement, the lawyers said.
Ocwen’s statements that it had practices in place to avoid conflicts of interest with Erbey’s related companies also were true, the lawyers said. Erbey recused himself on numerous occasions from transactions with related parties and those transactions were also reviewed by Ocwen’s board to ensure they were in the company’s best interest, the lawyers said.
The case is In re Ocwen Financial Corporation Securities Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, No. 14-81057.
For the plaintiffs: David Kessler, Lee Rudy and Sharan Nirmul at Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check and Joshua Katz at Sallah Astarita & Cox
For the defendant: Jeffrey Hirsch at Greenberg Traurig and John Coffey at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel
—- Index References —-
Company: GREENBERG TRAURIG LLP; KRAMER LEVIN NAFTALIS AND FRANKEL LLP
News Subject: (Crime (1CR87); Financial Fraud (1FI18); Fraud (1FR30); Funding Instruments (1FU41); Securities Law (1SE59); Social Issues (1SO05))
Industry: (Banking (1BA20); Consumer Finance (1CO55); Financial Services (1FI37); Investment Management (1IN34); Mortgage Banking (1MO85); Retail Banking Services (1RE38); Securities Investment (1SE57))
Region: (Americas (1AM92); Florida (1FL79); North America (1NO39); U.S. Southeast Region (1SO88); USA (1US73))
Language: EN

Documents from German police indicate that nearly 2,000 men, including many Syrian and Iraqi refugees, sexually assaulted 1,200 German women New Years Eve 2015

Brittius posted this article before I did, you can see his:
https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/55750485/posts/1364662082
DailyCaller
Daily Caller News Foundation
WORLD

Eight Iraqi Refugees Convicted Of Gang-Raping German Tourist
Photo of Saagar Enjeti
SAAGAR ENJETI
Reporter
2:46 PM 03/02/2017
24481356
An Austrian court convicted eight Iraqi refugees Thursday of participating in a gang rape of a German tourist New Years Eve in 2015, the Associated Press reports.

All of the men entered Austria during the 2015 refugee wave, and five of the men were granted asylum by the Austrian government. The 25-year-old female German tourist was extremely intoxicated during the incident, and the defense claimed she might have sent “false signals” to her attackers.

The assault was not the only one committed by refugees that night. Sexual assaults were reported in other German cities as well. Documents from German police indicate that nearly 2,000 men, including many Syrian and Iraqi refugees, sexually assaulted 1,200 German women New Years Eve 2015.

Berlin’s biggest pool was even forced to hire burly security guards to deter Muslim refugees from touching women. German civil society organizations also created councils to teach refugees Western norms at pools — chief among these norms is not touching women.

In some cases, German girls have taken to wearing temporary tattoos at public pools that say “no” to stop unwanted sexual attention. A leaked German police report from July reveals that “sexual offences are recording a huge increase.”

“In particular, offenses of rape and sexual abuse of children in bathing establishments is significant,” according to the report. The police identify the offenders as “for the most part immigrants.”

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2017/03/02/eight-iraqi-refugees-convicted-of-gang-raping-german-tourist/#ixzz4aWOXFHdr

OPINION: The heightened pleading standard established in 2009 is based on faulty propositions. Arthur H. Bryant, The National Law Journal


National Law Journal
http://www.nationallawjournal.com/printerfriendly/id=1202758245088

‘Iqbal’ Brings Seven Years of Bad Luck for Plaintiffs

OPINION: The heightened pleading standard established in 2009 is based on faulty propositions.
Arthur H. Bryant, The National Law Journal
May 23, 2016

The seventh anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal was May 18. It’s a date that should live in infamy.
A 5-4 decision, Iqbal ignored reality — and the fact that truth is stranger than fiction. It flouted the process for amending the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. And it particularly limited access to justice for civil rights, employment discrimination and individual plaintiffs.
Seventy years before Iqbal, in 1938, the Federal Rules were adopted to get rid of “fact” pleading, which the rule-makers thought “led to wasteful disputes about distinctions that … were arbitrary or metaphysical, too often cutting off adjudication on the merits.” Under the new Rule 8, to start a lawsuit, the plaintiff had to file a complaint with “a short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief.”
As the court later explained in Conley v. Gibson, the complaint did not have to “set out the facts in detail.” It just had to give the defendant “fair notice of what the plaintiff’s claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” A motion to dismiss would only be granted if “it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Then, the plaintiff could take discovery, to find out what the defendant and other relevant people knew and when they knew it. After that, the court would determine whether there was sufficient proof to require a trial.
In Iqbal, the court rejected a complaint alleging that high-level U.S. officials had a Pakistani Muslim and thousands of other Arab men illegally arrested and detained after the 9/11 attacks because of “their race, religion, and national origin … and not because of any evidence” of their “involvement in supporting terrorist activity.”
To do so, the court changed the rules. It held that, from now on, to “survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Dismissal no longer turned on whether the complaint provided “fair notice” to the defendant; it turned on whether the claim was “plausible on its face.” How were judges to determine that? By drawing on their “judicial experience and common sense.”
Motions to dismiss were immediately filed throughout the federal courts. Judges’ and lawyers’ workloads increased enormously. The lower courts and lawyers are still struggling to figure out how the new system is supposed to work — and, if they can, make it fair.
For three reasons, however, it’s become increasingly clear that Iqbal was a mistake.
First, whatever one thinks about the allegations in the case, the Iqbal pleading standard is based on a proposition — allegations probably aren’t true if they’re not plausible on their face — that is false. Reality keeps teaching us that. None of us, including federal judges using their “judicial experience and common sense,” would have believed that any of the following was plausible a few years ago:
• Donald Trump would be the presumptive Republican Party nominee for president of the United States of America.
• A prominent candidate for president would propose banning all Muslims from entering America or call women “fat pigs,” “dogs” and “disgusting animals.”
• Same-sex marriage would be legal nationwide.
• The U.S. government would obtain and be able to search virtually all Ameri­cans’ phone records.
• Olympic champion Bruce Jenner would become a woman, Caitlyn Jenner.
• Federal, state and local governments would battle over what kind of bathroom people such as Caitlyn Jenner could use.
Similar implausible things happen every day.
Second, Iqbal effectively rewrote the Federal Rules without following the legally established rules for amending them. Under the Rules Enabling Act, before rules are changed, detailed procedures must be followed involving the Advisory Committees to the U.S. Judicial Con­ference’s Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure; the Standing Committee itself; notice to and comment from lawyers, judges and the public; the U.S. Judicial Conference; the Supreme Court; and Congress — so the changes are fully considered and fair.
In 2002, the court unanimously rejected a company’s plea for a heightened pleading standard in employment discrimination cases, saying that result “must be obtained by the process of amending the Federal Rules, and not judicial interpretation.” It should have said that in Iqbal, too.
Third, Iqbal is especially harmful to civil rights, employment discrimination and individual plaintiffs. Last year, the most comprehensive study of Iqbal’s effects, “Measuring the Impact of Plausi­bility Pleading,” was published in the Virginia Law Review. It found that Iqbal increased dismissals of most cases by 10 percent, but employment discrimination and civil rights cases much more (16 percent and 19 percent, respectively). Cases filed by individuals were also dismissed far more often (18 percent), but not cases filed by corporations.
In theory, this could mean that only bad cases were dismissed more promptly. But, if that were true, a higher percentage of the cases remaining in court would succeed. They didn’t. These plaintiffs were just disproportionately denied a chance to prove their claims.
The high court should reverse the Iqbal decision. Whether cases proceed should turn on the facts and the law, not on whether judges think the allegations are plausible.
Arthur H. Bryant is the chairman of Public Justice, a national public interest law firm dedicated to advancing and preserving access to justice. His practice focuses on consumers’ rights, workers’ rights, civil rights, environmental protection, and corporate and government accountability.

Judge Says FBI’s Hacking Tool Deployed In Child Porn Investigation Is An Illegal Search

Judge Says FBI’s Hacking Tool Deployed In Child Porn Investigation Is An Illegal Search

http://abovethelaw.com/2016/04/judge-says-fbis-hacking-tool-deployed-in-child-porn-investigation-is-an-illegal-search/

The judicial system doesn’t seem to have a problem with the FBI acting as admins for child porn sites while conducting investigations. After all, judges have seen worse. They’ve OK’ed the FBI’s hiring of a “heroin-addicted prostitute” to seduce an investigation target into selling drugs to undercover agents. Judges have, for the most part, allowed the ATF to bust people for robbing fake drug houses containing zero drugs — even when the actual robbery has never taken place. Judges have also found nothing wrong with law enforcement creating its own “pedophilic organization,” recruiting members and encouraging them to create child pornography.
So, when the FBI ran a child porn site for two weeks last year, its position as a child porn middleman was never considered to be a problem. The “network investigative technique” (NIT) it used to obtain identifying information about anonymous site visitors and their computer hardware, however, has resulted in a few problems for the agency.
While the FBI has been able to fend off one defendant’s attempt to suppress evidence out in Washington, it has just seen its evidence disappear in another case related to its NIT and the “PlayPen” child porn site it seized (and ran) last year.
What troubles the court isn’t the FBI acting as a child porn conduit in exchange for unmasking Tor users. What bothers the court is the reach of its NIT, which extends far outside the jurisdiction of the magistrate judge who granted the FBI’s search warrants. This decision benefits defendant Alex Levin of Massachusetts directly. But it could also pay off for Jay Michaud in Washington.
The warrants were issued in Virginia, which is where the seized server resided during the FBI’s spyware-based investigation. Levin, like Michaud, does not reside in the district where the warrant was issued (Virginia – Eastern District) and where the search was supposed to be undertaken. As Judge William Young explains, the FBI’s failure to restrict itself to the location where the NIT warrants were issued makes them worthless pieces of paper outside of that district. (via Chris Soghoian)

The government argues for a liberal construction of Rule 41(b) that would authorize the type of search that occurred here pursuant to the NIT Warrant. See Gov’t’s Resp. 18-20. Specifically, it argues that subsections (1), (2), and (4) of Rule 41(b) are each sufficient to support the magistrate judge’s issuance of the NIT Warrant. Id. This Court is unpersuaded by the government’s arguments. Because the NIT Warrant purported to authorize a search of property located outside the Eastern District of Virginia, and because none of the exceptions to the general territorial limitation of Rule 41(b)(1) applies, the Court holds that the magistrate judge lacked authority under Rule 41(b) to issue the NIT Warrant.

The government deployed some spectacular theories in its effort to salvage these warrants, but the court is having none of it.

The government advances two distinct lines of argument as to why Rule 41(b)(1) authorizes the NIT Warrant. One is that all of the property that was searched pursuant to the NIT Warrant was actually located within the Eastern District of Virginia, where the magistrate judge sat: since Levin — as a user of Website A — “retrieved the NIT from a server in the Eastern District of Virginia, and the NIT sent [Levin’s] network information back to a server in that district,” the government argues the search it conducted pursuant to the NIT Warrant properly can be understood as occurring within the Eastern District of Virginia. Gov’t’s Resp. 20. This is nothing but a strained, after-the-fact rationalization.

As the government attempts to portray it, the search was wholly contained in Virginia because the NIT was distributed by the seized server in the FBI’s control. But, as the judge notes, the searchitself — via the NIT — did not occur in Virginia. The NIT may have originated there, but without grabbing info and data from Levin’s computer in Massachusetts, the FBI would have nothing to use against the defendant.

That the Website A server is located in the Eastern District of Virginia is, for purposes of Rule 41(b)(1), immaterial, since it is not the server itself from which the relevant information was sought.

And, according to Judge Young, that’s exactly what the FBI has now: nothing.

The Court concludes that the violation at issue here is distinct from the technical Rule 41 violations that have been deemed insufficient to warrant suppression in past cases, and, in any event, Levin was prejudiced by the violation. Moreover, the Court holds that the good-faith exception is inapplicable because the warrant at issue here was void ab initio.

The judge has more to say about the FBI’s last ditch attempt to have the “good faith exception” salvage its invalid searches.

Even were the Court to hold that the good-faith exception could apply to circumstances involving a search pursuant to a warrant issued without jurisdiction, it would decline to rule such exception applicable here. For one, it was not objectively reasonable for law enforcement — particularly “a veteran FBI agent with 19 years of federal law enforcement experience[,]” Gov’t’s Resp. 7-8 — to believe that the NIT Warrant was properly issued considering the plain mandate of Rule 41(b).

The court doesn’t have a problem with NITs or the FBI’s decision to spend two weeks operating a seized child porn server. But it does have a problem with the government getting warrants signed in one jurisdiction and using them everywhere but.
The decision here could call into question other such warrants used extraterritorially, like the DEA’s dozens of wiretap warrants obtained in California but used to eavesdrop on targets located on the other side of the country. And it may help Jay Michaud in his case, seeing as he resides a few thousand miles away from where the search was supposedly performed.

Judicial Corruption at its Finest

Reprimanded judge says presiding over his own divorce case for several months ‘made no difference’


Reprimanded last month for presiding over his own divorce case for four months after it was randomly assigned to his own court, a Texas judge told a local newspaper that doing so did no harm.

“This was my personal divorce,” said 383rd District Judge Mike Herrera to the El Paso Times on Tuesday, explaining that there was “no rush” to transfer the case to another judge because he and his wife were trying at the time to work things out.

Hence, “the fact that it was in this court made no difference. It stayed there,” Herrera said of the divorce case. “I wasn’t actively doing anything. Me and my former spouse were working on everything. She and I were working on everything carefully.”

The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct noted that Herrera had filed motions in the case while it was in his own court. The commission said that the judge “failed to comply with the law, demonstrated a lack of professional competence in the law, and engaged in willful and persistent conduct that was clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of his judicial duties,” the newspaper reports.

In addition to reprimanding Herrera, the commission ordered him to get six hours of training.

Scott Bernstein’s “The Clinton Body Bag Count”


The Clinton Body Bag Count
Jan 29, 2016

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/clinton-body-bag-count-scott-bernstein

Those too young to remember, a reminder of the Clinton history and the list of strange deaths of people close to Bill and Hillary. The country does not need to start on this road again with the election of Hillary.

What an amazing list of mere coincidences…..Purely coincidental? THE CLINTON BODY BAGS.

Food for Thought… Just a quick refresher course lest we forget what has happened to many “friends” of the Clintons.

1- James McDougal – Clintons convicted Whitewater partner died of an apparent heart attack, while in solitary confinement. He was a key witness in Ken Starr’s investigation.

2 – Mary Mahoney – A former White House intern was murdered July 1997 at a Starbucks Coffee Shop in Georgetown. The murder happened just after she was to go public with her story of sexual harassment in the White House.

3 – Vince Foster – Former White House councilor, and colleague of Hillary Clinton at Little Rock’s Rose Law firm. Died of a gunshot wound to the head, ruled a suicide.

4 – Ron Brown – Secretary of Commerce and former DNC Chairman. Reported to have died by impact in a plane crash. A pathologist close to the investigation reported that there was a hole in the top of Brown’s skull resembling a gunshot wound. At the time of his death Brown was being investigated, and spoke publicly of his willingness to cut a deal with prosecutors. The rest of the people on the plane also died. A few days later the air Traffic controller commited suicide.

5 – C. Victor Raiser, II – Raiser, a major player in the Clinton fund raising organization died in a private plane crash in July 1992.

6 – Paul Tulley – Democratic National Committee Political Director found dead in a hotel room in Little Rock, September 1992. Described by Clinton as a “dear friend and trusted advisor”.

7 – Ed Willey – Clinton fundraiser, found dead November 1993 deep in the woods in VA of a gunshot wound to the head. Ruled a suicide. Ed Willey died on the same day his wife Kathleen Willey claimed Bill Clinton groped her in the oval office in the White House. Ed Willey was involved in several Clinton fund raising events.

8 – Jerry Parks – Head of Clinton’s gubernatorial security team in Little Rock. Gunned down in his car at a deserted intersection outside Little Rock. Park’s son said his father was building a dossier on Clinton. He allegedly threatened to reveal this information. After he died the files were mysteriously removed from his house.

9 – James Bunch – Died from a gunshot suicide. It was reported that he had a “Black Book” of people which contained names of influential people who visited prostitutes in Texas and Arkansas.

10 – James Wilson – Was found dead in May 1993 from an apparent hanging suicide. He was reported to have ties to Whitewater.

11 – Kathy Ferguson – Ex-wife of Arkansas Trooper Danny Ferguson, was found dead in May 1994, in her living room with a gunshot to her head. It was ruled a suicide even though there were several packed suitcases, as if she were going somewhere. Danny Ferguson was a co-defendant along with Bill Clinton in the Paula Jones lawsuit Kathy Ferguson was a possible corroborating witness for Paula Jones.

12 – Bill Shelton – Arkansas State Trooper and fiancee of Kathy Ferguson. Critical of the suicide ruling of his fiancee, he was found dead in June, 1994 of a gunshot wound also ruled a suicide at the grave site of his fiancee.

13 – Gandy Baugh – Attorney for Clinton’s friend Dan Lassater, died by jumping out a window of a tall building January, 1994. His client was a convicted drug distributor.

14 – Florence Martin – Accountant & sub-contractor for the CIA, was related to the Barry Seal, Mena, Arkansas, airport drug smuggling case. He died of three gunshot wounds.

15 – Suzanne Coleman – Reportedly had an affair with Clinton when he was Arkansas Attorney General. Died of a gunshot wound to the back of the head, ruled a suicide. Was pregnant at the time of her death.

16 – Paula Grober – Clinton’s speech interpreter for the deaf from 1978 until her death December 9, 1992. She died in a one car accident.

17 – Danny Casolaro -Investigative reporter. Investigating Mena Airport and Arkansas Development Finance Authority. He slit his wrists, apparently, in the middle of his investigation.

18 – Paul Wilcher – Attorney investigating corruption at Mena Airport with Casolaro and the 1980 “October Surprise” was found dead on a toilet June 22, 1993, in his Washington DC apartment. Had delivered a report to Janet Reno 3 weeks before his death.

19 – Jon Parnell Walker – Whitewater investigator for Resolution Trust Corp. Jumped to his death from his Arlington, Virginia apartment balcony August 15, 1993. He was investigating the Morgan Guaranty scandal.

20 – Barbara Wise – Commerce Department staffer. Worked closely with Ron Brown and John Huang. Cause of death unknown. Died November 29, 1996. Her bruised, nude body was found locked in her office at the Department of Commerce.

21 – Charles Meissner – Assistant Secretary of Commerce who gave John Huang special security clearance, died shortly thereafter in a small plane crash.

22 – Dr. Stanley Heard – Chairman of the National Chiropractic Health Care Advisory Committee died with his attorney Steve Dickson in a small plane crash. Dr. Heard, in addition to serving on Clinton’s advisory council personally treated Clinton’s mother, stepfather and brother.

23 – Barry Seal – Drug running TWA pilot out of Mena Arkansas, death was no accident.

24 – Johnny Lawhorn, Jr. – Mechanic, found a check made out to Bill Clinton in the trunk of a car left at his repair shop. He was found dead after his car had hit a utility pole.

25 – Stanley Huggins – Investigated Madison Guaranty. His death was a purported suicide and his report was never released.

26 – Hershell Friday – Attorney and Clinton fundraiser died March 1, 1994, when his plane exploded.

27 – Kevin Ives & Don Henry – Known as “The boys on the track” case. Reports say the boys may have stumbled upon the Mena Arkansas airport drug operation. A controversial case, the initial report of death said, due to falling asleep on railroad tracks. Later reports claim the 2 boys had been slain before being placed on the tracks. Many linked to the case died before their testimony could come before a Grand Jury. THE FOLLOWING PERSONS HAD INFORMATION ON THE IVES/HENRY CASE:

28 – Keith Coney – Died when his motorcycle slammed into the back of a truck, July, 1988.

29 – Keith McMaskle – Died, stabbed 113 times, Nov, 1988

30 – Gregory Collins – Died from a gunshot wound Jan, 1989.

31 – Jeff Rhodes – He was shot, mutilated and found burned in a trash dump in April 1989.

32 – James Milan – Found decapitated. However, the Coroner ruled his death was due to natural causes”.

33 – Jordan Kettleson – Was found shot to death in the front seat of his pickup truck in June 1990.

34 – Richard Winters – A suspect in the Ives/Henry deaths. He was killed in a set-up robbery July 1989.

THE FOLLOWING CLINTON BODYGUARDS ARE DEAD

36 – Major William S. Barkley, Jr.

37 – Captain Scott J . Reynolds

38 – Sgt. Brian Hanley

39 – Sgt. Tim Sabel

40 – Major General William Robertson

41 – Col. William Densberger

42 – Col. Robert Kelly

43 – Spec. Gary Rhodes

44 – Steve Willis

45 – Robert Williams

46 – Conway LeBleu

47 – Todd McKeehan

Quite an impressive list! Pass this on. Let the public become aware of what happens to friends of the Clintons! It’s a dangerous affiliation.

2016 STATE OF THE JUDICIARY ADDRESS THE HONORABLE CHIEF JUSTICE HUGH P. THOMPSON SUPREME COURT OF GEORGIA January 27, 2016, 11 a.m. House Chambers, State Capitol

016 STATE OF THE JUDICIARY ADDRESS
THE HONORABLE CHIEF JUSTICE HUGH P. THOMPSON
SUPREME COURT OF GEORGIA
January 27, 2016, 11 a.m.
House Chambers, State Capitol

Lt. Governor Cagle, Speaker Ralston, President Pro Tem Shafer, Speaker Pro Tem Jones, members of the General Assembly, my fellow judges and my fellow Georgians:
Good morning. Thank you for this annual tradition of inviting the Chief Justice to report on the State of Georgia’s Judiciary. Thanks in large part to your support and the support of our governor, as we move into 2016, I am pleased to tell you that your judicial branch of government is not only steady and secure, it is dynamic; it has momentum; and it is moving forward into the 21st century with a vitality and a commitment to meeting the inevitable changes before us.
Our mission remains the same: To protect individual rights and liberties, to uphold and interpret the rule of law, and to provide a forum for the peaceful resolution of disputes that is fair, impartial, and accessible to all.
Our judges are committed to these principles. Each day, throughout this state, they put on their black robes; they take their seat on the courtroom bench; and they work tirelessly to ensure that all citizens who come before them get justice.


Our Judicial Council is the policy-making body of the state’s judicial branch. It is made up of competent, committed leaders elected by their fellow judges and representing all classes of court. They are assisted by an Administrative Office of the Courts, which is under a new director – Cynthia Clanton – and has a renewed focus as an agency that serves judges and courts throughout Georgia.
A number of our judges have made the trip to be here today. Our judges are here today because the relationship we have with you is important. We share with you the same goal of serving the citizens of this great state. We could not do our work without your help and that of our governor.
On behalf of all of the judges, let me say we are extremely grateful to you members of the General Assembly for your judicial compensation appropriation last year.


Today I want to talk to you about Georgia’s 21st century courts – our vision for the future, the road we must travel to get there, and the accomplishments we have already achieved.
It has been said that, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
Since a new state Constitution took effect in 1983, our population has nearly doubled to a little over 10 million, making us the 8th most populous state in the country. We are among the fastest growing states in the nation, and in less than four years, our population is projected to exceed 12 million.
Because it is good for our economy, we welcome that growth. Today, Georgia ranks
among states with the highest number of Fortune 500 companies, 20 of which have their global headquarters here; we have 72 four-year colleges and universities; we have the world’s busiest airport and we have two deep-water ports. Georgia is a gateway to the South, and for a growing number of people and businesses from around the world, it is a gateway to this country.
All of this growth produces litigation – increasingly complex litigation – and just as our state must prepare for this growth by ensuring we have enough roads and modes of transportation, enough doctors and hospitals, and enough power to reach people throughout the state, our courts also must be equipped and modernized for the 21st
century.
While our population has nearly doubled since 1983, the number of Georgia judges has
grown only 16 percent. We must work together to ensure that our judicial system has enough judges, staff and resources in the 21st century to fulfill the mission and constitutional duties our forefathers assigned to us.
A healthy, vibrant judiciary is absolutely critical to the economic development of our state. Thanks to many leaders in the judiciary, as well as to our partnership with the governor and to you in the legislature, we are well on our way to building a court system for the 21st century.


This time next year, with your support, we will have put into place an historic shift in the types of cases handled by the Georgia Supreme Court – the highest court in the state – and by the Court of Appeals – our intermediate appellate court. Thanks to Governor Deal’s Georgia Appellate Jurisdiction Review Commission, this realignment will bring the Supreme Court of Georgia in line with other state Supreme Courts, which handle only the most critical cases that potentially change the law. Serving on the Commission are two of my colleagues – Justice David Nahmias and Justice Keith Blackwell – as well as two judges from the Court of Appeals – Chief
Judge Sara Doyle and Judge Stephen Dillard.
I thank you, Justices and Judges, for your leadership.
Under the Georgia Constitution, Supreme Court justices collectively decide every case that comes before us. Currently the state’s highest court hears divorce and alimony cases; we hear cases involving wills; we hear cases involving titles to land; and we hear disputes over boundary lines.
But the Governor’s Commission, and a number of reports by other commissions and
committees issued since 1983, have recommended that such cases should be heard by our intermediate appeals court, not by our highest court.
Both of our courts are among the busiest in the nation. But unlike the Supreme Court, which sits as a full court with all seven justices participating in, and deciding, every case, the Court of Appeals sits in panels of three. With your approval last year of three new Court of Appeals judges, that court will now have five panels, so it will have the capacity to consider five times as many cases as the Supreme Court.
Modernization of the Supreme Court makes sense. In a 19th century court system, when
most of the wealth was tied up in land, maybe title to land cases were the most important. Maybe they had the greatest implications for the public at large. But as we move into the 21st century, that is no longer true.
In answer to questions such as who owns a strip of land, what does a will mean, and who should prevail in a divorce settlement or an alimony dispute, most judicial systems believe that three judges are enough to provide the parties with a full and fair consideration of their appeal. It no longer makes sense to have seven – or nine – justices collectively review these types of cases.
There is no doubt these cases will be in good hands with the Court of Appeals.
Let me emphasize that all these cases the Commission recommended shifting to the Court of Appeals are critically important to the parties involved.
Let me also emphasize that the purpose of this historic change is not to lessen the burden on the Supreme Court. Rather, the intent is to free up the state’s highest court to devote more time and energy to the most complex and the most difficult cases that have the greatest implications for the law and society at large.
We will therefore retain jurisdiction of constitutional challenges to the laws you enact, questions from the federal courts seeking authoritative rulings on Georgia law, election contests, murder and death penalty cases, and cases in which the Court of Appeals judges are equally divided.
Significantly, we want to be able to accept more of what we call “certiorari” cases
which are appeals of decisions by the Court of Appeals. The number of petitions filed in this category during the first quarter of the new docket year is nearly 14 percent higher this year over last. Yet due to the amount of appeals the law now requires us to take, we have had to reject the majority of the petitions for certiorari that we receive.
These cases are often the most complex – and the most consequential. They involve
issues of great importance to the legal system and the State as a whole. Or they involve an area of law that has become inconsistent and needs clarification.
Businesses and citizens need to know what the law allows them to do and what it does
not allow them to do. It is our job at the highest court to reduce any uncertainty and bring consistency and clarity to the law.
Under the Commission’s recommendations, our 21st century Georgia Supreme Court will
be able to accept more of these important appeals.


As we move into the 21st century, plans are being discussed to build the first state Judicial Building in Georgia’s history that will be dedicated solely to the judiciary. We are grateful for the Governor’s leadership on this. The building that now houses the state’s highest court and the Court of Appeals was built in 1954 when Herman Tallmadge was governor. Back then, it made sense to combine the state judicial branch with part of the executive branch, by locating the Law Department in the same building.
But the world has changed since 1954, and the building we now occupy was not designed with visitors in mind. It was not designed with technology in mind. And it surely was not designed with security in mind. Indeed, it was designed to interconnect with neighboring buildings that housed other branches of government.
A proper Judicial Building is about more than bricks and mortar. Outside, this building will symbolize for generations to come the place where people will go to get final resolution of civil wrongs and injustices; where the government will go to safeguard its prosecution of criminals; and where defendants will go to appeal convictions and sentences to prison for life.
Inside such a building, the courtroom will reinforce the reality that what goes on here is serious and solemn; it is a place of great purpose, in the words of a federal judge. The parties and the lawyers will understand they are all on equal footing, because they are equal under the law.
There is a majesty about the law that gets played out in the courtroom. It is a hallowed place because it is where the truth must be told and where justice is born. The courtroom represents our democracy at its very best.
No, this building is not just about bricks and mortar. Rather it is a place that will house Georgia’s highest court where fairness, impartiality, and justice will reign for future generations.


We are no longer living in a 1950s Georgia. The courts of the 21st century must be
equipped to handle an increasingly diverse population. Living today in metropolitan Atlanta alone are more than 700,000 people who were born outside the United States. According to the Chamber of Commerce, today some 70 countries have a presence in Atlanta, in the form of a consulate or trade office. We must be ready to help resolve the disputes of international businesses that are increasingly locating in our state and capital. Our 21st century courts must be open, transparent and accessible to all. Our citizens’ confidence in their judicial system depends on it. We must be armed with qualified, certified interpreters, promote arbitration as an alternative to costly, courtroom-bound litigation, ensure that all those who cannot afford lawyers have an avenue toward justice, and be constantly updating technology with the aim of improving our courts’ efficiency while saving literally millions of dollars. For all of this, we need your help.


When I first became a judge, we had no email, no cell phones, no Internet. People didn’t Twitter or text, or post things on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram. The most modern equipment we had was a mimeograph machine.
This past year, by Supreme Court order, we created for the first time a governance
structure to bring our use of technology into the 21st century. Chaired by my colleague Justice Harold Melton, and co-chaired by Douglas County Superior Court Judge David Emerson, this permanent Judicial Council Standing Committee on Technology will lead the judicial branch by providing guidance and oversight of its technology initiatives.
Our courts on their own are rapidly moving away from paper documents into the digital age. At the Supreme Court, lawyers must now electronically file all cases. This past year, we successfully launched the next phase by working with trial courts to begin transmitting their entire court record to us electronically. The Court of Appeals also now requires the e-filing of applications to appeal, and this year, will join the Supreme Court in accepting electronic trial records.

Our goal is to develop a uniform statewide electronic filing and retrieval system so that lawyers and others throughout the judiciary can file and access data the easiest way possible.
Using a single portal, attorneys will be able to file documents with trial courts and appellate courts – and retrieve them from any court in the state. This is the system advocated by our partner, President Bob Kaufman of the State Bar of Georgia, and by attorneys throughout the state.
Such a system will not only make our courts more efficient at huge savings, but it will make Georgia safer. When our trial judges conduct bond hearings, for example, they often lack critical information about the person before them. They usually have reports about any former convictions, but they may not have information about cases pending against the defendant in other courts. The technology exists now to ensure that they do.
Also on the horizon is the expanded use of videoconferencing – another electronic
improvement that will save money and protect citizens’ lives. After a conviction and sentence to prison, post-trial hearings require courts to send security teams to pick up the prisoner and bring him to court. Without encroaching on the constitutional right of confrontation, we could videoconference the inmate’s testimony from his prison cell. Again, the technology already exists.
Our Committee on Technology will be at the forefront of guiding our courts into the 21st century.


As Georgia grows, it grows more diverse.
Our Georgia courts are required by the federal government to provide language services free of charge to litigants and witnesses, not only in criminal cases but in civil cases as well.
Even for fluent English speakers, the judicial system can be confusing and unwelcoming.
My vision for Georgia’s judiciary in the 21st century is that every court, in every city and every county in Georgia, will have the capacity of serving all litigants, speaking any language, regardless of national origin, from the moment they enter the courthouse until the moment they leave. That means that on court websites, signs and forms will be available in multiple languages, that all court staff will have the tools they need to assist any customers, and that court proceedings will have instant access to the interpreters of the languages they need.
Chief Magistrate Kristina Blum of the Gwinnett County Magistrate Court has been
working hard to ensure access to justice for all those who come to her court, most of whom are representing themselves.
Recently her court created brochures that provide guidance for civil trials, family
violence matters, warrant applications, garnishments, and landlord-tenant disputes. These brochures provide basic information about each proceeding – what to expect and how best to present their case in court.
Judge Blum, who is in line to be president of the Council of Magistrate Judges and is a member of our Judicial Council, has had the brochures translated into Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese. Such non-legalese forms and tutorial videos that our citizens can understand go a long way toward building trust in the judicial system, and in our entire government.
The Supreme Court Commission on Interpreters, chaired by Justice Keith Blackwell, is
making significant strides in ensuring that our courts uphold the standards of due process. With the help of Commission member Jana Edmondson-Cooper, an energetic attorney with the Georgia Legal Services Program, the Commission is working around the state to educate judges,court administrators and lawyers on the judiciary’s responsibilities in providing language assistance.
The essence of due process is the opportunity to be heard. Our justice system is the envy of other countries because it is open and fair to everyone seeking justice. By helping those who have not yet mastered English, we reinforce the message that the doors to the best justice system in the world are open to everyone.
Our law demands it. Our Constitution demands it.


The courts of the 21st century will symbolize a new era. A turning point in our history occurred when we realized there was a smarter way to handle criminals.
Six years ago, my colleague and then Chief Justice Carol Hunstein accompanied
Representative Wendell Willard to Alabama to explore how that state was reforming its criminal justice system. Back in Georgia, Governor Deal seized the reins, brought together the three branches of government, and through extraordinary leadership, has made criminal justice reform a reality. Georgia is now a model for the nation.
Today, following an explosive growth in our prison population that doubled between
1990 and 2011 and caused corrections costs to top one billion dollars a year, last year our prison population was the lowest it has been in 10 years. Our recidivism rate is the lowest it’s been in three decades. And we have turned back the tide of rising costs.
For the last five years, the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform – created by the governor and your legislation – has been busy transforming our criminal justice system into one that does a better job of protecting public safety while holding non-violent offenders accountable and saving millions in taxpayer dollars. I am extremely grateful to this Council and commend the steady leadership of co-chairs Judge Michael Boggs of the Court of Appeals and Thomas Worthy of the State Bar of Georgia.
Throughout this historic reform, Georgia’s trial court judges have been in the trenches.
Our number one goal in criminal justice reform is to better protect the safety of our citizens.
Central to that goal is the development of our specialty courts – what some call accountability courts.
These courts have a proven track record of reducing recidivism rates and keeping our
citizens safe. Nationwide, 75 percent of drug court graduates remain free of arrest two years after completing the program, and the most conservative analyses show that drug courts reduce crime as much as 45 percent more than other sentencing options. Last year, these courts helped save Georgia more than $51 million in prison costs.
From the beginning, you in the legislature have steadfastly supported the growth in these courts, most recently appropriating more than $19 million for the current fiscal year.
Georgia now has 131 of these courts, which include drug courts, DUI courts, juvenile and adult mental health courts, and veterans courts. Today, only two judicial circuits in the state do not yet have a specialty court, and both are in the early stages of discussing the possibility of starting one. In addition to those already involved, last year alone, we added nearly 3500 new participants to these courts.
Behind that number are individual tales of lives changed and in some cases, lives saved.
Our judges, who see so much failure, take pride in these success stories. And so should you.

Chief Judge Richard Slaby of the Richmond County State Court, speaks with great pride of Judge David Watkins and the specialty courts that have grown under Judge Watkins’ direction. Today the recidivism rate among the Augusta participants is less than 10 percent.
The judges who run these courts are committed and deserve our thanks. We are grateful to leaders like Judge Slaby, who is President-Elect of the Council of State Court Judges and a member of our Judicial Council; to Judge Stephen Goss of the Dougherty Superior Court, whose mental health court has been recognized as one of the best mental health courts in our country; to Chief Judge Brenda Weaver, President of the Council of Superior Court Judges and a member of our Judicial Council. Judge Weaver of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit serves on the Council of
Accountability Court Judges of Georgia, which you created last year by statute. Its purpose is to improve the quality of our specialty courts through proven standards and practices, and it is chaired by Superior Court Judge Jason Deal of Hall County. Judge Deal’s dedication to the specialty court model in his community, and his guidance and encouragement to programs throughout the state, are described as invaluable by those who work with him.


We may not have a unified court system in Georgia. But we have judges unified in their commitment to our courts. Among our one thousand four hundred and fifty judges, Georgia has many fine leaders. I’ve told you about a number of them today. In closing, I want to mention two more.
When the United States Supreme Court issued its historic decision last year on same-sex marriage, our Council of Probate Court Judges led the way toward compliance. Three months before the ruling was issued, the judges met privately at the behest of the Council’s then president, Judge Chase Daughtrey of Cook County, and his successor, Judge Don Wilkes of Emanuel County. Together, they determined that regardless of what the Supreme Court decided, they would follow the law. Both Governor Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens also publicly announced they would respect the court’s decision, despite tremendous pressure to do otherwise.
These men are all great leaders who spared our state the turmoil other states endured. The bottom line is this: In Georgia, we may like the law, we may not like the law, but we follow the law.


The day-to-day business of the Georgia courts rarely makes the news. Rather judges,
their staff and clerks spend their days devoted to understanding the law, tediously pushing cases through to resolution, committed to ferreting out the truth and making the right decision. It is not easy, and they must often stand alone, knowing that when they sentence someone to prison, many lives hang in the balance between justice and mercy.
So I thank all of our leaders, and I thank all of our judges who are leading our courts into the 21st century.
May God bless them. May God bless you. And may God bless all the people of Georgia.
Thank you.