Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Judge Wright recognized for Dispute Resolution efforts

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Cynthia D. Wright was recently recognized by the Georgia Supreme Court Resolution for her six years of service on the Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution.

Supreme Court Justice Hugh P. Thompson presented Judge Wright the Resolution at her final Commission meeting on April 8.

Judge Wright, who becomes Chief Judge of the Atlanta Judicial Circuit as of May 1, 2010, was appointed by the Supreme Court in 2004 to serve a six-year term on the Commission.

She served as Chair of the Commission’s Committee on Ethics from 2006 to 2009 and was Chair of the Commission’s Committee on Budget and Personnel from 2009 to 2010, where she fought for the fiscal future of the Commission and the Office of Dispute Resolution through the most difficult budgetary times it has faced in its 17- year history.

Judge Wright has been a steadfast champion of a court-connected alternative dispute resolution system that offers litigants effective, low-cost alternatives to litigation and that helps fulfill a Constitutional mandate to “provide for the speedy, efficient, and inexpensive resolution of disputes and prosecutions,” according to the resolution by the Justices of the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Judge Wright was appointed to the Atlanta Judicial Circuit by Governor Zell Miller in 1996, and was most recently reelected in 2006. Since 1998 she has served almost exclusively in the Family Division of the Fulton County Superior Court. She has also served as judge of the State Court of Fulton County.

Judge Wright graduated magna cum laude from Macon’s Wesleyan College in 1974 and earned her J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1977. She served as assistant legal counsel to Governor George Busbee from1978 to 1980. After private practice, she served as chief legal counsel to Governor Zell Miller from 1991 to 1995, during which time she authored the legislation and constitutional amendment that established the Lottery for Education.

Lawdragon, a guide to the nation’s best lawyers and judges, selected Judge Wright as one of the 500 Leading Judges in America. In 2000 the Family Law Section of State Bar of Georgia awarded Judge Wright the Joseph T. Tuggle, Jr. Professionalism Award. In 2006 the Family Law Section also presented her the Jack P. Turner Award for her outstanding contributions and achievement in family law in Georgia. The Atlanta Family Law Bar most recently honored her for her tenure in the Family Division.

Among her many community activities, Judge Wright serves on the board of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, and she is a frequent lecturer at family and other continuing legal and judicial education seminars. She has served as an adjunct professor at Emory University and is herself a student at the University of the South working toward her second Education for Ministry Diploma.

Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution

The Commission on Dispute Resolution is the sole state authority that oversees the quality and quantity of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services such as mediation and arbitration offered through the courts. The primary goals of the Commission are to save taxpayers money by reducing the need for more judges and more courtrooms; to enable the efficient use of judicial resources by reducing the need for trials; and to offer litigants inexpensive and productive alternatives to trying their cases before juries and judges.

Working through its staff in the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution, the Commission regulates a court ADR system has grown from three counties in 1992 to 121 counties today. Since 1997, 137,000 court cases have settled through ADR. In FY08 alone, an estimated 20,000 cases were settled through court ADR, at a taxpayer savings of more than $6.4 million a year in salaries for the 17 judges and their staffs that would otherwise be needed to handle those cases.

The Commission comprises 16 judges, attorneys, and dispute resolution professionals who serve without compensation.

After Judge Wright’s departure, the current Commission members are:

Edith Primm, Esq., (Chair), Justice Center of Atlanta;

Justice Hugh P. Thompson, Georgia Supreme Court;

Judge Charles E. Auslander III, Magistrate Court of Athens/Clarke County;

Judge Debra Bernes, Georgia Court of Appeals;

Laurence L. Christensen, Esq., Georgia Mediation Services, Marietta;

Judge Edward E. Carriere, DeKalb County State Court, Decatur;

Bryan Cavan, Esq., State Bar of Georgia, Miller & Martin, PLLC, Atlanta;

Wade H. Coleman, Esq., Coleman Talley, LLP, Valdosta;

Sen. William S. Cowsert, Esq., Cowsert & Avery, Athens;

Judge C. Andrew Fuller, Northeastern Judicial Circuit, Gainesville;

Alan Granath, mediator, Atlanta;

Melissa C. Heard, mediator, trainer, Dallas, Ga.;

Dale Hetzler, Esq., Erlanger Health System, Chattanooga, Tenn.;

Martha Kitchens, mediator, Douglasville;

Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet, Augusta Judicial Circuit, Augusta

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