Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sitting and Waiting in Court

If you are ever involved in litigation, especially in Douglasville, what you will soon learn is that going to Court involves a lot of sitting and waiting.   There will be days when you go to Court, and just sit, and sit, and sit.  

When most folks watch TV or read a book or go to a movie, they always see people just walk into court and the case immediately starts.   What is never shown on the big screen or written about in the legal thrillers is the constant waiting and waiting.  These delays happen for a number of reasons.

First, the way Courts in Douglasville schedule cases is very inefficient.   No queuing techniques are ever considered.  Everybody reports at the same time and cases are just taken one at time until all cases are done or the Court day is concluded.  Imagine a doctor's office that told it's patients, "Everybody be here at 9 a.m., and we'll do our best to see everybody before the day is over."  My personal opinion is that a better scheduling system would result in less delay. 

Secondly, courts are crowded because there are simply too many cases.  You can't put seven gallons of water in a five gallon bucket.    Domestic relations cases,  divorce, custody, contempt, etc., are the main problem.   The Georgia legislature continues to make domestic relations issues more complicated, which in turn takes the court longer to hear them and  attorney's longer to prepare.   Consequently, domestic cases are clogging up the Superior Court system in Douglas County.

So, what can be done?  I have two recommendations.  First, we should add another Superior Court Judge in Douglas County.  Second, we should implement any type of scheduling system that resembles something other than a stampede.   

They scheduling system doesn't have to be elaborate; it could be as simple as what most deli counters and barber shops implement - "take a number".   If for instance a potential litigant had the choice of being #20 next week or #3 a month later,  an intelligent choice could be made. Standing orders could require numbers 1-10 to show up at 9 am, slots 10-20 at 11 am and so on and so forth.  

Finally, even if my suggestions aren't actionable, the community needs improvement.  Access to the court system is necessary for our society to function.    However, until we get improvement in Douglas County, my only suggestion to the citizens that have to appear:  "Bring a book."

If you need help, call me at 678-383-1690 or visit my website at  If for whatever reason I can't help you, I'll point you in the direction of someone who can.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fighting Back Against Insurance Companies

            Don’t you hate getting taken by insurance companies?  I know most folks do.  You pay them tons of money, for years at a time, and then when you need them, they turn their back on you.  Insurance companies love to take your money, but they hate to pay your claims.    They pull out every exclusion and nickel and dime you to death.  Well, you can fight back, and here’s how.

            In Georgia, we have what is known as a “Bad Faith” statute.  O.C.G.A. § 33-4-6 requires an insurance company to pay for a loss covered by insurance within 60 days of a proper demand.  If the insurance company does not pay the demand within 60 days, the insured is entitled to recover an extra 50% of the liability or $5000 whichever is greater, plus reasonable Attorney’s fees. 

            Let’s illustrate with a real world example.  You have a homeowner policy with ACME insurance.  The policy insures you against theft of items taken from your home.  Someone breaks in your home and steals $4,000 of your stuff.  You file a claim with your insurance company, and they refuse to pay.   On top of refusing to pay, the “Special Investigator” also insinuates that you may be attempting to commit insurance fraud by filing this claim.  At this point, you’ve got two options. 

    Option 1 is probably the most commonly pursued and the one the insurance company is betting on.  You’re mad, insulted, but also busy as heck.  It’s just $4,000 and you figure, “It’s just not worth it.  They’ve got all the money and power.”  So you do what the insurance company predicts, what their mathematical studies indicate is most likely, and you just walk away.  They Win.  You Lose.

Option 2 is Fighting Back.  You talk to an Attorney about O.C.G.A. § 33-4-6.  You send ACME a proper demand.  The Attorney chews on the “Special Investigator”, the 60 days pass, and your Attorney files suit against the insurance company.  The insurance company then sends you a check for $4,000 and you say thank you very much, but we’re still going to teach you a lesson.  One of the great provisions of 33-4-6 is that payment after the 60 day window isn’t a defense to the bad faith claim.  The insurance company refuses to settle your “Bad Faith” claim.  You go to trial, pick a jury, and tell them what a terrible company ACME is.  They award you the extra $5000 (because $5000 is greater than 50% of $4000), plus Attorney’s Fees.  

I like Option 2.

If you need help, call me at 678-383-1690 or visit my website at  If for whatever reason I can't help you, I'll point you in the direction of someone who can.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Obstruction (or Destruction) of Justice

When you hear the term "Obstruction of Justice", what pops in your mind?  If you are like most law abiding citizens, you probably think of a group mobsters trying to intimidate witnesses or a secretary deleting computer files seconds before a search warrant is served.  


            Well, the purpose of today's entry is to recalibrate your thinking.  The crime or charge commonly referred to as "Obstruction of Justice" should really be called "Making a Police Officer Mad."   If you find yourself in a situation where you make a police officer mad, the odds are pretty good that you are going to get charged with Obstruction of Justice.   In Georgia, Obstruction of Justice is defined as follows:


Obstructing or hindering law enforcement officers:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (b) of this Code section, a person who knowingly and willfully obstructs or hinders any law enforcement officer in the lawful discharge of his official duties is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(b) Whoever knowingly and willfully resists, obstructs, or opposes any law enforcement officer, prison guard, correctional officer, probation supervisor, parole supervisor, or conservation ranger in the lawful discharge of his official duties by offering or doing violence to the person of such officer or legally authorized person is guilty of a felony and shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years.

            Most Obstruction charges arise when people run from police.   If you run, you will be charged with Obstruction. What is more interesting is that it doesn't matter if you actually did anything wrong, initially.   If an officer has a valid reason for stopping you (an articulable suspicion), and you decide to take off running, you have just hindered his lawful discharge of official duties and you will be charged with Obstruction.

            Also, if you lie to a police officer, you will be charged with Obstruction. (lying to him/her is also likely to make them mad).  Duke v. State, 205 Ga. App. 689, 423 S.E.2d 427 (1992); Carter v. State, 222 Ga. App. 397, 474 S.E.2d 228 (1996). 

            What that average citizen really needs to understand is the criminal liability associated with "touching" a police officer.   If you touch a police officer during the commission of his/her duties, then you may be charged with felony obstruction, which carries a maximum of five years in prision.   Felony obstruction requires that you actually do violence or offer to do violence towards an officer.   If you touch a police officer, he will conclude that is violence.

            As an example, let's assume that you are watching a 6' 4" officer that weighs 240lbs arrest your pregnant 5' 2", 120lb pregnant daughter.  The officer has your daughter down on the ground with his knee in her back while she screams for you to help her because she can't breathe.  If you touch the officer and ask him to stop, you will be charged with felony obstruction.   

            So what’s the moral of this BLOG?  It’s simple, “Don’t make a Police Officer mad.”  If you do, the odds are very good that you will find yourself arrested. 

            If you need help, call me at 678-383-1690 or visit my website at  If for whatever reason I can't help you, I'll point you in the direction of someone who can.

Friday, May 15, 2009

How should I pick an Attorney?

Hello, I am pleased to announce the first publication of my weBLOG.  The purpose of this blog is facilitate the spread of information concerning legal services, law, and the practice of law within the Douglasville community.  

When individuals choose an Attorney, they often do so based upon little information. Typically, they look for the lowest cost Attorney that will return their phone call the quickest. While value and responsiveness are certainly important criteria, what most people may not realize is that the lowest quote may not be the most economical and that the best attorney may not be able to return a call right away because they are often in Court when you do call.  With that in mind I'm going to propose a set of factors for you to consider in deciding on an Attorney:

1. Have they handled a case like yours before?

2. Do they know the other local judges and attorneys that will be involved in your case?

3.  What percentage of their practice is dedicated to your particular legal issue??

4.  What is their policy regarding phone calls/correspondence ?

5.  What is their fee policy?

6.  Are they available to work on your case right away?

7.  Will they do the work personally, or will they ask someone else to do it?

8.  What is their standing with State Bar Association?

9.  How many hours do they estimate your case will require?

10.  Do they express genuine concern for your situation?

Deciding upon an Attorney could be the most important decision of your life.  It may mean the difference between freedom or jail, between having your children with you or with someone else, between getting justice or getting taken.   Don't pick a lawyer on the spur of the moment or because they have the lowest fee.  Pick an attorney because you trust him or her to care about your case, to know the law, and to fight for you.

If you need help, call me at 678-383-1690 or visit my website at  If for whatever reason I can't help you, I'll point you in the direction of someone who can.