BY LAURIE SPEED
Fall is always a busy time of year for our political team, and this year has been no exception. The midterm election cycle has kept most of us pretty busy this year (as I’m sure it has many of you, as well!), and the Civil Justice PAC had another record-setting year in terms of money taken in and contributions made to our pro-Civil Justice allies in the State House and State Senate who were up election or re-election. At the beginning of our presidencies, both Jason Branch, President of the PAC, and I made it a goal to increase our member contribution to the PAC from 25 percent to 30 percent. We are excited announce that we have met that goal half way through the board year! Thank you to all the PAC contributors; without your help, we would not be able to support pro-Civil Justice candidates and legislators in the meaningful way that we do. As great as it is, it is still disappointing to see that only 30 percent of our members contribute to the entity that works to protect our clients’ rights at the Capital. If you are not a PAC member, please reach out to Civil Justice PAC Director, Caroline McLean, to become one today!
As you can tell, our political team and officers have been working hard on continuing to develop our relationships with legislators and political candidates. While GTLA’s focus is at the state level, your Executive Committee traveled to Washington D.C. in September to meet with members of Georgia’s Congressional delegation and lobby on behalf of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) for the End of Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Claims. Not only is this annual trip a great opportunity to hone our advocacy skills, but it also gives us the chance to continue important conversations that we have started with our members of Congress. In multiple meetings, the member of Congress or their staffer remembered our group or our issue, and, in two offices, actually remembered the specific cases with which we spoke to them about months before. It just goes to show that when a message is sound, it resonates with people, and in a climate full of political jockeying, it was refreshing to see bipartisanship on such an important issue.
Bringing it back to the local level, one of the parts that I enjoy most about being your GTLA president is traveling to different parts of the state for the GTLA Justice Tour. This year, we made eight stops in Athens, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Rome, Savannah and Valdosta, but with a new twist from previous years. Each stop featured a panel of local legislators who spoke to our members, their constituents, on issues facing their area, the Civil Justice System, and Georgia as a whole, making for a truly intimate and informative presentation for each stop. The new format proved to be even more beneficial for the legislators, who seemed to enjoy the time with our membership and the opportunity to speak candidly with them on topics of shared importance.
I share these anecdotes with you to emphasize the important role that each and every member of GTLA plays in our political efforts. The members of Congress did not remember the stories of our clients that they heard because a lobbyist told them—they remembered because a constituent brought them to their attention. The state legislators did not agree to speak at the Justice Tour because a GTLA member asked them—they agreed because that member was a constituent. Establishing a relationship with your local representation is the best thing that you can do for your clients and for your practice, and it may even be as easy as attending a GTLA event. If you need more information on your State Representative and State Senator, please visit www.openstates.org. Our political team is also more than happy to help make introductions for you, as well, because come January, we will need all hands on deck in the fight to preserve the 7th Amendment!