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Monday, November 06, 2006


August 15, 2006 06:33 AM"Super Lawyer" listing still OK in GeorgiaLast month there was a news story about the New Jersey Committee on Attorney Advertising, a panel appointed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey ruling that attorney advertisements that tout listings such as the "Super Lawyers" listings violate professional responsibility rules against ads that compare lawyers’ services or create an "unjustified expectation about results." That gave me pause, as it did the marketing folks at every big law firm in Atlanta, since the profile on my web site includes listings in the "Super Lawyers" issue of Atlanta Magazine, "Legal Elite" issue of Georgia Trend magazine, and the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers.However, the Fulton County Daily Report published an article on August 11th reporting an analysis to the effect that, while Georgia’s ethics rules contain proscriptions against comparative advertisements and ads that create unwarranted expectations, the language in Georgia is more permissive than that found in New Jersey’s ethics rules. The New Jersey rule prohibits as false and misleading any advertisement that "compares the lawyer’s services with other lawyers’ services." Under Rule 7.1(a)(3) of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct, the rule against comparisons does not apply if the comparison "can be factually substantiated."The "Super Lawyers," "Legal Elite," and "Preeminent Lawyers" lists are all based upon periodic surveys of our peers in the legal profession, and cannot be purchased. While the methodology is certainly not perfect, neither is it meaningless or factually unsubstantiated. Therefore, we will continue to include those designations on the web site.I love it when I see a court use my points to rule my way on an unrelated case.We have a case in which we represent the estate and siblings of a young man who was killed by a drunk driver. Their father had more DUI's than anyone in the history of Georgia on spent most of the deceased son's life in prison including a conviction for DUI/vehicular homicide. On one of his times out of prison he physically abused the son. A juvenile court made a judicial finding of physical abuse and gave custody of the kid to an adult brother. Of course, when the young man was killed several years later by a drunk driver, the father who was a DUI recidivist promptly filed suit for wrongful death. Representing the siblings of the decedent -- the other adult offspring of the abusive drunk -- I filed a petition to determine heirship. A Superior Court judge agreed with our position that the father forfeited parental rights by cruel treatment when he was adjudicated to be guilty of physical abuse, did not appeal, and did not take advantage of the opportunity for family reunification. We also had arguments about abandonment, but there was some small shred of evidence of de minimis support that made that a jury issue. Well, we won summary judgment in the Superior Court and the father appealed to the Georgia Court of Appeals. Now in another case, the Court of Appeals has adopted virtually the same arguments we used in our appellate brief in another case, finding that another deadbeat dad forfeited his parental rights, including the right to recover for wrongful death of the child, through abandonment. In Baker v. Sweat, A06A0892 (decided October 13, 2006), the administrator and siblings of a deceased adult were ready to settle with the insurance company for the wrongful death with deadbeat dad showed up claiming all the money. Much as in our case, there was a long, sad litany of the sperm donor's failure to support the child or engage in the child's life. The Court held:If it is established that a parent has lost his or her parental power under OCGA § 19-7-1 (b), the parent’s right to share in the proceeds of a claim for the wrongful death of his or her child is also forfeited.OCGA 19-7-1 (b) provides for loss of parental rights through either abandonment or cruel treatment. Since anything can go wrong at any time, we are keeping our fingers crossed that we will get the same result in our case.Shigley Law Firm, LLC3166 Mathieson Drive, Suite 200Atlanta, Georgia 30305, USAVoice: (404)364-1999Fax: (404)364-0880

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