J. SCOTT KEY- PRESIDENT, GACDL
I don’t miss the Hapeville Post Office Club. Hapeville, Georgia, is the last place in Georgia where you can get the day’s postmark on an envelope, and they have always been open at 11:59 p.m. And it was there that I would meet colleagues who were mailing briefs to Georgia’s appellate courts. Under the mailbox rule, we were all timely filing our briefs with that postmark, though they receive the packet the next day. All of us had left our respective “war rooms” where the documents were assembled by staff with their multiple copies and blue backings so that we could be dispatched to Hapeville to the post office. In our collective relief, we would see each other and call ourselves the Hapeville Post Office Club. Those were the “old days.”
Contrast this story with the experience of filing a Supreme Court brief recently. The brief was co-written with a colleague. Over the course of about two weeks, we batted the document back and forth using “track changes” and text messages to confer. We met exactly once over coffee to discuss some of the larger thematic issues. And when we had the brief just so, we e-filed it from my iPad. It occurred to me, as I pressed the submit button, that this brief had not yet existed in paper form. And some of the justices may never print it out.
And yet, for all that has changed, so much remains the same. When we submit our arguments to the courts, whether at a post office or from a mobile device, that written work embodies a tradition hundreds of years in the making. We have the honor of standing up for a human being in trouble. And that person has trusted us as a representative. We have lost sleep, researched, investigated, agonized over, and put every ounce of our creativity into that client’s case. There are times when the words we have typed on a page, or spoken in court, or pulled from a witness in court have come to life and manifest in very real change to a person’s life. Those words have come to life in the form of a release from prison and the unshackling of chains. And they have come to life in the chance to seek addiction treatment and a renewal of relationships thought irreparable. So much has changed, but the important things endure.
And so it is with GACDL in the year 2018. The way we do things is not the way we did them when I joined up as a student member long ago. Our seminars are offered around the state to members who watch from remote locations — sometimes on their tablets and phones. We release a monthly podcast with an audience that equals and exceeds the audience at our seminars. Our publications are electronic. And our meetings run more smoothly with GACDL’s app. Our materials are uploaded instead of printed.
And yet the core of what we do has not changed. We still are dedicated to the client’s cause. And at the bigger picture level, we are preserving Constitutional freedoms with every client we represent. At the heart of what we do, whether we watch speakers from our phones or in person, whether we read materials on paper or on a laptop, we have not changed at all. We are a group of committed Georgia lawyers in association with a common GACDL mission. As the logo says, we have been “Promoting Fairness and Justice since 1974.”
It is a distinct honor to serve the organization as its president. But that honor is not much different than the honor we all feel when a client trusts us to stand up in court to make an argument. And while much has and will change with our group, the universals endure. Technology has disbanded the Hapeville Post Office Club, but GACDL endures. Thank you for your trust, and let me know how I can help in the year ahead.