Two former state Supreme Court justices — and one new bride — plan to team up to tackle cases together.
Former Justice Hardy Gregory Jr., who left the court in 1989, and former Chief Justice George Carley, who retired from the court this week, say they won’t be forming a formal partnership. But, along with Gregory’s wife, Antoinette “Toni” Davis Gregory, they plan to work together in offering their services to other lawyers looking for some extra help.
“Hardy and I and Toni have always been friends,” Carley explained, noting that he had attended the December wedding of former Justice Gregory and Gregory’s former law clerk, Toni. Carley recalled talking to Justice Gregory about his post-retirement plans. “He said, ‘What are you going to do, George?’”
Carley, who never was a full-time trial judge but occasionally filled in to get a feel for the work he was reviewing on the appellate courts, said he would have liked to sit on the trial bench some more as a senior judge or work as an arbitrator or mediator. But, he explained, a surgery in October he had hoped would improve his failing eyesight instead made things worse. Before the surgery, he could read, he said. Now, he said, he essentially can’t read at all. He explained that his staff loads documents onto his Kindle, which will read the documents aloud to him. “I just don’t think I could do it at this point,” Carley said of the prospect of mediating disputes.
He recalled Justice Gregory saying, “‘I think we can have a loose arrangement and be lawyers’ lawyers.’” Carley said the group is “not going to start from the beginning and try cases” but will consult with other attorneys on their cases, handling research, briefs and the occasional motion or appellate argument.
“It sounds interesting to me,” said Carley. “I can’t think of any two people I’d rather be with.”
Former Justice Gregory said after he left the state’s highest court, he teamed up with his son-in-law, David Forehand Jr., and Gary Christy, who since has passed away, and found himself getting calls from lawyers with legal questions. “I would get involved that way, sometimes write a brief or make an argument,” he recalled. Usually, he said, the lawyer already had a verdict of some kind. “Gary would say to me, ‘Hardy, you get these cases when they’re in the morgue.’”
Gregory said he “had a long kind of layoff” while his first wife, who passed away in April 2010, battled with cancer. “I’m anxious to get back in and do some things like that.”
“It just sort of came out of our friendship,” Justice Gregory said of the new arrangement. “We’re not calling ourselves partners,” he explained, saying they’ll be “colleagues,” and he expects to continue his partnership with Forehand.
Justice Gregory said he and his wife have backgrounds in plaintiffs work but he’s open to civil defense work as well. “What we’re really looking for is legal issues,” he said, adding he expected to focus on “the law side of trial work, as opposed to the fact side of trial work.”
“That’s what Toni’s been doing, essentially,” he added.
Toni Davis Gregory until recently had practiced with the firm of Boone & Stone. In 2010, running under the name Toni Davis, she lost a bid to win a seat on the state Court of Appeals in a runoff with Christopher McFadden.
She said she and her husband will have an office in Cordele, where former Justice Gregory has housed his practice, and they have found office space for Carley in Decatur, where he lives. She said the trio will call its association “Carley, Gregory & Gregory, Attorneys.”
She said the two former justices are “more excited than graduating law students” and she is honored Carley has chosen to practice with her and her husband. “We just think it’s going to be so much fun,” she said.
Asked whether he would appear before his former Supreme Court colleagues, Carley allowed “there should be some cooling-off period.” He said he doesn’t plan to appear to argue a case there anytime soon — noting his eyesight problems may preclude that, anyway — but hadn’t considered the propriety of filing briefs there.
“I don’t really know why Hardy wants me,” Carley added. “He seems to think I have a thought or two about how the law and how the courts work.”