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A bill that would have modified a little-known statute to permit judges to teach at public universities sailed through the Georgia Senate, but appears to have died in a House committee. S.B. 107 would have struck the criminal prohibition against judges of courts of record — primarily superior and state courts — teaching at public schools for pay. Under O.C.G.A. Section 16-10-9, it is a misdemeanor for those judges, their clerks and their assistants to be paid for holding office or employment in the executive or legislative branch of state government. State colleges and universities are part of Georgia’s executive branch. The current statute’s theoretical underpinnings lie in the principle of separation of powers. But those who want to modify it say barring judges from teaching wastes a valuable resource. The ban on judges teaching for pay at public schools — they may teach at private universities — apparently had escaped the notice of some judges and schools. Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Michael C. Clark said he had never heard about the statute when he taught litigation for one quarter in 1999 at Georgia State University’s College of Law. Clark says he believes other judges have taught, and he hoped to help students better understand the practicalities of the law. The current statute, he says, doesn’t make much practical sense when applied to the scenario of a judge teaching students. The advantages in doing so benefit students more than judges, he says, adding that he found teaching, including the drive to downtown Atlanta, to be too time-consuming. “It’s a shame the bill is not getting through,” he says. On the other hand, Fulton Superior Court Judge John J. Goger, who had hoped to teach at Georgia State, says the prohibition on judges working for other branches of government makes “all the sense in the world. It would be crazy if a judge were to go to work for the Agriculture Department.” In the Senate, the bill had bipartisan sponsors: Sens. Greg Hecht, D-Jonesboro, Daniel W. Lee, D-LaGrange, Billy Ray, R-Lawrenceville, and Michael Meyer von Bremen, D-Albany. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee without opposition and passed the full Senate 47-0. But when it came up on the agenda of the House Judiciary Committee last week, the bill was tabled by Chairman Jim Martin, D-Atlanta, who said it would modify long-standing law in the state. The bill’s Senate sponsors were not present for the discussion. Martin, who noted that he teaches part time at Georgia State but does not get paid for doing so, said he understood Sen. Hecht had a judge who wanted to teach and be paid for it. “It’s my opinion that if you want to discharge the activities of one branch of government you can’t discharge the activities of another branch of government,” Martin said. The law, he added, has been clear on that since the Mary Jane Galer case. In Galer v. Board of Regents, 239 Ga. 268 (1977), Galer, an associate professor at Columbus College, was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. An opinion from the Georgia Attorney General said she was forbidden to hold both jobs. She argued to the Georgia Supreme Court that the prohibition infringed on her First Amendment right to hold office. The justices disagreed, finding that the First Amendment rights of government employees may be subject to restriction in the furtherance of a compelling government interest. Separation of powers was just such a reason, the justices held. Galer could hold either position, but not both simultaneously, they ruled. Martin told Judiciary Committee members if one of them wanted to put the bill back before the committee, they could do so. The judge that Martin was probably referring to, however, already teaches and gets paid for it. Clayton Chief Magistrate Michael P. Baird says he urged Hecht to bring the bill, not to benefit himself, but to provide students a better educational opportunity. Baird, who teaches at Georgia State and Clayton State University, says the current law doesn’t apply to him or other magistrates because magistrate courts are not courts of record in Georgia. He has taught part-time for nine years, beginning long before he became a judge, he says. Baird says Georgia’s judges are good resources for students, particularly in helping students learn the practicalities of the law, including how to try a case. “I don’t understand the reasoning behind [the current law],” Baird says. Georgia State Associate Professor of Litigation Mark Kadish, who runs the law school’s litigation workshop program, says he’d love to have superior and state court judges participate. Kadish, who is also a part-time magistrate in Fulton County, says it’s a “terrible waste” to exclude those judges. He was unaware of the law, he says, when he invited Goger to teach a class. Then, he says, “somebody pointed it out to me. I’d never heard about it and I’ve been running the program for 10 years.” The legislature should encourage judges to teach, Kadish insists, adding that the amount they would receive is a “pittance,” just $4,500 a semester. “Nobody is doing it for the money,” he adds. “The whole thing, I think, is very unfortunate.”

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