I woke up in Destin to a beautiful sunrise and walked on the beach. Registration for the 26th Annual Family Law Institute began at 7:30 at the Sandestin Beach Hilton and I greeted many of my colleagues from Atlanta and others from throughout the State of Georgia. The conference was chaired by Edward Coleman of Surrett & Coleman of Augusta, Georgia and opening remarks were also made by Kurt Kegel of Davis Matthews and Quigley in Atlanta, Chair of the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia. I was informed by Steve Harper of ICLE in Georgia that over 450 attorneys were in attendance, the largest crowd ever to attend.
The first presentation was on Direct Examination of a Business Valuator, by attorney K. Paul Johnson of McCorkle and Johnson in Savannah, Georgia, and by attorney, certified public accountant (and several other initialed credentials), Martin Varon of Alternative Resolution Methods in Smyrna, Georgia. Paul and Martin went through the steps (and the reasons for each step) of what goes into a business evaluation, and how to present the testimony of the expert in a trial of a divorce case.
John Mayoue of Warner, Mayoue, Bates & Nolen in Atlanta, Georgia, presented a very interesting and enlightening program on National Trends in Domestic Relations Law. Topics ranged from the Age of the Internet (focused on electronic evidence and the legal and illegal methods clients may use to obtain that evidence, free speech and First Amendment issues in divorce and custody cases (including a discussion of the YouTube divorce and restraints on speech (such as blogging about the divorce by one of the parties) in divorce cases), to Religion and Child Custody, current national trends in the area of alimony, and tracing or transmutation of separate property in equitable division of marital property assets.
A panel of Judge J. Stephen Schuster of the Superior Court of Cobb County in Marietta, Georgia, and lawyers David Givelber and Nancy Lawler, both of Cohen, Pollock, Merlin & Small in Atlanta, took the audience through the esoteric but increasingly more important topic of challenging expert witnesses under the Daubert rule (named after one of the litigants in the case of Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals)
Day One’s program concluded with a panel discussion by attorney John Lyndon of Athens, Superior Court of Ocmulgee Circuit Judge Hulane George of Milledgeville, Superior Court of Pataula Circuit Judge Ronnie Joe Lane of Donalsonville, and attorney Russell Smith of Sanders and Smith of Toccoa, Georgia, on Special Issues for Small Town Practices, including such unusual property division cases as those involving ugly pigs, recusal issues and large turnouts of family members at trials and hearings.