Joint House-Senate Task Force on Garnishment Reform Prepares Legislation for the 2016 Session

ATLANTA (December 30, 2015) | The Joint House-Senate Task Force on Garnishment Reform, co-chaired by Rep. Wendell Willard (R – Sandy Springs) and Sen. Jesse Stone (R – Waynesboro), has drafted legislation rewriting Georgia’s code related to garnishment.

“Earlier this year, a federal court ruled that key portions of Georgia’s garnishment statute were unconstitutional,” said Sen. Stone, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. “Georgia’s law failed to provide notice of the availability of exemptions, how exemptions could be claimed and provide an expedited method for ruling on exemptions. It is up to the General Assembly to fix the problem and modernize and improve the garnishment process in Georgia.”

“A complete rewrite of this chapter was necessary, because the notice issues, while limited to the facts of that case, were issues that extended pervasively throughout the chapter,” said Rep. Willard. “It was time that we updated the language in that section to make it more coherent and user friendly.”

On Sept. 8, 2015, a U.S. District Court judge of the Northern District of Georgia in Strickland v. Alexander held that certain provisions of Georgia’s existing garnishment law violated the due process rights of those whose property was subject to garnishment. While the order itself was limited to the facts of that case because the lawsuit was brought against the clerk of court in Gwinnett County, due process issues needed to be resolved for the entire chapter, so that garnishments in Georgia would not be in jeopardy going forward.

The Georgia Garnishment Task Force was co-chaired by Representative Willard and Senator Stone. The committee members were Jill Travis, Judge Michael Jacobs, Judge Wayne Purdom, W. Wright Banks with the Office of Attorney General Sam Olens, Stephen Harris with the Division of Family and Children Services, Charlie Bliss and Steven Gottlieb with Atlanta Legal Aid, Adam Cleveland with Thompson, O’Brine, Kemp & Nasuti, Ellen Fleming with SunTrust Bank, Sandy Bair, Donna Yeomans, Brad Vaughan with the Senate Research Office and Jourdan Read with the House Research Office.

The bill itself restructures the current garnishment sections to modernize, reorganize, and provide constitutional protections in garnishment proceedings. The bill also makes the language of the statute more coherent, as required by the District Court’s ruling. It makes the law easier for individuals to understand how to participate in garnishment proceedings and claim exemptions. Additionally, the bill empowers the Office of the Attorney General to maintain on its website a complete list of exemptions and partial exemptions for those facing garnishments. The bill also provides specific procedures that will only be applicable to financial institutions to avoid confusion. The bill further provides definitions and forms that are to be used in garnishment proceedings.

Sen. Stone has pre-filed Senate Bill 255-PF—the legislation drafted by the task force so that it can be reviewed by the public prior to the start of the upcoming session, which will convene January 11, 2015.

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For Immediate Release:
December 30, 2015

For Information Contact:
Jennifer Yarber, Director
Brett Johnson, Broadcast Specialist