The Georgia Chamber of Commerce supports a remedy to the current economic burden placed on businesses executing garnishment orders. The Chamber has designated HB 683 as a scorecard issue for 2012.
- In June 2010, the State Bar of Georgia issued an advisory opinion stating that “[a] nonlawyer who answers for a garnishee in a legal proceeding pending with a Georgia court of record is engaged in the unlicensed practice of law."
- This opinion became binding when the Supreme Court adopted it on September 12, 2011.
Current System Poses Unnecessary and Costly Burdens
- This decision will impose an unnecessary cost burden on Georgia businesses at a time when they are already struggling to survive a weakened economy.
- For many years, Georgia employers have relied on clerical and administrative staff or employee/payroll services to handle responding to routine garnishment orders.
- As a result of this decision, employers are now required to retain or rely on legal counsel when responding to garnishment actions filed in Georgia to avoid the risk of being found to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.
- The act of responding to a summons of garnishment is ministerial in nature and does not require the exercise of professional judgment by an attorney and should not be deemed the unauthorized practice of law.
- Unless a traverse is filed, a garnishee is not a party to the legal dispute.
HB 683 Provides a Solution
- HB 683 authorizes garnishees to permit non-lawyer employees to respond to garnishment orders as they have in the past and explicitly states that form of response does not constitute the practice of law.
- The legislation also clarifies that a summons of garnishment is to be served on the employer’s registered agent, to help ensure proper handling and processing.
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