Friday, December 28, 2012

Get to Know Your Alcovy Circuit Superior Court Judges

People often ask “who will hear my case?” In Georgia, the answer depends on where you and/or the defendant lives and what your case is about, however many cases are heard by the Superior Court.

There are 10 Judicial Districts in Georgia which includes 49 Superior Court Judicial Circuits. Every county in Georgia has its own Superior Court, but it may be attached to another Judicial Circuit. For example, the Gwinnett Superior Court Circuit just includes Gwinnett County while the Alcovy Superior Court Circuit includes both Newton and Walton Counties. Your Superior Court is based on the County you live in.

The Superior Court has general jurisdiction, which means the Superior Court can rule on any criminal or civil action which is not already designated to be heard by another Court, such as traffic, misdemeanors, bankruptcy, immigration, or probate. Georgia Superior Courts hear a large variety of cases including felonies, contracts, real estate, civil disputes, child custody, and divorce.

Recently, the Alcovy Circuit Court posted a Press Release announcing that, “ The judges of the Superior Courts of the Alcovy Judicial Circuit (Newton County and Walton County) were sworn in for their new four-year terms on December 21, 2012.”

The Judges for this Court include (from left to right in photo below): Judge Horace J. Johnson, Jr.; Judge William Kendall Wynne, Jr.; Judge Eugene M. Benton; Judge William M. Ray, II; Judge Samuel D. Ozburn; and Judge John M. Ott.

Information on each Judge can be found in the Press Release and on the Court website:

Christine M Bechtold, Esq. practices in the Alcovy and Gwinnett Judicial Circuits. Call or email today for your free initial consultation 770.466.2700

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sesame Street: D is for Divorce

By Chris Dyches
Dec 12, 2012 5:15 p.m.

Things are changing on Sesame Street and the writers behind the major children's series are tackling yet another tough subject... divorce.

In an new web series, the Muppet show, which is in its 44th season, will publicly talk about divorced families.

"Sesame Street has never shied away from taking on tough topics. If it's a challenge young children face in their lives, it's a challenge Sesame Street would like to help them weather," a blog posted on the Sesame Street website said.

"Over the years we have tackled everything from the death of a loved one to helping children through challenging economic times. And now Sesame Workshop is providing tools and resources to help children and parents stay resilient during divorce and separation."

Millions of young children experience divorce, and they struggle to understand what exactly is happening. Parents also struggle to explain these changes, if they are able to open up to their children about the subject at all.

"That's why Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce provides resources featuring our beloved Sesame Street Muppets that give divorced parents strategies on how to communicate with and support their children," the blog stated.

The segment itself won't air on TV - it's among Sesame Street's "targeted" programming aimed at specific populations - but it will tackle divorce directly, in a way producers hope is accessible, understandable and, well, not quite so scary.

Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro wrote the script for the video materials starring Abby Cadabby, Elmo and Rosita, and spoke about the difficulties of writing stories about such a sensitive topic.

"We never want to go too into detail with any of these," Ferraro said, "because every kid's situation is different. Every divorce is different and every family's situation is different. We want to keep it a little bit ambiguous so it's applicable to all children, but it's also Abby's story. Abby is talking about the fact that her parents are divorced. She's already at a place where she has accepted it, and that made a big difference emotionally."

"This [house] is where I live with my mommy," Abby proclaims confidently, holding up her crayon drawing in the web episode, "and this one is where I live with my daddy."

The reason? Well, you know the reason.

"Divorce means that Abby's mommy and daddy aren't married anymore," longtime Sesame Street adult Gordon explains.

"The general messages that come across," she added, "are you are not alone, we are here for you. You can talk to people about this. It's good to talk. There are many different emotions you may go through. That's OK."

Although Abby Cabaddy's parents are divorced in the story, Ferraro spoke to how important it was that Elmo, Rosita and Gordon, played by Roscoe Orman, appear in the story as well.

"We wanted there to be an adult, and that's why Gordon is in it," she said. "We wanted to show an example of a kid talking to an adult about this. Roscoe just did an incredible, wonderful job. We wanted to show there are many people in your life who can support you."

"The general messages that come across," she added, "are you are not alone, we are here for you. You can talk to people about this. It's good to talk. There are many different emotions you may go through. That's OK."

But this isn't the first time that Sesame Street, and Gordon, have attempted to tackle the subject.

In early 1992, a census report predicted that 40 percent of children would soon live in divorced homes.

Writers came up with a script and cast Snuffy, a.k.a. Mr. Snuffleupagus, for the part of child divorcee.

"With a team of its best writers, researchers, and producers, a segment was scripted and shot, a Tumblr storyboard posted on PBS' website stated. "It went through a half-dozen revisions, with input from the foremost researchers in the field. And on a typical sunny afternoon on Sesame Street, the furry, red, elephantine muppet known as Snuffy prepared to drop the bomb on his loyal preschool viewers."

"My dad is moving out of our cave," he confides to Big Bird one afternoon, distraught after knocking over a house built of blocks. "I'm not sure where," he continues, crying. "Some cave across town."

Big Bird, naturally, is horrified. "But why?" he asks his friend.

Snuffy blinks his long, dark eyelashes, and pauses. We know what's coming. Well, he explains, "because of something called a divorce."

That is where Gordon explains why divorces happen.

"Viewers learn that sometimes divorce can be 'for the best,' the Tumblr storyboard said.

"We are assured that Snuffy and his sister Alice will always be loved. And yet when Sesame Street tested the segment on preschoolers, just weeks before it was scheduled to air, it was nothing short of a disaster. The children didn't know where Snuffy was going to live. They didn't think his parents loved him. Some worried their own parents might get a divorce. They cried."

"It was really the first time we'd produced something, put all this money into it, tested it, and it just didn't work," says Susan Scheiner, a longtime Sesame researcher, who worked on the segment. "We thought we had it. We thought this was really revolutionary, and then it was just bad."

Sesame Street killed the show, and for the two decades since, producers have avoided the D-word on air - until now.

Copyright 2012 WBTV. All rights reserved.

Toys for Tots collects for annual drive

Inside a non-descript 57,000-square-foot warehouse located on Best Friend Road, a handful of volunteers empty vans and trucks filled with new, unwrapped toys.

It must mean that Toys for Tots is hard at work and this year, the greatest needs are gifts for boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 12 years old.

"We always need gifts for this age," media coordinator Cherrie Carney said. "I think we always have a problem because it's a weird age to shop for."

Friday morning's small group of workers built bikes, emptied trash bags and moved pallets -- for free.

"Everything we have is donated. Nobody gets paid," Carney said. "Everything is volunteer work. I think 95 percent of the monetary funds raised went back to buying toys last year."

The volunteers -- both in the warehouse and on the board -- work from October to January collecting, sorting and distributing toys for the boys and girls of metro Atlanta for no reason other than for smiles on Christmas Day.

Companies and individuals donate food and water for the workers. The actual warehouse space is donated year to year, although for the past four years, it has been located somewhere in Gwinnett County.

"This space was donated by a company named Prolodges, but every year we have to find space," Carney said. "If anyone has warehouse space in Gwinnett County that they're willing to donate for us to store our stuff until next season, that would be great. We have to be out of here by Jan. 15."

From the Norcross location, Toys for Tots supports 17 metro counties. Last year, the organization collected and distributed 723,000 toys, which helped 360,000 kids.

As of last Wednesday, it distributed 154,000 toys for the year.

"I know that the next two weeks are going to be the heaviest loads," Carney said. "I would say prior to this week ... there were a lot of empty bins. It's slow starting. Our goal would be to meet last year's numbers or exceed last year's numbers, but you don't have an indication at the end of the season if that happened."

And the group tries to use everything given to them.

"We received hundreds of popcorn containers that are going to be used to hold stocking stuffers," Warehouse Manager Maria Teague said while looking at the seven bins full of the containers. "We also received a ton of puzzles. We're holding on to most of them because I would hate for an agency to have all of the same things (given to them)."

When donations are brought to the warehouse, volunteers unpack the boxes, then sort the toys by age and sex. Some toys aren't up to Toys for Tots' standards in quality, so the damaged goods are either repaired and given to agencies or donated to the Salvation Army.

"Sometimes all they need is a piece of tape, and it's good as new," Teague said.

With the holidays around the corner, the nonprofit is feeling the crunch.

"The need is great everywhere (in the metro)," Carney said. "Last year, we distributed a lot of toys, but there was still demand we couldn't meet. ... We can only supply one gift and a stocking stuffer per child, but at least it's something for them."

Want to help? Today, there is a Great Toy Drop in Norcross. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Publix at the intersection of Holcomb Bridge Road and Peachtree Industrial is collecting toys. Some of the special guests during the event include U.S. Marines, former Atlanta Braves player Ron Gant, the Gwinnett Gladiators' mascot Maximus the Lion and Falcons cheerleaders.

If you can't make this event, there are more than 140 drop boxes located in metro Atlanta. Many of them can be found at a local Publix store.

Toys for Tots takes toys appropriate for ages infant to 12 years old.