Sunshine expert speaks with authority

 Last week’s statements by the state’s leading authority on open meetings and open records has certainly created buzz.

When attorney David Hudson plainly stated there is no legal basis for saying elected officials cannot openly discuss what occurs in an executive session of a local legislative body, it generated no small amount of discussion, here and across the state of Georgia.

What is amusing is when individuals who have little to no legal training, who may or may not have sat in on an ethics class somewhere, who are only vaguely familiar with state law, and who may not even know the five freedoms guaranteed in the 45 words of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, want to comment as if they know more about the Sunshine Law than David Hudson.

Hudson literally wrote the book on the Georgia Sunshine Law, having penned the “Georgia Sunshine Laws Handbook 2012.”

So, we thought we would let our readers, along with local county, city and school board attorneys, know a little more about Hudson.

He graduated from Harvard Law School, Cum Laude, in 1971, with a Doctorate of Jurisprudence.

His undergraduate work was at Mercer University, graduating in 1968, with degrees in history and political science.

Hudson served as a captain in the U.S. Army (1972-74) and was a senior instructor in the U.S. Military Law Department at Fort Gordon.

He clerked with the honorable Griffin B. Bell, U.S. Court of Appeal for the 5th Circuit.

He has argued numerous cases in the appellate courts of Georgia, the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 2nd, 5th and 11th Circuits, and has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

His honors include being named among:

• Best Lawyers Lawyer of the Year Augusta Bet-the-Company Litigation (2012); Personal Injury Litigation: Defendants (2014)

• Best Lawyers in America® — Bet the Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation, Litigation: Construction, Litigation: First Amendment and Personal Injury Litigation

• Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism Benham Award (2009)

• Georgia Super Lawyers — Business Litigation (2004-2013); Top 100 Georgia Super Lawyers (2005-2007)

• Georgia Trend’s — 100 Most Influential Georgians (2006)

• Georgia Trend’s Legal Elite — General Practice/ Trail Law (2012)

• Martindale-Hubbell® AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated

Colleagues have called Hudson a “great legal mind” and “one of the leading trial lawyers in the country.”

Hudson has served as General Counsel for the Georgia Press Association for several years and is in high-demand as a speaker for academic, civic and media organizations.

No attorney in the state of Georgia is more prepared or better credentialed than Hudson to issue these strong and important opinions regarding the Georgia Open Meetings Act.

No county, city or school board attorney in Georgia can enter this discussion with Hudson’s level of expertise and familiarity with the provisions of the act.

Of course, all of this begs the most important question: Why would anyone want to argue about whether or not elected officials should be open and transparent with the people’s business? More open, transparent government is in everyone’s best interest.Elected officials with nothing to hide simply shouldn’t hide.

Hudson has not said there is never a need for executive session or that there are not proprietary items, legal matters or certain pieces of personal information that should be kept under wraps.

Those things, we suggest, should be the exception rather than the rule. Executive sessions should be few and far in between.

However, in local governmental bodies throughout our state, executive sessions have become so commonplace that they are rarely questioned.

We encourage citizens to question government, because it is your business.

Now, thanks to Hudson, elected officials who chose to do the right thing and tell citizens what is going on behind closed doors when they think it is in the public’s best interest to know, can do so without fear of running afoul of the law.

—  Jim Zachary


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