Legal Alert: Georgia Employers Must Use Attorney to Answer Garnishment Summons


On September 12, 2011, the Georgia Supreme Court adopted an informal State Bar of Georgia opinion stating that any non-lawyer who answers a garnishment in Georgia is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Accordingly, as of September 12, all companies responding to a summons of garnishment in the state of Georgia must file their answer through a licensed Georgia attorney.

The Court's decision was not entirely unexpected. In June 2010, the Standing Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law issued Advisory Opinion No. 2010-1, in which the Committee addressed the question of whether a non-attorney employee of a garnishee can file an answer to a garnishment summons without engaging in the unlicensed practice of law. The Committee decided that employers can only answer garnishment summons through a licensed Georgia attorney. The Committee premised its decision on the fact that corporations and limited liability companies have no right to self-representation, and must therefore be represented by a licensed attorney in any legal proceeding. The Committee reasoned that because a garnishment action is like any other legal proceeding, the non-attorney employees of a business cannot lawfully answer a garnishment summons.

Although the Committee's decision caused an immediate stir in the Georgia business community, most companies were not immediately impacted. Indeed, the Committee's advisory opinion was non-binding and therefore did not have the force of law. Accordingly, most employers continued to use non-attorney employees to process and file garnishment answers.

Please see full alert below for more information.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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