As we reported in our September 28, 2011 Legal Alert, the Georgia Supreme Court held last year that only licensed Georgia attorneys could lawfully file a response to a garnishment summons filed against an entity (as opposed to an individual) in a Georgia state or superior court, thus adding expense and delays to a procedure most Georgia employers and other business entities had traditionally handled through nonlegal staff, such as human resources or payroll personnel. The Georgia General Assembly reacted quickly to this court ruling, and on February 7, 2012, Governor Nathan Deal signed into law amendments to the Georgia garnishment statutes that will allow employers and other entities in the state to use nonlegal personnel to file responses to garnishment summonses in any Georgia court.

The new law, HB 683, declares that the execution and filing of an entity's response to a summons of garnishment may be done by an employee or designated officer (such as a third-party vendor) and do not constitute the practice of law. Similarly, the law provides that the payment into court of the garnished money or property may be done by an employee or authorized officer and does not constitute the practice of law. As a result, employers and other garnished entities will be free to use nonlegal staff or third-party vendors (such as payroll administrators) to prepare and file with the court the response to the summons of garnishment. If the party seeking the garnishment challenges the response, however, filings in response to that challenge will have to be made by a licensed Georgia attorney.

The new law also increases the amount that an employer or other garnished entity may deduct from the garnished funds as reasonable attorney's fees or expenses incurred in responding to the summons of garnishment. The new authorized deduction is now the greater of $50 or ten percent of the amount paid into the court, but the authorized deduction is capped at $100.

The new law went into effect upon its signing by the governor. As a result, employers and other garnished entities need no longer engage an attorney to file responses to garnishment summonses. Garnished entities taking advantage of this change in the law should ensure that the employees responding to garnishment summonses are adequately trained to provide an accurate, timely, and lawful response. Inaccurate or untimely responses can result in liability to the garnished entity.

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