"I had the opportunity to watch appellate arguments while in law school, and recall feeling that no amount of preparation could ever fully ready an attorney for every curveball thrown," said Meri K. Benoit (J.D. '99) after oral arguments in Wellstar v. Jordan. "I still feel that to be the case!"
With more than 10 years experience and her role of plaintiff's lawyer with Malone Law, assisting with arguments before the state's highest court may cause some anxiety, but she's holding her own.
When Georgia State University College of Law welcomed the Supreme Court of Georgia to hear arguments on Feb. 20, it was a coincidence that one of the plaintiff's lawyers was the Georgia State Law alumna.
"I was very honored to participate, and very proud to be a graduate of the College of Law," Benoit said. Hearing the case in the special session, in front of a room of students, faculty and distinguished guests "emphasized the wide-reaching significance of the issue."
Although Benoit began her career representing corporate clients, she ultimately gravitated toward medical negligence cases—first representing physicians, nurses, hospitals and nursing homes, and now representing injured patients and their families. "Healthcare touches everyone," she says. "It has been very rewarding to be a part of a process that maintains the quality and integrity of the healthcare system upon which we all rely."
As a student, Benoit worked on the Law Review and took advantage of externships with an appellate court, large federal agency, special interest group, as well as traditional law firms. Upon graduation, she worked as a defense attorney before joining Malone Law in 2006 to represent catastrophically injured plaintiffs.
Benoit has been working with Malone Law's founder Tommy Malone on the Wellstar v. Jordan case, which concerns a 2010 medical malpractice suit and the distinctions made between witness testimony and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protected information. The topic is "extremely important to citizens, health professionals and members of the Bar," Benoit said.
"I genuinely feel GSU provides the most practical legal education available in Georgia. The curriculum, professors, adjuncts, extracurricular programs and even the physical location continue to afford students real-life opportunities unavailable at any other law school in the state."
During oral arguments in the Student Center Ballroom, the Court also heard Mitchell v. Georgia, an appeal of a conviction and life prison sentence in a 2007 murder trial. The appellant's attorneys argued that critical information was redacted from recordings in evidence that directly implicated the appellant's co-defendant, when it was favorable to the appellant, thereby denying him a fair trial.
The Supreme Court of Georgia held the special session in honor of the college's 30th anniversary and the university's centennial.