Atlanta, GA — The Georgia Supreme Court Commission on Dispute Resolution and the Dispute Resolution Section of the State Bar of Georgia have awarded the 2019 Chief Justice Harold G. Clarke Award to Melissa C. Heard, MSSW, in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the field of alternative dispute resolution in Georgia. The event marks the first time in the history of the award that the honor has been endowed to a non-attorney.
Ms. Heard accepted the award Friday, December 13, at the 26th Annual Alternative Dispute Resolution Institute and 2019 Neutrals’ Conference held at the Georgia State University College of Law in Atlanta. Notably, the award presentation was decreed by Edith B. Primm, the 2015 recipient.

Melissa Heard has devoted over 20 years to the field of ADR, as a mediator, trainer (both at the Justice Center of Atlanta and her own business: Success Consulting & Mediation, Inc.), long-time Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution (GCDR) member, and mentor to many across North America.

Karlie A. Sahs, Program Manager, Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution; Tracy Johnson, Executive Director, Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution; Melissa C. Heard, Award Recipient; and Stacey Mitchener, Esq., President, Dispute Resolution Section of the State Bar of Georgia

She began her education with a major in journalism at Brenau University, where she has received many accolades that include becoming the first African American to be inducted into the H.G.H Senior Honor Society. Additionally, she attended the University of Tennessee and received a Master of Science in Social Work. Ms. Heard has enjoyed an array of occupational mastery, including a CBS Sportscaster; canine officer/hostage negotiator; national and international mediation consultant; and an ADR reservist for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
At the event, Ms. Primm regaled the crowd with Ms. Heard’s more personal accomplishments, such as saving a person from suicide in her first week as a hostage negotiator and her receipt of FEMA’s Reservist Special Act Award, a Presidential Award, for outstanding contributions during a deployment following a hurricane disaster. The presenter continued, “In her work as the GCDR Training and Credentials Committee chairperson, Melissa has spent countless non-compensable, irretrievable hours strengthening standards for Georgia Mediators. She is a model professional and loyal friend, having touched the lives of thousands- including numerous judges, lawyers, and mediators alike.”
The Commission and the Dispute Resolution Section created the Clarke Award in 2013 to honor the memory of the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold G. Clarke. From 1990 to 1994, when Clarke served as Chief Justice, he led the Supreme Court and the State Bar of Georgia in creating a system of processes- such as mediation, arbitration, and early neutral evaluation- that helped courts manage their heavy dockets and that offered litigants productive ways to resolve their legal disputes outside of litigation.

Past Recipients:
2013 – Ansley B. Barton, Esq., mediator, mediation trainer, and founding director of GODR
2015 – Edith B. Primm, Esq., Director of the Justice Center of Atlanta
2016 – Douglas H. Yarn, Esq., Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law
2017 – R. Wayne Thorpe, Esq., ADR Neutral for JAMS
2018 – Raytheon Rawls, Esq., Senior Public Service Faculty at the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at the University of Georgia