Montgomery, Ala., July 16, 2009 – At the Alabama State Bar's 2009 Annual Meeting, held this past weekend in Point Clear, Ala., awards honoring members of the legal profession were presented to the following:
(Chief Justice's Professionalism Award) – The recipient is the Hon. J. Gorman Houston, Jr., former justice of the Alabama Supreme Court (1985-2005) and now a partner in the Birmingham law firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC. This award, created jointly by the Chief Justice's Commission on Professionalism and the Alabama State Bar, recognizes a judge or a lawyer for his or her outstanding contribution in advancing professionalism of the legal profession in Alabama.
(Maud McLure Kelly Award) – Mobile attorney Frankie Fields Smith received the award which celebrates the accomplishments of women lawyers who have excelled in their field and have paved the way to success for other women lawyers. She was Mobile's first African-American female lawyer and the first African-American municipal judge in the City of Prichard, Ala.(1975-86). She presently serves as a member of the board of the Mobile Volunteer Lawyers Program. Smith earned her law degree from Howard University.
Maud McLure Kelly, the namesake of the award, was the first woman to be admitted to the practice of law in Alabama. In 1907, Kelly's performance on the entrance exam at the University of Alabama Law Department merited her admission to the school as a senior, the second woman ever to have been admitted.
The recipients of the Pro Bono Awards are:
(Al Vreeland Award) – Christopher J. Williams, Birmingham (Maynard Cooper & Gale P.C.). Vreeland practiced law in Tuscaloosa and served on the Volunteer Lawyer Program/Access to Legal Services committee for many years. This award is presented to an individual attorney who demonstrates outstanding pro bono efforts, through the active donating time to the civil representation of those who cannot otherwise afford legal counsel and by encouraging greater legal representation in and acceptance of pro bono cases.
Williams is a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law and joined the Volunteer Lawyers Program shortly after passing the bar in 2004. For 18 months he represented a VLP client with a contract dispute with a building contractor.
The client hired and paid a contractor to repair their home which was damaged by fire. The contractor failed to complete the work and would not respond to the client. After fling suit against the contactor Williams negotiated a settlement for the client in the amount of $16,500 allowing them to complete repairs to their home.
(Firm/Group Award) –The Birmingham Homeless Experience Legal Protection (HELP)
program. The HELP clinic offers assistance to the homeless community in the areas of criminal, domestic and family law, social security applications, and assists individuals in obtaining birth certificates or a drivers license. Many volunteers help clients clear up minor criminal matters that prevent them from securing housing or applying for a job. This project was lead by Lisa Borden and the firm of Baker, Donelson et al which provided resources and recruited and trained volunteer law firms to provide clinical services.
Twelve law firms participated in the program, each one being assigned a month. The participating firms are:
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, P.C.;
Adams & Reese, LLP;
Maynard Cooper & Gale, P.C.;
Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Branch, LLC;
White Arnold & Dowd PC;
Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP;
Burr & Forman LLP;
Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC;
Sirote & Permutt PC;
Wiggins, Childs, Quinn & Pantazis, LLC and
Walston, Wells & Birchall, LLP.
(Law Student Award) – Alyson Hood. She is a student at Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, who has volunteered substantial hours to the HELP project. In addition to the staff provided by law firms, law students also perform services for the HELP clinic outside of clinic hours. Students are engaged in providing a wide variety of services including legal research. Hood is responsible for coordinating all of the student activities for the clinic. She makes sure that students appear during clinic hours and coordinates the assignment of students to other activities. Alyson recruited over 30 law students to participate in the HELP project and has contributed over 150 hours of service to the project.
(Mediation Award) – Charles H. Booth, Jr., Birmingham. Booth has worked with the Jefferson County District Court Mediation Program for five years and has served as coordinator of this project for three years.
He works with pro se parties at the District Court to help them settle their disputes. He also serves as a mediator for the Better Business Bureau and the Cumberland Community Mediations Center volunteering to judge their student negotiation teams. In 2008 Booth mediated over 35 cases pro bono. These cases were both through the Jefferson County District Court Mediation program and for the Better Business Bureau.
(Commissioner's Award) – Walter S. Turner, Montgomery, who recently retired after more than 45 years with the state Attorney General's Office where he served in nearly every department including, recently, the Administrative Division; Rosa H. Davis, Montgomery, who has worked in the state Attorney General's Office since 1973 and has served in several capacities including Prosecutor for the Court of the Judiciary and Robert G. Esdale, Sr., Montgomery, who has been the Clerk of the Alabama Supreme Court since 1982, in recognition of their long-standing commitment to the administration of justice in Alabama.
(Award of Merit) – Thomas C. McGregor, Montgomery, who served for 18 years as the state bar's legislative counsel. David M. Wooldridge and “Squire” Gwin, both of Birmingham, who have tirelessly and unselfishly given of their time to help colleagues in need and have helped to make the Alabama State Bar's Lawyer Assistance Program one of the premier programs in the country.
They both have served terms as chair of the Lawyers Helping Lawyers Committee as well as serving several continuous years as active Committee members. Wooldridge and Gwin are current Board members of the Alabama Lawyer Assistance Program Foundation.
(Local Bar Achievement Award – Presented for advancing programs that benefit the community and enhance the bar's image).
The Birmingham Bar Association. Under the leadership of George M. (Jack) Neal, Jr. president, the BBA was recognized for 31 outstanding community service projects it has created. Many of these projects gave citizens a better understanding of the law or legal system while others provided much needed funds.
The Montgomery County Bar Association was selected for its program called "Project Impact Montgomery" which included a $23,000 contribution to the Brantwood Children's Home to purchase a new van. Other noteworthy projects include its Toys for Tots Drive, and the rendering of pro bono services to the Montgomery Family Sunshine Center. Under the current leadership of Patrick L. W. Sefton, president, the local bar continues to make great strides of exemplifying lawyers rendering service, raising more than $100,000 for various charities.
The Calhoun/Cleburne County Bar Association was honored for projects conducted
under the leadership of its President, Robert B. Folsom, Jr., of Anniston. As a result of its fund raising efforts, the local bar awarded a college scholarship to a student in the Criminal Justice curriculum at Jacksonville State University, supported a Family Adoption project, and reached out to children having to appear in court through its Teddy Bear Project coordinated through the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office. The local bar also provided one hour of CLE credit to its members at each of its 12 monthly meetings, a program spearheaded by now Circuit Judge Brenda Stedham.
(Walter P. Gewin CLE Award) – Claude M. Burns, Jr., Tuscaloosa. Presented for outstanding service to the Alabama bench and bar in continuing legal education. Named for Judge Walter P. Gewin, who, as president of the Alabama State Bar, helped start the continuing legal education institute as a cooperative effort between the University of Alabama School of Law and the state bar.
The 16,000-member Alabama State Bar is dedicated to promoting the professional responsibility, competence and satisfaction of its members, improving the administration of justice and increasing public understanding and respect for the law.