News Post

Alabama State Bar honors several award winners at 2020 Grand Convocation

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama State Bar announced the recipients of several awards honoring members of the legal profession as part of their virtual Annual Meeting Friday, June 26, at the Grand Convocation:

Judicial Award of Merit – Hon. Madeline Hughes Haikala

The Judicial Award of Merit is the highest honor given by the Alabama State Bar to a sitting judge, whether state or federal court, trial or appellate, who has contributed significantly to the administration of justice in Alabama. The 2020 recipient is Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala.

Judge Haikala graduated from Williams College in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology.  She received her juris doctor degree in 1989 from Tulane University Law School, where she graduated magna cum laude and was inducted into the Order of the Coif.

President Barack Obama appointed Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in 2013.  The United States Senate confirmed the appointment in October 2013.  Before her appointment to the district court, Judge Haikala served as a Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of Alabama for one year.  Before taking the bench, Judge Haikala practiced law for more than two decades with the Birmingham, Alabama law firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White, where she specialized in trial and appellate work.

Judge Haikala has served as an adjunct professor at Cumberland School of Law, and she has held leadership roles in a variety of professional and community organizations.  For example, she has had the privilege of serving as a member of the Board of the Women’s Section of the Birmingham Bar Association.

Award of Merit – Allison O’Neal Skinner

The Award of Merit is the highest honor given by the Alabama State Bar to a lawyer, and serves to recognize outstanding constructive service to the legal profession in Alabama. The 2020 recipient is Allison O’Neal Skinner.

Skinner is Deputy General Counsel at Cadence Bank, N.A. She graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1994 and has served as an adjunct professor teaching e-discovery. She has also served on the board of several non-profits having been trained in non-profit governance at Harvard University School of Government Executive Program.

Skinner has participated on numerous CLE panels.  Prior to joining the bank, Allison was the founding partner of Skinner Neutral Services LLC, mediator at Sirote & Permutt Mediation Center, administrative partner (Birmingham office) at Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell P.C., associate at Stockham & Stockham P.C., and judicial law clerk for the Honorable Sharon G. Yates of the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.  She is serving in her third term as a 10th Judicial Circuit Board of Bar Commissioner.

She was the 2019 recipient of the Susan Bevill Livingston Leadership Award and the Girl Scouts of Northern Alabama Woman of Distinction. She is a recipient of the President’s Award by ASB President Sam Irby and, as a Bar Commissioner, she has served on numerous committees to include the Consolidated Fundraising Task Force; Election Rules Committee; Local Bar Task Force; the Long- Range Planning Task Force and Futures of the Profession Task Force. Skinner has been a contributing editor to the Alabama Lawyer since 2013 and served as the Addendum e-Newsletter Editor for two years.

Commissioners’ Award – Judge John Henninger Graham

This award was created by the Board of Bar Commissioners in 1998 to recognize individuals who have had a long-standing commitment to the improvement of the administration of justice in Alabama. The 2020 recipient is Judge John Henninger Graham.

Judge Graham established and runs the Jackson County Drug Court, which has been recognized as the best such program in Alabama and has received national recognition for its innovative programing. He is involved in numerous activities to improve the administration of justice locally and statewide, is president of the Alabama Association of Drug Court Professionals, is a member of the Circuit Judges Association Education Committee, and was appointed by the Supreme Court of Alabama to the Pattern Criminal Jury Instruction Committee and the Alabama Chemical Testing Advisory Board. He is a much sought-after speaker at both state and national Drug Court meetings and seminars.

Graham was first appointed Circuit Judge in 2006 by Governor Bob Riley and has since been elected three times, all without opposition. He graduated Berea College in Kentucky and the University of Alabama School of Law. He is married to Angela R. Graham, a clinical nurse educator with Encompass Home Health, Inc. They live in Stevenson and have two adult children.

William D. Scruggs, Jr., Service to the Bar Award

This award was created in 2002 in honor of the late Bill Scruggs, former state bar president to recognize outstanding and dedicated service to the Alabama State Bar. The 2020 recipient is H. Thomas Heflin, Jr.

Heflin currently practices law in Sheffield, Alabama. His practice is primarily civil law concentrating on asbestos defense, education employment law, corporate litigation, wills and estate litigation, personal injury litigation, and general civil litigation. Heflin represents local governments and agencies.

Heflin graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law. He has been an active member of the Alabama State Bar since graduating in 1979, and served as a Board of Bar Commissioner since 2014. Heflin has been a member of the Bar’s Pro Bono Celebration Task Force since 2017, as well as the Personnel Committee Co-Chair since 2018.

Anthony “Tony” McLain Professionalism Award

The purpose of the J. Anthony “Tony” McLain Professionalism Award is to honor the leadership of Tony McLain and to encourage the emulation of his deep devotion to professionalism and service to the Alabama State Bar by recognizing outstanding, long-term and distinguished service in the advancement of professionalism by living members of the Alabama State Bar. The 2020 recipients of this award are Harlan I. Prater, IV, and Michael E. Upchurch.

Harlan I. Prater, IV, is a partner at Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC in Birmingham, Alabama. He is one of a select few attorneys who are Fellows of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and the American Board of Trial Advocates. He is a tireless advocate, defending clients and protecting their interests in high-stakes civil trials.

A Chambers USA “Leading Lawyer,” Benchmark Litigation “Litigation Star” and two-time The Best Lawyers in America “Lawyer of the Year,” clients have relied on Prater’s experience and skill in product liability, pharmaceutical, medical device, environmental and business litigation for more than 30 years. He also represents clients in consumer fraud, antitrust and patent actions.

Prater’s career includes a number of landmark trials and major victories in Alabama and other states. He served as defense counsel in the largest and longest-running trial in Alabama history–an environmental contamination trial that involved thousands of plaintiffs and lasted more than 19 months. He also has obtained defense verdicts in cases with millions of dollars at stake for clients throughout Alabama and the Southeast, including the first verdict in more than a decade in favor of a defendant product manufacturer in Lowndes County, Alabama. Harlan has served as national counsel for various product manufacturers and is one of only 15 Alabama lawyers selected as a member of the Product Liability Advisory Council (PLAC).

Prater received his J.D. with honors from Duke University School of Law and his A.B. magna cum laude from Duke University. Beyond the courtroom, Harlan is dedicated to giving back. He chairs the Alabama State Bar Committee on Disciplinary Rules and Enforcement, and he has served on the Birmingham Bar Association executive committee. Harlan served as chair of the Board of Directors of the Birmingham YMCA, and he has served as the chair of the Board of Trustees for both Canterbury United Methodist Church and the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Prater and his late wife, Alice, were married for 32 years and have two daughters, one of whom recently graduated from law school and plans to practice in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the other is an elementary school teacher in Washington, D.C.

Michael E. Upchurch is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law in 1983 and is a partner with Frazer Greene in Mobile.  Upchurch’s practice is primarily trial work and mediation.

President’s Award

The President’s Award is presented to members of the bar who best exemplify the Alabama State Bar motto, “Lawyers Render Service.” The recipients are chosen by the current bar president. The 2020 recipients, selected by 2019-2020 President Christy Crow, are:

  • Marcus Maples, Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz
  • Judge Kelly Pate, Balch & Bingham, LLP
  • Robert Shreve, Burr & Forman LLP
  • Ryan Duplechin, Beasley Allen Crow Methvin Portis & Miles, PC
  • Linda Lund, Alabama State Bar
  • Brannon Buck, Badham & Buck, LLC
  • Susan Han, Nettles Han Law, LLC
  • Emily Hornsby, Morris Haynes, LLP
  • Manish Patel, Patel & Sledge
  • Brian Murphy, Braswell Murphy, LLC
  • Davis Smith, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP
  • Jimbo Terrell, Methvin Terrell Yancey Stephens & Miller PC
  • George Parker, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP
  • Gibson Vance, Beasley Allen Crow Methvin Portis & Miles, PC
  • Kitty Brown, White Arnold & Dowd PC
  • Morris Lilienthal, Martinson & Beason, PC
  • Ralph Holt, Holt Mussleman Morgan & Alvis
  • Jeff Bowling, Bedford Rogers & Bowling, PC
  • Greg Ward

Local Bar Achievement Awards

These awards were created in the early 1990’s to recognize the work of local bar associations for the programs or activities conducted in a particular year.

  • Escambia County Bar Association, Charles E. Johns, Jr., President
  • Birmingham Bar Association, Steven F. Casey, President
  • Tuscaloosa County Bar Association, Christopher A. Thigpen, President
  • Calhoun/Cleburne County Bar Association, Allison J. Miller, President

The Alabama State Bar (ASB) is the official licensing and regulatory organization of lawyers in Alabama. Since 1923, when the Alabama State Bar was created by an act of the legislature, ASB programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system. It is dedicated to promoting the professional responsibility and competence of its members, improving the administration of justice and increasing the public understanding of and respect for the law.


Media Contact: Melissa Warnke
Director of Communications, Alabama State Bar
(334) 517.2218 (c) | (256) 338.0621 (c)