Montgomery, Alabama, July 20, 2012 – At the Alabama State Bar’s 2012 Annual Meeting, held this week in Sandestin, Fla., awards honoring members of the legal profession were presented to the following:
- Judicial Award of Merit
The Hon. Philip Ben McLauchlin, circuit judge, 33rd judicial circuit (comprised of Dale and Geneva counties) was honored for his long-time service — he has held his current position since 1976 and is the second longest-serving judge in the state — as well as his work on the Alabama Sentencing Commission, which reviews critical issues of sentencing standards and prison overcrowding, and as the current chair of the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission, responsible for enforcing the Canons of Judicial Ethics.
- Special Recognition
Robert L. McCurley, Jr., who retiredIn December 2012 after 37 years as the director of the Alabama Law Institute, the state’s chief law reform agency, was recognized for his career-long enlistment of thousands of Alabama lawyers to serve on Institute committees to draft meaningful reforms of practically every major body of law in the state.
- Chief Justice’s Professionalism Award
The Hon. J. Scott Vowell, presiding judge, 10th Judicial Circuit, Birmingham, received this award, created jointly by the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism and the Alabama State Bar in recognition of his outstanding contribution in advancing the legal profession in Alabama. Known for his ability to manage and diffuse difficult situations, he is regarded in the Birmingham legal community as a fair judge and dedicated public servant who transcends political affiliations and professional networks.
- Maud McLure Kelly Award
Marjorie Fine Knowles, professor of law, College of Law, Georgia State University, Atlanta, is this year’s recipient. After graduating from law school, Knowles clerked for a U.S. District Judge, then served as an assistant U.S. attorney and as an assistant district attorney. In 1972 she joined the faculty of the University of Alabama School of Law, where she served in various capacities, including associate dean. In 1978 she was appointed as the first assistant general counsel for the Inspector General Division at the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. From 1986-1991 she served as dean of the College of Law at Georgia State University.
- Pro Bono Awards:
— Al Vreeland Award (two recipients this year)
The Hon. J. Scott Vowell, presiding judge, 10th Judicial Circuit, Birmingham was honored for his contributions to the substantial growth the program has experienced — from handling just over 300 cases in 2009 to more than 1000 cases in 2011. He was also responsible for signing an administrative order that created a docket in domestic relations court to specifically handle low-income cases being represented by Birmingham Volunteer Lawyers Program volunteers, thereby streamlining the process.
Gregory H. Hawley, White Arnold & Dowd PC, Birmingham was recognized for his focus on pro bono service while he was president of the Birmingham Bar Association. As a result, more members of the bar association volunteered for the program than ever before. Furthermore, his efforts opened the door for numerous partnerships between the Birmingham Volunteer Lawyers Program and various sections of the bar association, which facilitated a dramatic increase in the number of legal clinics staffed by volunteer attorneys to represent low income clients.
— Firm/Group Award
The law firm of Beasley Allen Crow Methvin Portis & Miles PC, Montgomery was tapped for this award because it regularly accepts pro bono cases from the Alabama State Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program, in addition to providing one attorney to assist at the Montgomery County Bar’s monthly legal advice clinic. Without such firm support these local projects would not be possible. For cases closed in 2011, attorneys at the firm provided 112 hours of free legal assistance to VLP clients.
— Law Student Award
The University of Alabama School of Law, classes of 2011, 2012, 2013 was noted for their work in aiding survivors of the April 27, 2011 tornado. Students, clinic lawyers, interns and volunteers from the Tuscaloosa Bar assisted those affected by the tornadoes in a wide variety of civil matters. Initially, housing concerns were paramount; not only did those displaced or with severely damaged properties need immediate help from FEMA, the Small Business Administration or their insurers, but the requirements of a relatively new landlord-tenant act needed to be acted on quickly or rights might be waived. Obtaining public benefits, such as food stamps and unemployment compensation, were other critical needs, especially since many survivors had never applied for or considered how to qualify for such entitlement programs. Also, with the separation of some some families, arrangements for custody, child support and visitation had to be modified or revised. In the first weeks after the storm, student volunteers provided more than 300 hours of pro bono legal services in public clinics and other intake locations.
— Mediation Award
D. Robert Stankoski, sole practitioner, Fairhope was singled out for his supervision from 2010-2012 of the Baldwin County District Court Small Claims Mediation Program. Spending approximately 10 hours per week, he was responsible for scheduling all 15 of the program’s mediators to ensure that they were available for each small claims docket.
- Local Bar Achievement Awards
— The Tuscaloosa Bar Association is the recipient of the Local Bar Award of Achievement for its 22 projects which includes an expansive list of charitable and public service causes. The Tuscaloosa Bar continues to promote “Lawyers Helping People.” Its focus has been two-fold: to serve the bench/bar and the community. Activities provide education programs for members to improve the quality of legal services for clients and community as well as to better serve the bench/bar. John J. Lloyd, of Cartee & Lloyd, is president of the local bar association.
— The Calhoun/Cleburne County Bar Association is the recipient of the Local Bar Award of Achievement for its 10 projects covering a wide range of charitable and public service causes. Over the last five years, this local bar continues to add significant community projects and demonstrates a high level of local bar participation in the community. Laura Ghee Alexander, of Ghee & Draper, is president of the local bar association.
— The Mobile Bar Association is the recipient of the Local Bar Award of Achievement for its cumulative list of 13 projects supporting numerous charitable and public service causes, including several new projects aimed at benefiting both the Bar and the community. The Mobile Bar has one of the most outstanding Law Day celebrations of any local bar in the state. Through its Foundation, its Volunteer Lawyers Program and other entities, it continues to be a consistent model of excellence. Wesley Pipes, of Pipes Hudson & Watts, LLP, is president of the local bar association.
— The Birmingham Bar Association is the recipient of the Local Bar Award of Achievement for its 28 community service projects. The historical strength of the largest metropolitan bar in Alabama with its remarkable diversity, talent, and organization enables it to support charitable work and contribute selflessly to the community. Its strong Young Lawyers Section, a training ground for future leaders, contributed $25,000 for the benefit of three worth while charities. Joseph A. Fawal, of Fawal & Spina, is president of the local bar association.
The 17,000-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.