Lawyers from both ends of the political spectrum Monday remembered Anne Ware Lewis, a voting law expert and general counsel of the state Republican Party who died Sunday after a yearslong battle against cancer. She was 56.
Frank Strickland of Taylor English Duma recalled interviewing Lewis for a summer clerk position at his small firm in 1987. “She was such a genuine person,” said Strickland. “That sort of jumped off the page.”
She joined the firm full-time in 1989 upon graduation from Georgia State University College of Law, where she had been managing editor of its law review. Strickland said he and fellow Republican Oscar Persons introduced Lewis to the law surrounding politics in 1991.
In 2004, she led a successful suit in which a federal court struck down a Democratic-written state legislative map on the grounds that its maximizing Democratic representatives and state senators violated the “one person/one vote” principle. The decision, upheld by an 8-1 vote of the U.S. Supreme Court, led to a huge increase of Republican victories in the 2004 election, Strickland recalled.
“She was a great strategic thinker and the best writer and editor I’ve ever worked with,” added Strickland. Last month, most of the lawyers in their firm, Strickland Brockington Lewis, moved to Taylor English. He said he was sorry the lawyers at Taylor English wouldn’t get to work with Lewis, who’d been involved in the decision to move but was on medical leave when it occurred in March.
Judge Mark Cohen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta represented Democratic governments of Georgia against Lewis in redistricting fights, then worked with her in defending a Republican-led voter identification law. Cohen called Lewis’ death ”a huge loss for our legal profession.”
“Anne and I were mostly on opposite sides of the political aisle during our legal careers, but there aren’t a lot of people whose company I enjoyed more,” Cohen added. “I will miss her grace and her sense of humor.”
Emmet Bondurant of Bondurant Mixson & Elmore led the unsuccessful challenge of the voter identification law, but his interactions with Lewis in that case led them to discover a cause they shared: representation for indigent criminal defendants.
Bondurant brought her onto the board of the Georgia Resource Center, which provides free representation to indigent prisoners on death row in state and federal habeas corpus proceedings challenging their convictions and sentences. The organization is important because Georgia is the only state that does not guarantee counsel in habeas corpus cases.
“She was very committed,” said Bondurant, adding her role was critical because she had connections with Republicans who controlled the state budget that, along with private donations, funds the center. “No one in the Legislature would talk to us,” he said.
Bondurant said Lewis was “a very able adversary defending the indefensible, unfortunately successfully,” in the voter identification case.
“We got along well,” he added. “We litigated, frankly, as friends.”
Bryan Tyson, a Taylor English partner who came from Strickland Brockington Lewis, said on Facebook that Lewis had mentored him.
“Words cannot describe her loss for Georgians and particularly our legal community,” he wrote. “But not as many people got to see Anne in her personal life and experience her boundless generosity. She served faithfully in her church and community, often without any recognition. And she never missed an opportunity to give to others.”
Doug Chalmers Jr. of Chalmers & Adams recalled that over the past 17 years, Lewis and he worked together on a number of political and legal matters. “At other times we were competitors, but we were always friends,” he said. “She set a standard of professional excellence, collegiality and good cheer to which all lawyers should aspire. She fought her illness with courage and grace, never complaining, and she always somehow stayed focused on how others were doing even though she must have been suffering.”
An online obituary states that Lewis is survived by her parents, Michael Edward and Elizabeth Powers Ware; her husband, Bradley J. Lewis; sons Kevin Bradley Lewis and Kyle Patrick Lewis; brother Michael Ware; and sisters Mary Jacobs and Megan Coomer.
The obituary says the family will receive friends from 6 p.m. till 8 p.m. Tuesday, at A.S. Turner & Sons Funeral Home, and a funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Decatur.