The Daily Report is pleased to announce five finalists for its first “Attorney of the Year” award, honoring who had the biggest impact on the Georgia legal community or most helped to advance the cause of justice during 2015.
A panel of six prominent lawyers helped the Daily Report select the finalists from a host of nominations made by the public. We planned initially to name only three finalists, but the panel felt strongly about five.
The panel will choose from the finalists a winner, who will be named at the Daily Report’s Nov. 9 event honoring the attorney of the year, law firm litigation departments and in-house legal departments of the year. The Nov. 9 edition of the Daily Report will identify the panel and include profiles of the finalists for the attorney of the year and the departments of the year.
Here are the finalists for attorney of the year, in alphabetical order, with brief examples of their achievements. The Nov. 9 profiles will give more complete pictures of their work.
• Gov. Nathan Deal, who, among other actions, set in motion historic and sweeping changes to Georgia’s appellate courts, including making important shifts in jurisdiction and adding two new justices to the Supreme Court. He also continued to lead a nationally recognized process of criminal justice reform.
• Harold Franklin, who, as president of the Atlanta Bar Association, established its Equal Justice in Law Enforcement Initiative. It engages the legal community, citizens and the law enforcement community to help prevent law enforcement shootings and excessive force involving nonviolent unarmed citizens.
• Charles Johnson and Suzanne Ockleberry, who lead Advocacy for Action, which pushes for a more diverse judiciary in Georgia.
• Chris Stewart, who has become nationally known for advising the families of people shot by police. Most prominently, he represented the family of Walter Scott, a black South Carolina man who last year was shot in the back while running away from a white police officer as a witness recorded a cellphone video. That case concluded in five months with a $6.5 million payment to Scott’s family from the city of North Charleston.
• Bryan Tyson, who as executive director of the Georgia Public Defender Council laid the groundwork in 2015 for key decisions by the Legislature in early 2016. The council received $4 million in additional state funds, enabling the council to pay all state-paid assistant public defenders on the same schedule as assistant district attorneys.