The State Bar of Georgia honored nine lawyers, firms and law schools at its annual Pro Bono Awards dinner, held at the Glenn Hotel on Nov. 15, for their work providing civil legal services to those in need.
This year, U. S. Magistrate Judge Catherine Salinas of the Northern District of Georgia and Julia Sullivan of Stone & Sullivan in Savannah were honored with the H. Sol Clark Award for their careerlong efforts to expand legal aid. Clark, a former Court of Appeals judge, is known as the “father of legal aid” in Georgia.
Early in her career, Salinas started a pro se divorce clinic and a “wills on wheels” program at Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, and she’s continued those efforts in the Atlanta area. She’s served as president of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society’s board, as co-chair of the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers’ community service committee and as a member of the state bar’s Access to Justice Committee. As a committee member, Salinas led the development of DueJusticeDo50, which connects lawyers with pro bono opportunities, and Georgia.FreeLegalAnswers.org, which connects the public with lawyers to answer their civil legal questions.
Sullivan has encouraged pro bono in Savannah as chair of the Savannah Bar Association’s Pro Bono Committee, where she’s worked to inculcate pro bono service for every bar member while taking on many such cases herself. She’s also worked with the Georgia Legal Services Program to improve screening and placement of pro bono cases.
The Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice received the William B. Spann Jr. Award, which goes to a local bar association or firm for its work finding volunteer lawyers to represent public school students facing suspension or expulsion in administrative tribunals. The group’s Young Professionals Council started a Student Tribunal Project to represent foster children at these tribunals and reduce time out of school as a punishment.
Michael Tafelski of Georgia Legal Services won the Dan Bradley Award for the legal aid attorney of the year. Tafelski, who has spent the first decade of his career so far at the legal aid group, has developed a focus on stopping the school-to-prison pipeline. He leads Georgia Legal Services’ education advocacy for students and won the first Georgia Supreme Court case addressing excessive student discipline, Henry County Board of Education v. S.G., which recognizes students’ right to self-defense in schools.
Troutman Sanders won the A Business Commitment Award, which goes to a private firm or lawyer, for supporting its lawyers’ active volunteerism for a range of legal nonprofits. The firm also hosts the Atlanta chapter of Kids in Need of Defense, which represents immigrant children in deportation cases.
The state bar recognized three law students with its Law School Excellence in Access to Justice Award. Meghan Flanagan, a 2017 graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law, won for her work as an advocate for immigrant children, as well as for children who’ve been abused or neglected.
Andrew Navratil and McKinley Anderson at Georgia State University College of Law won for starting an alternative spring break this year for students to do pro bono through the law school’s Center for Access to Justice.
The Emory Law School chapter of the International Refugee Assistance Project earned the group award.