Justice Robert Benham. Photo: John Disney/ ALM

Legal awards season launched on Twitter on Wednesday with an announcement of the honorees for the awards named for Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham.

“Congratulations to the 19th Annual Justice Robert Benham Awards for Community Service Honorees,” the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism, @CJCPGA89, tweeted Wednesday. “Join us on February 27, 2018, 5:30 pm at the State Bar of Georgia as we celebrate the 2018 recipients.”

The commission, along with the bar, have presented these awards since 1998 to honor lawyers and judges in Georgia who have made significant contributions to their communities and demonstrate the positive influence of members of the bar beyond their legal or official work, the group said in a separate news release.

The highest of the honors is the Lifetime Achievement Award. This year, the top trophies will be awarded to Superior Court Judge Robert W. Chasteen Jr. of the Cordele Judicial Circuit and Avarita Hanson of Atlanta.

Chasteen, 66, was elected as a Superior Court judge in 2004 and re-elected in 2008, according to his bio in an announcement when he filled in on the Georgia Supreme Court. He served as a Municipal Court judge in Ben Hill County from 2000-2004. From 1969-2004, he was a partner in Mills & Chasteen, a law firm located in his hometown of Fitzgerald. Chasteen served as county attorney for Ben Hill County for 35 years, and he served as president of the State Bar of Georgia from 1995-1996.

Hanson retired in August after 11 years as executive cirector of the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism, according to a Georgia Supreme Court announcement. “Avarita Hanson has been a true leader in the profession of law in Georgia,” Chief Justice P. Harris Hines said. “Since 2006, she has worked tirelessly to enhance professionalism among Georgia’s lawyers and ensure that the practice of law remains a high calling. It will not be easy to replace her.”

The executive director is responsible for developing and providing superior and relevant educational programs and for coordinating professional activities of the organized bar, courts, law schools and law firms. The new executive director is Karlise Grier.

This award is reserved for a lawyer or judge who, in addition to meeting the criteria for receiving the Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service, has demonstrated an extraordinarily long and distinguished commitment to volunteer participation in the community throughout his or her legal career, the commission said.

The other awards are given to selected attorneys across the state who have served a wide range of community organizations, government-sponsored activities, and humanitarian efforts outside of their professional practices and judicial duties, the commission said. Their fields of service include: youth athletics and mentoring programs, literacy programs, social services, church and religious activities, politics, promotion and support for legal aid programs, community development, education, sports, recreation, and the arts.

The commission seeks to recognize the commitment of Georgia lawyers to volunteerism, encourage all lawyers to become involved in community service, improve the quality of lawyers’ lives through the satisfaction they derive from helping others, and raise the public image of lawyers.

And the winners are:

• Patrick O’Connor, managing partner of Oliver Maner in Savannah and past president of the State Bar of Georgia.

• Dougherty County District Attorney Gregory Edwards in Albany.

• Charles E. Jones, chief legal officer at Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley.

• La’Keitha Carlos, chief of staff to DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond in Decatur.

• Ann Baird Bishop of Sponsler, Bishop, Koren & Hammer in Atlanta.

• Lawrence & Bundy co-founder Allegra Lawrence-Hardy in Atlanta.

• Rogers & Hardin partner Robert Remar in Atlanta.

• Retired litigator Tommy Holland in Jonesboro.

• Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader in Lawrenceville.

• Northern Judicial Circuit Judge Thomas Hodges III in Hartwell.