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St. Thomas More Society Atlanta


The St. Thomas More Award is presented annually to one or more judges, lawyers, or member of the public to recognize specific actions manifesting a commitment to justice and humanity, especially in difficult circumstances. This award is given without regard to the recipients’ political or religious affiliations, and is presented at the Red Mass Luncheon. Click on the links below to view past award recipients:

2022  2019  2018  2017  2016  

2015  2014  2013  2012


In 2022, the St. Thomas More Society was pleased to honor the following two public servants who have shown a dedication to the principles of justice and humanity:

The various acts for which we honor them required firmness of purpose when an “easier,” “more expedient” and arguably more attractive course would have yielded a less principled, just, or humane result.  Each recipient has exhibited admirable resolve that is so often demanded of those who choose public service as their calling.  In the spirit of our namesake, we honor them for their commitment to society and the law.




Harold D. Melton served with distinction for sixteen years as a justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, having been appointed by Governor Sonny Perdue in 2005. He served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia from 2018 until his retirement in 2021. He is currently a partner at Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP in their Atlanta office. 

In 2007, Justice Melton was charged with leading a task force of lawyers and public health experts in order to develop procedures and strategies for operating Georgia’s legal system in a pandemic. Under Justice Melton’s leadership, the task force in 2009 produced the 177-page Georgia Pandemic Influenza Bench Guide, which was updated in 2018. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Georgia in March of 2020, not only did Georgia already have a blueprint for how its legal system could operate in a pandemic due to the work of the task force, but the head of the task force was now leading Georgia’s judicial branch of government, as Justice Melton was then serving as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia. 

In the midst of the uncertainty at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Justice Melton was able to act quickly and with clarity by issuing a series of Statewide Judicial Emergency orders which gave necessary guidance to judges, lawyers, court staff, and all other participants in the judicial system. Justice Melton’s steadfast leadership guided Georgia’s legal system through unprecedented challenges, and always with a focus on protecting individual rights while ensuring transparency across the state. 

Prior to his service on Georgia’s highest court, Justice Melton served as executive counsel to Governor Sonny Perdue.  He also worked for more than eleven years as an assistant attorney general in the Georgia Department of Law, where he led the Consumer Protection Section for four years.

Justice Melton graduated from Wheeler High School in Marietta, Georgia. He received his undergraduate degree from Auburn University, which renamed its student center after him in 2020. He received his juris doctorate from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1991. Justice Melton serves as a board member of the Atlanta Youth Academies and on the national, local, and collegiate boards for Young Life Ministries.





Byung J. “BJay” Pak is currently a partner in the Litigation and Trial Practice group at Alston & Bird LLP, where he concentrates his practice on white collar and government enforcement matters.  From 2017 to 2021, BJay served as the 25th Senate-confirmed United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. Under his leadership, the office focused on fighting public corruption, preventing human trafficking, prosecuting violent criminals, and protecting vulnerable victims from financial fraud.

From 2011 to 2017, BJay served in the Georgia General Assembly as a State Representative from the 108th District, where he was a Deputy Majority Whip, the Vice Chair of the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, and the Chairman of the Gwinnett County (the 2nd most populous Georgia county) Legislative Delegation.  During his tenure, BJay co-sponsored, and helped shape many laws on Georgia’s books today relating to human trafficking, economic development, and criminal justice reform measures.

BJay has been consistently recognized by Chambers USA and as one of the 100 Most Influential Georgians by Georgia Trend Magazine.  In 2018, the Korean Prosecutors Association named him “Prosecutor of the Year,” and in 2019, he was awarded the National Asian Pacific Bar Association’s highest award, the Hon. Daniel K. Inouye “Trailblazer Award.” In 2021, he was honored with the Principles Award by the Conservative Policy Leadership Institute, and the Judge Alvin T. Wong Pioneer Award, by the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

BJay earned his law degree, summa cum laude, and Order of the Coif, from the University of Illinois College of Law.  Upon graduating from law school, he clerked for Honorable Richard Mills, United States District Judge for the Central District of Illinois.  A graduate of Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, he was a Florida Academic Scholar, a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa, and was on the Interfraternity Council.  He is a registered Certified Public Accountant in the State of Illinois.

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Back In 2019, the St. Thomas More Society was pleased to honor the following two public servants who have shown a dedication to the principles of justice and humanity:

  • The Honorable Robert Benham, Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia
  • Susan Jamieson, formerly of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc.

We are also pleased to present the St. Francis of Assisi Award to Chief Louis M. Dekmar, Chief of Police, City of LaGrange Police Department.

The various acts for which we honor them required firmness of purpose when an “easier,” “more expedient” and arguably more attractive course would have yielded a less principled, just, or humane result.  Each recipient has exhibited admirable resolve that is so often demanded of those who choose public service as their calling.  In the spirit of our namesake, we honor them for their commitment to society and the law.



We honor Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham with the St. Thomas More Award for his leadership in promoting and raising the level of professionalism among Georgia's lawyers especially since his election as Chief Justice in 1995. As Chief Justice, Justice Benham led the effort to expand the definition of professionalism beyond merely promoting civility between advocates so it has now become an umbrella concept and structure with essential elements and values. These elements include the qualities of competence, civility, character, and commitment to the rule of law. They also include dedication to the lawyer's role as counselor, officer of the court and solver of problems, commitment to pro bono, community and public service, and to working for the improvement of the law and the legal system to ensure access to that system.

Even before his appointment to the Supreme Court in December 1989, Justice Benham recognized that the Bar's focus on the single aspect of civility in the definition of "professionalism" produced too narrow a view of the problem that ignored other facets that could offer great advantages to the Bar and, more importantly, to the public. Under his leadership, the professionalism movement in Georgia has spawned two other commissions appointed by the Supreme Court of Georgia: The Commission on Equality, and the Commission on Dispute Resolution. The Community Service Task Force was created under the auspices of the Commission on Professionalism to bring an expanded focus to the community and public service aspects of professionalism. Through its Committee on the Standards of the Profession, the State Bar of Georgia has joined forces with the Commission in designing and conducting a Transition into Practice Pilot Program to test the feasibility of requiring newly admitted lawyers to complete a skills and values curriculum linked with mentoring by experienced lawyers.  As a joint effort of the Georgia Supreme Court and Bar, the Commission works closely with the Law Practice Management, Lawyer Assistance, Consumer Assistance, Diversity, and Pro Bono Programs of the State Bar and with the Office of Dispute Resolution.  Each of these is effectively dealing with subjects which fall under the umbrella of professionalism.

Justice Robert Benham is the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court of Georgia. Appointed by Gov. Joe Frank Harris in December 1989, he was the first African-American ever appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court in its over 140 years. On July 17, 1990, Justice Benham won statewide election to a full term on the Supreme Court. He served as Chief Justice from 1995-2001, elected by his peers. Before his appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Benham had served on the Georgia Court of Appeals for five years.

A lifelong resident of Georgia, Justice Benham was born to Jesse Knox Benham and Clarence Benham in Cartersville, Georgia. He obtained a B.S. in Political Science from Tuskegee University in 1967 and also attended Harvard University. In 1970 he earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Georgia, Lumpkin School of Law. He was awarded a Master of Laws degree from the University of Virginia in 1989.  After completing law school, Justice Benham served in the U.S. Army Reserve, attaining the rank of Captain. He then served briefly as a trial attorney for the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc. He later returned to Cartersville, where he engaged in the private practice of law. He served as Special Assistant Attorney General and enjoyed two terms as the President of the Bartow County Bar Association.

Justice Benham is a member of the American Judicature Society, the Lawyers' Club of Atlanta, the National Criminal Justice Association, and the Georgia Bar Foundation. He is a Trustee of the Georgia Legal History Foundation. He is a past vice president of the Georgia Conference of Black Lawyers, a former board member of the Federal Lawyers Association and the Georgia Association of Trial Lawyers. He is also the former chairman of the Governor's Commission on Drug Awareness & Prevention and a member of the National Conference of Chief Justices. He is a member of the Federal-State Jurisdiction Committee and a member of the Governors Southern Business Institute.

Justice Benham is married to the former Nell Dodson of Cartersville, and they have two sons. An avid woodworker, Justice Benham enjoys spending his leisure time with his sons, making wooden toys and music boxes.




2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the case that has been called the Brown v. Board of Education in establishing rights for the mentally disabled: the Supreme Court’s 1999 decision in Olmstead v. L.C. ex. rel Zimring, 527 U.S. 581 (1999). 

Today we honor the driving force behind that landmark achievement, Susan C. Jamieson, the Founder and former Director of the Mental Health and Disability Rights Project at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society (now known as the Disability Integration Project.)


A primary focus of Sue’s legal career has been protecting the rights of disabled persons in institutions.  In the late 1970s as a Legal Aid lawyer in Jacksonville, Florida, Sue began visiting a state hospital to help clients with common legal issues such as divorce.  She saw that these persons were isolated not only from society in general, but also from representation by the legal community.  She became troubled by restrictions on their liberty.


Sue joined the Atlanta Legal Aid Society in 1985, and she began working with clients at Georgia Regional Hospital.  There, she came to meet Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, who were the plaintiffs in the Olmstead case.  Both were mentally disabled, and despite ultimately being found eligible for community placement, remained institutionalized.

Sue and her Atlanta Legal Aid colleagues filed an action alleging that the State’s institutionalization of these women violated, inter alia, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The case was assigned to late U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Shoob, who granted partial summary judgment to plaintiffs.  Judge Shoob held that “unnecessary institutional segregation of the disabled constitutes discrimination per se, which cannot be justified by a lack of funding.”  The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part, but remanded for reassessment of the State’s “cost-based” defense.

In a resounding victory for Sue’s team, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and held that “States are required to provide community-based treatment for persons with mental disabilities when the State's treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate, the transfer from institutional care to a less restrictive setting is not opposed by the affected individual, and the placement can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the State and the needs of others with mental disabilities.”

Olmstead thus required public entities to place persons with disabilities who are in institutions in more integrated, community-based settings, if their clinicians agree and this is their choice. The decision recognizes the value of preserving the dignity and independence of these citizens. 


Sue semi-retired in 2009, and she is currently co-director with Talley Wells of the Disability Law Project at the Institute on Human Development and Disability at the University of Georgia.


For her “commitment to justice and humanity” in championing the rights of our developmentally disabled citizens, we honor Sue Jamieson with the St. Thomas More Award.





The St. Thomas More Society is pleased to present the St. Francis of Assisi Award to Chief Louis M. Dekmar, Chief of Police, City of LaGrange Police Department.

This award is given to Chief Dekmar in recognition of his nationally recognized efforts to improve relations between law enforcement and minority communities through his work as Chief of Police of the City of LaGrange Police Department, as well as during his tenure as President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

In the fall of 2016, a LaGrange Police Officer reported to Chief Dekmar about a conversation overheard between two elderly African-American citizens viewing pictures of past police officers displayed on the wall of the Police department lobby. The officer witnessed one saying: “They killed our relative.”

Neither the officer nor Chief Dekmar, who at the time had served as LaGrange Police Chief for over two decades, had any idea about the death to which the two elderly ladies were speaking about. After searching police department archives in vain, and expanding the investigation into archives of local and national newspapers, he found copies of articles printed in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and New York Times referring to the lynching of a young African-American, Austin Callaway in 1940. Mr. Callaway had been arrested and was in the LaGrange Police Department’s custody for “assaulting a white woman” which, in 1940 could have meant anything from looking too long at a white woman, not crossing to the opposite side of the street, to far more serious crimes. While in the city’s jail in the Police Headquarters’ basement, a group of men entered and seized Mr. Callaway. Mr. Callaway was found on the following day at the outskirts of LaGrange with bullet wounds. He died from his wounds soon after being found. The LaGrange Police Department conducted no murder investigation, and the case was treated as just another lynching.

No police officer employed in 1940, nor any relative or descendant of such an officer remained on the LaGrange Police Department in 2017. Thus, while neither he nor any current LaGrange employee had any connection with the crime, Chief Dekmar recognized that Austin Callaway, his family, and his community had suffered a grave injustice: The LaGrange Police Department had failed in its duty to protect Mr. Callaway while he was in custody, and to investigate his lynching just as the Department would investigate any murder. Sensing that the effects of that injustice, communicated between generations of the African-American community through oral history, were continuing to have ripple effects in LaGrange even 77 years later in terms of a gulf of distrust between LaGrange’s minority community and his police department, while recognizing that both the evidence and the perpetrators were beyond police reach, Chief Dekmar consulted with members of the Callaway family, Austin Callaway’s Church community, the NAACP and other leaders of LaGrange’s African-American community to discuss how the Police Department could right that wrong in 2017.

There emerged from these discussions the City of LaGrange Police Department’s Trust Initiative. It began with a formal ceremony in January 2017 at Austin Callaway’s Church from which he had been buried in 1940. Chief Dekmar, on behalf of the Police Department and the City, publicly acknowledged that the dark events of 1940 had occurred, that law enforcement played a role in the events that mattered, and formally apologized to Mr. Callaway’s descendants, his church, and to LaGrange’s African-American community for the wrong done to their ancestor. This apology was, in Chief Dekmar’s words, an essential step in, but only the beginning of an on-going process of reconciliation to build a “trustful relationship between the police and the citizens they serve.”

The Trust Initiative process continues, focusing on four themes: trust, justice, dignity and history. Working with leaders from the NAACP and local churches, the LaGrange Police Department is taking additional steps to assist minority community members to more readily access police department resources in protecting their communities. The Department has modified its regulations relating to employers’ obtaining information from police records about employees. There is now a constant dialogue between Chief Dekmar’s office and the minority community leaders.

The LaGrange Police Department’s Trust Initiative serves as the model that the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (GACP) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) adopted during Chief Dekmar’s term as IACP President. With support from the IACP and GACP, and assisted by the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Chief Dekmar created the Georgia Police-Community Trust Initiative which held its first two-day meeting at LaGrange College in August, 2019 by hosting nine police departments, community leaders and national experts to explore means of creating community reconciliation and trust-building techniques. These efforts will continue and will expand both to other Georgia communities and nation-wide.

Chief Dekmar holds a B.S. degree in Justice Administration, a master’s degree in Public Administration and two honorary Doctoral Degrees, one from LaGrange College, and one from the Central Police University of Taipei, Taiwan. He is a former member of the Georgia Board of Public Safety which oversees the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, The Georgia State Patrol and the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. He is Immediate Past President of the IACP, former Chair of the international Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, and former President of the GACP, and in 2004 was selected as delegation leader for the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange. He is renowned as a teacher of leadership, ethics, law enforcement management and liability issues at the Law Enforcement Command College of Columbus State University, at colleges, universities and convocations of police leaders and elected officials throughout the United States and internationally, and has lectured on international law enforcement standards at the United Nations Police conference in Oslo, Norway in 2014 and for the National Police of Taiwan, ROC. Besides his two honorary doctorates, his list of national and international awards is voluminous and includes the 2017 Anti-Defamation League Kay Family Award he received at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the National Association of Black Law enforcement Executives Robert Lamb Humanitarian Award, the Georgia Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement and Contribution to the Law Enforcement Profession, and the Police Valor Award.

Chief Dekmar and his wife, Carmen, have two children: Christopher Dekmar, who resides in California and Cathy Czarnonycz, who resides in Smyrna, Georgia. The Dekmars are members of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in LaGrange, Georgia.

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This year, the St. Thomas More Society, Inc., is pleased to honor the following two public servants who have shown a dedication to the principles of justice and humanity:

  • The Honorable Richard W. Story, Judge, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia 
  • John A. Horn, Partner, King & Spalding, LLP and former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia

The acts for which we recognize our honorees show a  firmness of purpose when an “easier,” “more expedient,” or arguably more attractive course would have yielded a less principled, less just, or less humane result.  Each recipient has exhibited a commitment to justice and humanity, a quality that is often demanded of judges and lawyers.




Despite the bloody war fought from 1861 to 1865 to end slavery, it still exists – both internationally and even within our nation. As a transportation hub with the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta and Georgia have become a major center for national and international human trafficking rings. Children and adults daily are bought, sold, and kept in bondage to sex and labor traffickers. Whether accomplished through retaining the documents of workers who have overstayed their visas, or through violent kidnapping of women and children for sale to operators of prostitution rings, human trafficking is widespread and a growing problem confronting our legal system every day.

The St. Thomas More Society honors Judge Richard Story for leading judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials to understand and eliminate human trafficking.  After presiding over a major human trafficking case in 2014, Judge Story was invited by the Vatican to join judges and prosecutors from 56 countries to share their experiences in dealing with the crimes, the perpetrators, and the victims of human trafficking. Since then, he has become a subject matter expert for the United States Department of Justice and United States Department of State in training judges, prosecutors and victims’ rights advocates in dealing with the criminal and social impacts of human trafficking. His work in this area has taken him across Georgia and to Guatemala. He has spoken to countless groups on human trafficking. He will be moderating a panel of judges and prosecutors for the State Bar of Georgia on the related issue of human labor trafficking.

The nature of the crime makes it especially easy to become consumed with outrage against the perpetrators, Judge Story notes. However, it is necessary to look at each case on an individualized basis, to balance the need to protect the rights and vindicate the abuses the perpetrators commit against the victims, with the need to afford the defendants a fair trial in every case.  It likewise is necessary for the court system not to re-victimize the victims of this crime, and to show them compassion and respect for their inherent human dignity. Judge Story notes that, in the United States, we are “ahead of the curve” in many ways in dealing with the crimes and the victims in a humane manner.

Born in Harlem, Georgia, Judge Story attended LaGrange College, where he earned a B.A. in English in 1975. He remains a member of his alma mater’s Board of Trustees. He earned his law degree in 1978, after which he practiced as a trial attorney, and became a partner in the Gainesville law firm of Hulsey, Oliver & Mahar. He was appointed a judge on the Juvenile Court of Hall County in 1985, and served as a Superior Court Judge for the Northeastern Judicial Circuit and later as Chief Judge from 1993 to 1998. He was appointed to the federal bench as a District Court Judge for the Northern District of Georgia in 1998, and recently took senior status as a Senior Judge.

He is the father of three children including one who is an attorney. He attends the Methodist Church in Gainesville and maintains genuine affection and respect for Pope Francis. He is also an amateur actor and revels in playing the part of Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.





“My God . . . Give me the strength to go forward with this torture.”

(Prayer of Lorena, a young sex trafficking victim).

When a lawyer shines a light on sex trafficking in in our community, the facts uncovered are staggering.  In Georgia, experts estimate that 200 to 300 children each month are “sold” as prostitutes, primarily in Atlanta.  Mostly girls, with an average age of 12 years old, many of these victims are runaways or “throwaways”; approximately 90% have a history of past sexual abuse.

These modern-day slaves toil in the shadows of our prosperous city, abused and vulnerable, in this unthinkable forced labor that enriches their captors.  Atlanta’s sex trade reportedly nets more than $290 million each year, aided by Atlanta’s conventions and sporting events that attract travelers ready to buy.

Former United States Attorney John A. Horn seized the mantle of his predecessors in battling sex trafficking and other human trafficking in the Northern District of Georgia, and in raising awareness of this blight on our community’s collective conscience. Beginning when John was First Assistant to his predecessor Sally Yates, he helped pioneer a multidisciplinary human trafficking task force.  The task force combined the efforts of law enforcement, the state department, and the department of labor, not only to prosecute those responsible for terrorizing victims into forced sexual servitude, but also to attack the problem more broadly by strategizing about where human trafficking insinuates itself into our community and economy. 

As U.S. Attorney for three years (2015-2017), John prioritized the fight against sex trafficking and human trafficking.  He led a team of prosecutors who convicted more than thirty defendants of human trafficking offenses during his term, and who indicted more than ten others. John’s approach was to collaborate closely with state and local law enforcement agencies to “connect the dots” and multiply their joint efforts across the state.  He directed law enforcement to partner with community organizations that support victims and provide information to assist investigations.  He reached out to businesses with an ability to intercede in ongoing victimization, such as hotel operators or the trucking industry or commercial transportation companies.

John Horn earned his undergraduate degree at the College of William and Mary and his J.D. at the University of Virginia.  After completing his service as U.S. Attorney, in March 2018, John returned to King & Spalding LLP as a Partner in its Special Matters and Government Investigations practice, and its Data, Privacy, and Security practice.  John specializes in government and internal investigations, white collar criminal defense, and crisis management. 

It is especially fitting at this moment in history for a Catholic lawyers’ group to recognize those who stand up to stop the sexual victimization of anyone.  We are proud to recognize John Horn with the St. Thomas More Award for his leadership in the fight against those who victimize some of the most vulnerable in our society, and in the important effort to expose sexual exploitation and those responsible for it.

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This year, the St. Thomas More Society, Inc., is pleased to honor the following two public servants who have shown just such a dedication to the principles of justice and humanity:

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The annual Atlanta Red Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Atlanta. The basilica is located at 353 Peachtree St., NE, Atlanta.

Clergy, local judges, attorneys, and members of the legal community of all faiths are invited to attend this traditional celebration, which marks the beginning of a new judicial year and during which God’s blessings are invoked for those entrusted with the administration of justice. The Mass is sponsored by Atlanta’s St. Thomas More Society.

This year, the society will present the St. Thomas More Award to:
  • The Honorable Shawn Ellen LaGrua, Judge, Fulton County Superior Court
  • In memoriam, Jeffrey O. Bramlett, former partner of Bondurant, Mixon & Elmore LLP, and past president of the State Bar of Georgia
  • In addition, the society, who recently began awarding the St. Francis of Assisi Award to a non-lawyer for outstanding promotion of justice and peace, will honor David O. Brown, Chief of Police, of the Dallas, Texas, Police Department, for his handling of the recent crisis that occurred in the city.


Georgia Supreme Court Presiding Justice P. Harris Hines, Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. and Rev. Dr. Norvel Goff, Sr. of Charleston’s Emanuel A.M.E. Church to Be Honored at Atlanta St. Thomas More Society’s Traditional Red Mass and Awards Luncheon Oct. 8, 2015

Rev. Dr. Norvel Goff, Sr. is first non-lawyer to be honored by the St. Thomas More Society of Atlanta

On Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, at 11 a.m., Atlanta judges and attorneys of all faiths will join other public officials at The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus downtown to celebrate a traditional “Red Mass” to mark the beginning of a new judicial year and to seek blessings for the judicial system and pray for peace and justice. Sponsored by Atlanta’s St. Thomas More Society, an association of Catholic lawyers, the service is an ancient one with roots dating back to the Middle Ages. As is customary, the service will be followed by an awards luncheon honoring persons who have demonstrated courage through commitment to justice and humanity. This year’s honorees include:

  • P. Harris Hines, Georgia Supreme Court presiding justice, for his commitment to justice for youth and his leadership on the Supreme Court Commission on Justice for Children. Justice Hines will receive the St. Thomas More Award.

  • Joseph P. “Joe” Riley, Jr., mayor of Charleston, S.C., in recognition of his leadership following the tragic shootings at “Mother Emanuel” A.M.E. Church June 17, 2015, which set the tone for the non-violent and prayerful response of the citizens of Charleston and the state of South Carolina. Mayor Riley also will receive the St. Thomas More Award.

  • Rev. Dr. Norvel Goff, Sr., interim pastor of Charleston’s Emanuel A.M.E. Church, in recognition of the spirit of grace that he and the people of “Mother Emanuel” have demonstrated to the nation and the world. Pastor Goff is the first non-lawyer to be honored by Atlanta’s St. Thomas More Society by receiving the St. Francis of Assisi Award.

“The St. Thomas More Society is very pleased to recognize these three outstanding individuals,” said Carter Stout, president of the organization. “Presiding Justice Hines has served on the Georgia Supreme Court for 30 years and is a champion for young people. Mayor Riley and Pastor Goff inspired people across our nation with their grace and forgiveness following the tragic shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church. We couldn’t be more proud of the city’s non-violent response to what was supposed to launch a race war, and instead, with the leadership of these two men, and of the families of the victims, became an opportunity for racial healing.”

Atlanta’s Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, S.L.D. will celebrate the Red Mass with assistance from clergy throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Weather permitting, the day’s activities will begin at 11 a.m. with a solemn procession of judges and honorees into Sacred Heart Church, one of the oldest buildings in downtown Atlanta. The clergy will be robed in red vestments, traditionally signifying the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon God’s people, while the judges will wear their robes and red stoles. The approximately one-hour service is open to people of all faiths.

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The 2014 Red Mass was held on Thursday, October 9th at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Following the Red Mass, the Society will hold its annual awards luncheon at the Capital City Club. 

The Society is honored to present the St. Thomas More Award to:

  • The Honorable William H. Pryor, Jr. from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and 
  • The Honorable Horace Ward from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia


The St. Thomas More Award is presented annually to one or more judges or lawyers to recognize specific actions manifesting a commitment to justice and humanity, especially in difficult circumstances.  This award is given without regard to the recipients’ political or religious affiliations.

This year, the St. Thomas More Society, Inc., is pleased to honor the following two public servants who have shown just such a dedication to the principles of justice and humanity:

  • The Honorable Hugh P. Thompson, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia, Milledgeville, Georgia
  • The Honorable Wendell K. Willard, Chairman of House Judiciary Committee, Georgia House of Representatives – District 51, Sandy Springs, Georgia
The various acts for which we honor them required firmness of purpose when an “easier,” “more expedient” and arguably more attractive course would have yielded a less principled, just or humane result. Each recipient has exhibited admirable resolve that is so often demanded of those who choose public service as their calling. In the spirit of our namesake, we honor them for their commitment to society and the law.


The Honorable Hugh P. Thompson
Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia

Over the past decade, Chief Justice Hugh Thompson has been a leader in ensuring that the most fundamental protections of our justice system are more than platitudes.  Today we recognize Chief Justice Thompson for leading the effort to ensure that Georgia juries truly represent a cross-section of our communities, and for strengthening judicial recusal rules to avoid even the appearance of influence on judges.

Scholars trace a criminal defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to an “impartial” jury to the Magna Carta’s mandate of a “lawful judgment of [one’s] own peers.”   In practice, however, Georgia’s counties have long used methods that resulted in underrepresentation of many groups of citizens in jury pools, and thus denied many defendants a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community.

Beginning in 2003, Chief Justice Thompson assumed leadership of the Supreme Court’s newly-created Jury Composition Committee.  He overcame stiff resistance from those in Georgia’s 159 counties who preferred not to change historical practices.  As a result of his leadership, Chief Justice Thompson succeeded in the multi-year effort to replace Georgia counties’ various jury composition practices, and the “forced balancing” of jury pools, with a standard Jury Composition Rule for all Georgia counties.

Under the Jury Composition Reform Act of 2011, jury service is now available to many more eligible citizens.   Based on a statewide master list compiled by the Council of Superior Court Clerks, counties will produce venires that reflect a cross-section of the community.

We also recognize Chief Justice Thompson for leading the movement to protect the institutional legitimacy of Georgia’s courts by modernizing our judicial recusal rules.  In the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Caperton v. Massey Coal, the Court disqualified a West Virginia judge from a case involving a litigant whose CEO had spent $3 million to elect the judge. The Caperton decision permitted states to adopt more rigorous disqualification standards that address the perception or reality of conflicts of interest from large campaign contributions.

Chief Justice Thompson’s efforts succeeded in the adoption of new judicial recusal rules for Georgia, which help protect the legitimacy of our state courts.  We honor him for adding substance to these fundamental protections of our justice system.

The Honorable Wendell K. Willard
Chairman of House Judiciary Committee, Georgia House of Representatives – District 51, Sandy Springs, Georgia 

Georgia’s children and their families in the “juvenile justice” system have cause for a little more hope this year.  We honor Representative Wendell Willard for leading the successful legislative effort to reform Georgia’s juvenile justice laws and make humane, smart, and cost-effective changes in how we handle our society’s children in trouble.

As Rep. Willard explained, “For more than 40 years, Georgians have been coping with a complicated and outdated patchwork quilt of laws governing juvenile justice. Now, with the reforms in place, we will be able to administer justice more effectively and improve the lives of the children and families caught up in the juvenile justice system.”

Among the fundamental reforms are that “status offenders”–minors who become truants, runaways or unruly—will be considered “children in need of services” that can address the underlying problems.  By avoiding unnecessary detention, the law seeks to prevent juvenile offenders from becoming adult criminals.  The law also seeks to improve community-based programs that help keep nonviolent juvenile offenders in their schools and homes when possible, thus reducing the enormous financial and human costs of detention.  Violent offenders will be detained.

The law also provides counseling and services to the child and the family, clarifies when a child must be represented by an attorney, and expedites how foster children find “permanency.” It also protects Georgia’s share of federal dollars by conforming our laws to federal requirements.

In his usual modest way, House Judiciary Chair Rep. Willard has recognized others’ roles in this achievement:  “None of this would have happened without the leadership of [Governor] Deal, the hard work of many of my fellow legislators and the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, the support of [former] Chief Justice Carol Hunstein and the hard work of numerous statewide organizations, state agencies and volunteers, including parents, prosecutors, family attorneys, judges, scholars and youths who shared their experience with the juvenile system.”

In an era when it might be easier to overlook the children and families in our juvenile courts, we honor Rep. Willard for his legislative leadership in reforming our juvenile justice laws.


The 2012 Red Mass will be held on Thursday, October 4th at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  As in past years, The Red Mass will begin promptly at 11:00 am, to be immediately followed by The Annual Red Mass Awards Banquet at the downtown Capital City Club.

The Board of Directors of the Saint Thomas More Society is pleased to announce that the 2012 Saint Thomas More Society of Atlanta Award Honorees will be:

  • The Honorable Carol W. Hunstein, Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court
  • Patrick J. Rice, Esquire
  • H. Lane Dennard, Esquire, and 
  • Patrick C. DiCarlo, Esquire



Chief Justice Hunstein was appointed to the Supreme Court in November 1992. She is the second woman in history to serve as a permanent member of the Court.  In 1984 Justice Hunstein won election to the Superior Court of DeKalb County. Prior to serving on the bench, Justice Hunstein was in private practice. She has been a member of the Georgia Bar since 1976.

Chief Justice Hunstein has often been recognized and honored for many reasons, as she has inspired lawyers and laypeople alike throughout her career.  Today we honor her for her bipartisan efforts to improve Georgia’s criminal justice system in smart and humane ways and her tireless promotion of access to legal services by the poor.

Just as Georgia’s inmate population essentially doubled over the past two decades, the state’s spending on incarcerating those persons grew to more than $1 billion annually.  In 2011, Justice Hunstein urged that, rather than continue to lock up drug addicts and mentally ill defendants, “we must reserve our prison beds for our most serious criminals.”  She worked with the Governor and others to promote sentencing reform that allows alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders.  When that sentencing reform became law in 2012, she explained: “Hopefully in addressing the root problem, we’re going to keep people from committing other crimes and reunite them with their families and make them taxpayers, not tax burdens.”

Regarding access to justice by the less fortunate, Justice Hunstein has been a passionate defender. She exhorted federal and state legislators, “Equal access to justice is first and foremost about assuring that Georgians have the ability to meet their most basic needs. . . . Equal access to justice contributes to healthy communities and a vibrant economy.  No community thrives when people are homeless, children are out of school, sick people are unable to get health care, or families experience violence.  Likewise, when a person’s legal problem is addressed in a timely and effective way, the benefit ripples out and helps that person’s family, neighbors, employer and community.”  She has reminded us all that, even in tough times, access to justice by the disadvantaged must be preserved.

We honor these actions by Chief Justice Hunstein that exemplify a commitment to justice and humanity, even in difficult circumstances.


Nearly all lawyers perform some “good works.”  Sometimes we are struck by the rare lawyer whose enormous heart propels him far beyond ordinary “good works” when others are in a crisis.  One such lawyer whose heart alerts to people in difficult circumstances is Patrick J. Rice of Augusta’s Hull Barrett firm.

Pat has been a trial lawyer since 1966.  Throughout the many years of hard work necessary to develop a successful practice, P has devoted his talents and time to the needs of others, serving the interests of justice and the rule of law.  Pat Rice has the resume of the most successful and gifted lawyers, but we honor him for other things.  For many in need, Pat has been a beacon of goodness in dark times.  Examples abound:

With four children under age ten, Pat and his wife Susan welcomed into their home four teenage boys from a troubled family to provide them a stable and loving environment for many months.  When many feel burdened in caring for elderly parents, Pat and Susan Rice volunteer to take elderly friends to medical appointments and to help manage their medications and finances.

When lawyers in Augusta have experienced ethical, legal, and even criminal law difficulties, the person they invariably turn to for advice and counsel, and sometimes representation, is Pat Rice. By sharing the burdens of these lawyers, he has helped restore many of them to productive careers.

As a mediator, Pat takes far more time than most to learn about the client’s pain.  One case he mediated was brought against a physician by a mother whose young adult daughter had died, leaving a grandmother with a young child to raise.  Through Pat’s work, the grandmother and the physician were hugging each other after settling the case.  More lawsuits should end this way.

We honor Pat for his responding with compassion and grace when human needs become overwhelming for others in the community.  We also thank the members of the bench and bar of Augusta who have joined us to recognize Pat.


The involvement of Lane Dennard and Pat DiCarlo with the Georgia Justice Project (GJP) spans nearly a decade and in that time they have positively impacted the lives of thousands of Georgians.  Early in their work with the GJP, Lane and Pat began providing pro bono representation to residents of the McDaniel-Glenn housing project who faced the prospect of eviction because of a criminal history.  

Together with other volunteers, they represented nearly 200 families, all but 6 of which were able to retain their housing vouchers.Though pleased with the outcome, the experience convinced them that legislative reform was a necessity. The result of this conclusion was an impressive call to arms. Lane and Neil compiled a team of volunteers to help provide the empirical research supporting their co-authored book on the lasting and unintended ramifications of numerous criminal statutes in Georgia: COLLATERAL CONSEQUENCES OF ARREST AND CONVICTION: POLICY AND LAW IN GEORGIA. 

Published in 2009, the book played a significant role in the legislative reforms that followed. The release of the book gave GJP’s staff credibility and a calling card, and opened the door to an invitation to redraft Georgia’s expungement statute. Neither Pat’s nor Lane’s support ever wavered.  They testified in front of several committees, called legislators, and even spoke to funders in support of GJP’s advocacy work.  

Their tireless advocacy produced results: a revision to the expungement statute similar to what was called for in the book was included in the Governor’s Criminal Justice Reform package. For the first time in Georgia, nonconvictions will automatically be removed from a criminal record, easing the path to jobs and housing for countless Georgians caught up in the criminal justice system. It is for these efforts that today we honor the contributions of Lane and Pat for their commitment to justice, humanity, and compassion in service to others.

Archbishop John F. Donoghue Service Award

The Archbishop John F. Donaghue Service Award: The original 3 recipients were: Harry L. Cashin, Jr., Michael T. Byrne, and Jesus A. Nerio. After the name of the service award was changed to the Archbishop John F. Donaghue Award, the recipients have been: 

  • Brent Herrin, 2013

The 2013 recipient of the Archbishop Donoghue Service Award is Brent Herrin.  Brent has served as the coordinator for the Red Mass for the past two years.

Brent received his Bachelor of Business Administration in Banking and Finance from the University of Georgia.  He obtained his JD from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law and his Master of Laws in Taxation from the University of Alabama.

Brent previously served as Counsel to United States Senator Jeff Sessions and as Counsel to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts in Washington, D.C.

He is a partner with the firm of Cohen Pollock Merlin & Small where he divides his practice between litigation and transactional matters. His litigation practice is concentrated in bankruptcy and creditors’ rights matters, including advising clients regarding out of court workouts and representing clients before state and federal courts. He concentrates his transactional practice in the areas of taxation, estate planning, deferred and executive compensation, and business planning, including advising clients on the tax implications of merger and acquisition transactions.

  • Richard P. Kessler, Jr., 2012

The St. Thomas More Society Board of Directors named Richard P. Kessler as the Archbishop John Donoghue award winner for 2012 because of the example he has shown to us in the service that he has devoted to his Church, his profession, as President of the St. Vincent DePaul Society Council for Atlanta and North Georgia, and to the St. Thomas More Society. 

Dick was born in 1945 in Latrobe Pennsylvania. He graduated with an A.B. from Fairfield University in 1968 and went on to Emory Law School where he was on the Editorial Board of the Emory School of Law Public Law Journal form 1970 to 1971. After law school he clerked from 1971 to 1973 for Northern District of Georgia Judge Charles Moye, Jr. He is a partner in the law firm of Macey, Wilensky, Kessler & Henning.

Dick has served as Chair of the Business Law Section and UCC Committee of the Georgia Bar Association, and as Business Law Section Committee on Credit Unions of the American Bar Association. He is an author of numerous scholarly legal articles and a frequent lecturer on legal issues in Bankruptcy, Credit Union and Business Law.

In January, 1998 Dick wrote an article that was published in the American Bar Association Journal, “Out of Loss – A Lesson for Living” in which he described lessons that he had learned in his relationship and experiences with his late wife, Kathy Kessler. He wrote: 

Kathy proved that you could practice law successfully at a high level, take time for the things that are important in life, and earn the respect of others. She was not a super human being. She was just a person who lived in the present, established her priorities, and let the future take care of itself. She was true to the oath that she took the day she was admitted to the Bar.

If we could all do this we would not have to spend millions of dollars of our bar dues to try to improve the image of lawyers . . . I urge you to go home and hug your spouse, if you are married, and your kids, call your parents, brothers, sisters, or close friends, and resolve any conflicts that you may have with them. Be present to those we love.

Every day Dick practices what he what he wrote in that article. He is a man who always is present to those whom he loves and with whom he works. He demonstrates these qualities as a friend and mentor to fellow lawyers, and as a leader serving as President of the St. Vincent dePaul Society of Atlanta and North Georgia since 2008. Dick oversees the Society’s work to be Christ’s presence in the lives of the poor, to those experiencing personal and family crises and to others in North Georgia. He is a constant presence in our St. Thomas More Society’s work serving Catholic lawyers in North Georgia.

  • Jeffrey M.H. Adams, 2011

  • Msgr. R. Donald Kiernan, 2010
  • David A. Mobley,  2008 
  • Michael A. Sullivan,  2007 
  • Edward C. Konieczny, 2006 
  • Steven H. DeBaun 
  • Sen. Michael J. Egan 
  • W. Terrance Walsh 
  • Alex A.W. Smith

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