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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:

2016   2015   2014   2013   2012


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
Listen to the Homily:


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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