January 26, 2010 14:34 Age: 4 yrs

EPIC Celebrates Local Public Interest Attorneys

Three Atlanta attorneys whose careers exemplify a commitment to public service will be honored by the Emory Public Interest Committee (EPIC) at its 14th annual Inspiration Awards Ceremony and Reception at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9, in Emory Lawís Tull Auditorium.

Terry Walsh 70L, retired partner at Alston & Bird; The Hon. Doris L. Downs, chief judge of the Fulton County Superior Court; and Rita A. Sheffey, partner at Hunton & Williams, are this yearís honorees.

Walsh, a 1970 graduate of Emory Law, is receiving the Lifetime Commitment to Public Service Award. He spent nearly 40 years practicing in Alston & Birdís litigation and trial practice groups and was the firmís first community liaison partner. He has served as president of the Atlanta Bar Association, the State Bar of Georgiaís Young Lawyers Division and the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. A member of the State Bar of Georgia Board of Governors, Walsh chaired its Committee on Children and the Courts. He also served on the Supreme Court of Georgiaís Committee on Civil Justice.

Walsh has led numerous community service programs in Atlanta. He is co-founder and chair of the Truancy Intervention Project, director of the Family Connection Partnership and Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, and was founding director of the Georgia Justice Project. He also is a founding advisory board member of EPIC and facilitated the inception of the Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network. Additionally, Walsh has received many awards for his pro bono work, including the 2008 Fulton County Daily Report Pro Bono Lifetime Achievement Award, the 1995 Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change Community Service Award and several public service awards from the Atlanta Bar Association, the State Bar of Georgia and the American Bar Association.

Judge Downs is receiving the Outstanding Leadership in the Public Interest Award. Appointed as judge of the Fulton County Superior Court by Gov. Zell Miller in 1996, Downs presides over civil, domestic and felony criminal cases and trials. She was elected chief judge in 2004.

Downs oversees the Fulton County Drug Court Program, which provides drug-addicted criminal defendants with a highly structured treatment program. Under her leadership, the program has doubled in capacity, serving nearly 400 clients. She also launched the countyís Mental Health Court, which helps to stabilize, treat and find safe placement for mentally ill defendants in the criminal justice system. Downs is a member of the Judicial Council of Georgia and serves on the executive committee of the Council of Superior Court Judges. Prior to her role on the bench, Downs served as an assistant district attorney in Fulton County for 14 years.

Sheffey is receiving the Unsung Devotion to Those Most in Need Award. A partner in Hunton & Williamsí litigation and intellectual property practice, Sheffey directs the firmís Southside Legal Center. She is an active member of the Supreme Court of Georgiaís Committee on Civil Justice and is a past president of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation Inc. Sheffey also has been involved in numerous roles for the Atlanta Bar Association including serving on its executive committee and board of directors and chairing the Celebrating Service and Pro Bono committees. She currently serves as the organizationís secretary.

Sheffey is president and chair of Atlanta Victim Assistance Inc. and on the board of trustees of Boys Speak Out Inc. She received the Outstanding Woman in the Profession Achievement Award by the Atlanta Bar Association and the State Bar of Georgiaís H. Sol Clark Pro Bono Award.

EPIC, a student-run organization promoting public interest law at Emory, supports students pursuing public interest legal jobs and acknowledges the professional responsibility of lawyers and law students to make legal services more accessible.

The annual Inspiration Awards is EPICís primary fundraiser. In 2009, EPIC raised more than $110,000, providing 25 summer grants for students volunteering in public sector jobs. Grant recipients worked at a variety of local and national and international organizations, including the Georgia Innocence Project in Atlanta, the Legal Aid Societyís Homeless Rights Project in New York and the Center for Medicare Advocacy in Washington, D.C.

Donations to EPIC are accepted at various levels with a minimum $35 donation to attend the Inspiration Awards. For more information about contributing to EPIC or attending this yearís event, contact Sue McAvoy at 404.727.5503 or smcavoy(at)law.emory.edu.

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