January 15, 2009 10:57 Age: 5 yrs

EPIC Celebrates Local Public Interest Lawyers

Three Atlanta attorneys whose careers exemplify a commitment to public service will be honored by the Emory Public Interest Committee (EPIC) at its 13th annual Inspiration Awards Ceremony and Reception Tuesday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m., in Tull Auditorium at Emory University School of Law.

Charles T. Lester Jr., retired partner at Sutherland; Gerry Weber, senior counsel at the Southern Center for Human Rights; and Marian Burge, retired deputy director of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, are this year’s recipients.

Lester, a 1964 Emory College graduate and a 1967 Emory Law graduate, will receive this year’s Lifetime Commitment to Public Service Award, presented by the Honorable Clarence Cooper, federal district court judge for the Northern District of Georgia and fellow Emory Law graduate.

After more than 30 years of practicing antitrust litigation with Sutherland, Lester spent his last five years as the firm’s pro bono partner, handling disability, civil rights and voting rights cases. Lester serves on the Georgia Supreme Court Committee on Civil Justice and was president of the State Bar of Georgia from 1992 to 1993. He also received Emory Law’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004.

Weber will receive the Outstanding Leadership in the Public Interest Award for his work as senior counsel at the Southern Center for Human Rights and as the former legal director for the ACLU of Georgia, from 1991 to 2007. His award will be presented by Stephen B. Bright, president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights.

Weber serves as chair of the State Bar of Georgia’s Access to Justice Committee and the Task Force for the Homeless Legal Committee, and he is on the board of directors for the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. He also is an adjunct professor at Emory Law, teaching constitutional litigation.

Burge, a 1975 Emory Law graduate, will receive the Unsung Devotion to Those Most in Need Award for her work with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. Following a 30-plus-year tenure with the organization, Burge retired from her position as deputy director in August 2008.

She serves on the board of directors for the Justice Center for Atlanta Inc., the Georgia Consumer Center Inc. and the Luckie Street YMCA. Her award will be presented by Kathleen Dumitrescu, former managing attorney of Atlanta Legal Aid Society’s Cobb County office.

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

The annual Inspiration Awards event is EPIC’s primary fundraiser. Last year, EPIC raised more than $130,000, providing 26 summer grants for rising second- and third-year students volunteering in public sector jobs.

Grant recipients worked at a variety of local, national and international organizations, including the Georgia Innocence Project in Atlanta, Catholic Charities Community Services in New York, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Donations are accepted at various levels with a minimum $35 donation to attend the event. For more information about contributing to EPIC or attending this year’s Inspiration Awards, contact Sue McAvoy at 404-727-5503 or smcavoy(at)law.emory.edu.

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