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Chief Justice's Commission on Professionalism Honors Sutherland Partner Judith A. O'Brien

March 10, 2009

ATLANTA (March 10, 2009) – Sutherland Partner Judith A. O’Brien is being honored during the Tenth Annual Justice Robert Benham Awards for Community Service on March 10, 2009, at the Georgia-Pacific Center Auditorium in recognition of her pro bono and community service work.

“I have worked with Judy for more than 11 years, and during that time, I have learned many lessons,”  said Sutherland Partner Allegra J. Lawrence-Hardy. “Despite having a busy, successful practice for many years, she always makes time for giving back to the community, illustrating the importance of giving to those less fortunate. Judy not only exemplifies the type of candidate this award seeks to recognize but also inspires others to selflessly contribute to our communities.”

Most recently, Ms. O’Brien provided leadership to JUSTGeorgia, a statewide coalition seeking to build a better model of justice and safety for our youth while balancing the need to protect public safety. JUSTGeorgia currently is working to enact a new Juvenile Code in Georgia. The current Juvenile Code, enacted more than 35 years ago, has been amended so often that even lawyers and judges who refer to it on a daily basis find it disorganized and confusing. Ms. O’Brien supported this project by writing a summary report based on interviews conducted throughout the state by volunteers from a dozen Atlanta law firms, including Sutherland.  

Ms. O’Brien has served on the board of Atlanta Legal Aid since the 1980s and was board president in 2000. Currently, she is working with Atlanta Legal Aid and Georgia State Law School to hold a symposium marking the 10th anniversary of Olmstead v. L.C. and E. W., a landmark Supreme Court case establishing the right of individuals with mental disabilities to receive community-based services under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Sutherland lawyers assisted Atlanta Legal Aid with this case on a pro bono basis.

In addition, Ms. O’Brien serves as Sutherland’s Pro Bono and Community Service Chair, a role she filled following Charles T. Lester Jr.’s retirement in 2007. In this role, Ms. O’Brien coordinates Sutherland’s pro bono and community service programs in the firm’s Atlanta, Austin, Houston, New York and  Washington, D.C., offices.

“Judy adds invaluable leadership to our ranks,” said Managing Partner Mark D. Wasserman. “She inspires and motivates our attorneys and staff to give back to our communities.”

In 2008, Ms. O’Brien recruited and led volunteers for Election Protection, a nonpartisan coalition formed to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process. She also recruited volunteers for the AVLF Domestic Violence Project, which pairs attorneys and paralegals to assist victims of domestic violence, including obtaining temporary protective orders and representing the victims to obtain regular protective orders. Sutherland partners with Kilpatrick Stockton on this project.

In cooperation with the Advocates for Human Rights, Ms. O’Brien led a team of Sutherland attorneys in supporting the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia, which is examining the root causes of Liberia’s prolonged civil conflict. The firm’s work included drafting a report on the role of the national and international media in the conflict and taking statements from Liberian refugees, including a former child soldier. Sutherland also sent an associate to Liberia to assist the TRC during hearings on the role of the media in the struggle. 

Ms. O’Brien also serves on the boards of Georgia Appleseed, Georgia Asylum & Immigration Network, Georgia Community Loan Fund, and Men Stopping Violence. She serves on the advisory committee of Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta and the Legal Committee of the ACLU Foundation of Georgia.

Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP is a law firm with global reach known for solving challenging business problems and resolving sophisticated legal issues for many of the world’s largest companies. Founded in 1924, the firm handles matters throughout the United States and worldwide. Seven major practice areas—corporate, financial services, energy and environmental, intellectual property, litigation, real estate, and tax—provide the framework for an extensive range of focus areas, allowing Sutherland attorneys to serve a diverse client base that ranges from small and medium-sized start-up businesses to a significant number of Fortune 100 companies.

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