January 20, 2004

Former Gov. Roy Barnes to host EPIC Awards, Feb. 3

By Elaine Justice

Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes will host the School of Law’s eighth annual EPIC Inspiration Awards. The ceremony will be held at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 3, in the law school’s Tull Auditorium.

Each year, EPIC (Emory Public Interest Committee) honors outstanding attorneys who have demonstrated a strong commitment to public interest law. This year’s recipients are Bill Brennan Jr., director of the Home Defense Program of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society; and Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher.
Brennan has helped thousands caught in predatory lending schemes regain their homes. Fletcher led the effort to improve Georgia’s indigent defense system.
Bill Rankin, staff writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, also will receive recognition with the Special Community Collaboration Award.

EPIC is a student organization that promotes law in the public interest, encourages and helps Emory law students get jobs in public interest law practice, administers and supports public interest programs at the law school, and promotes the professional responsibility of lawyers and law students to make legal services more accessible.
Brennan (’67L), who will receive the Lifetime Commitment to Public Service Award, has served for more than 35 years as a staff attorney at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, specializing in housing and consumer issues. He has spent the last 12 years as director of the Home Defense Program. That department provides referrals and legal representation to homeowners who have been victimized by title conversion and home equity scams.

Most notably, Brennan helped change Georgia laws to address predatory mortgage lending. As a result, a proposal to license and regulate mortgage brokers and non-bank mortgage lenders was enacted into law. Brennan has served three terms, from 1995 to 1998, as a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

Fletcher, who will receive the Outstanding Leadership in the Public Interest Award, was sworn in as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia in June 2001. He first was appointed to the court in 1989 by then-Gov. Joe Frank Harris and was reelected to a third six-year term in August 2002.

Fletcher began his law practice in Rome, Ga. in 1958 before moving to LaFayette. While in private practice, Fletcher represented the state of Georgia as a special assistant attorney general, and also served as LaFayette city attorney and Walker County attorney. He continued his practice until his appointment to the state Supreme Court in 1989.

Fletcher has a distinguished record of service to his community, earning the Harold G. Clarke Award by the Georgia Indigent Defense Council for his commitment to ensuring equal justice for all Georgia citizens.

The awards ceremony is EPIC’s major fund-raiser. Donations are used to provide stipends for law students who pursue summer internships with public interest agencies.
Last year EPIC raised more than $64,000, which provided 17 grants. Students worked at agencies such as Public Advocates in San Francisco, the ACLU of Georgia and the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center in Denver.