Leaders in the legal community making a difference in civil rights causes were honored March 12 at the 21st annual ADL Southeast Jurisprudence Luncheon. About 300 attended the event at the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta.
Kicking off the program was Jason Carter, event co-chair, who recognized the judges in attendance in addition to the legislators. “The ADL is as important now as it has ever been in fighting hate, bias and bigotry.”
ADL Regional Director Allison Padilla-Goodman reminded the crowd that the Anti-Defamation League was founded by two lawyers. Recognizing the three honorees, she touted their determination in not relenting and making changes that would be long-lasting.
“The Southeast region needs the ADL now with the 57 percent increase in hate incidents that we saw in 2018. … Freedom of religion has been misused.” The main thrust of her words was the impending importance of Georgia passing hate crime legislation, one of only five states that do not have such a bill.
“But that’s not for long.” (With the upcoming vote.) “Now is the time to stop hate in Georgia!”
John Lewis, Jr., 2016 ADL Elbert P. Tuttle Jurisprudence Award honoree, began by quoting Martin Luther King. “‘Only in darkness can we see the stars’, and thus we came to celebrate these three stars (honorees) who are making a difference.”
Introduction of this year’s award winners began with Jason Esteves, a graduate of Emory Law School and former history teacher who is currently assistant general counsel for Equifax. He was recognized for his values rooted in public service and education.
His address included telling of a time when he was in high school in 1999 and he participated in an ADL program in which he signed a pledge and wore a sticker: “No Place for Hate.” He was awarded the Young Lawyer Award, which Carter noted he had won 10 years ago.
Next to be honored was Louise Sams, executive vice president and general counsel for Turner Broadcasting System. “I have been at Turner for almost 26 years. Ted was in charge when I came. … We have always run our department with civility and respect.”
Sams oversees 110 lawyers both in the U.S. and abroad. These values were reinforced by her father who preached “how” one did things was as important as the “what.” Sams received the Elbert P. Tuttle Jurisprudence Award.
The last honoree, Debbie Segal, continues to fight for the under-represented, oftentimes victims of domestic violence. She was in charge of the in-house pro bono program she trailblazed for Kilpatrick Stockton. “I just can’t say ‘no’ to helping clients who have grown up without advantages.” Clients have said to her “It doesn’t matter that we lost. I just never had anyone stand up for me before.” Although technically retired, Segal teaches a public interest course at Emory University Law School. At the luncheon, she received the ADL Lifetime Achievement Award.
Dan Bloom of Richardson Bloom & Lines LLC moderated the panel with the three winners. Mentoring was discussed, and while everyone agreed on its importance, some got there differently.
“It’s about being friends,” Segal said. “In my office I had rocking chairs and blankets. It just happens organically.”
Earlier in the evening, in the pre-function reception, attorney Bennet Alsher said of the luncheon, “This is a great event because it brings together this large community for a worthy cause.”
Host committee member Sheri Whiteman emphasized the organization’s mission. “The ADL fights the ‘good fight’ against the language of hate.”
And Dr. Howard Maziar recounted his first encounter with ADL as a teenager. “During the current political climate, I felt the ADL is one channel that would allow me to act.”