NEWSMAKER OF THE YEAR

A Quick Look at our Newsmakers of the Past

, Daily Report

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L to R: 2012: Gov. Nathan Deal, 2011: Troy Davis case, 2010: Richard Hyde, 2007: B.J. Bernstein, 2006: Georgia Supreme Court Justice Carol W. Hunstein. Bottom L to R: 2004: McCracken Poston, 2003: Stephen Bright, 2002: Gov. Roy Barnes, 2001: Sally Quillian Yates, 2000: Steven H. Sadow.
L to R: 2012: Gov. Nathan Deal, 2011: Troy Davis case, 2010: Richard Hyde, 2007: B.J. Bernstein, 2006: Georgia Supreme Court Justice Carol W. Hunstein. Bottom L to R: 2004: McCracken Poston, 2003: Stephen Bright, 2002: Gov. Roy Barnes, 2001: Sally Quillian Yates, 2000: Steven H. Sadow.

Our Newsmakers since 2000 have run the gamut, and while they've often recognized stellar lawyering, they've also included events such as the courthouse shooting tragedy of 2005 and in 2002 Roy Barnes' shocking re-election loss. Here are the winners since the turn of the century.

2012: Gov. Nathan Deal

Between taking office in January 2011 and the fall of 2012, Gov. Nathan Deal made judicial appointments at a record pace, averaging more than one every three weeks. His 39 appointments, including one to the state Supreme Court and four to the Court of Appeals, placed him on track to double the number of judges appointed by Roy Barnes and Sonny Perdue over comparable periods. At this pace, he would even surpass the 127 appointments Zell Miller made over two terms.

2011: Troy Davis case

The case of convicted cop-killer Troy Davis, and his ultimate execution, captured national attention. At issue were recantations by several witnesses and questionable forensic ballistic evidence. An international campaign to save him—with advocates that included Pope Benedict XVI, former President Jimmy Carter, former deputy U.S. attorney Larry D. Thompson and former U.S. attorney and Congressman Bob Barr—focused a spotlight on Georgia's legal system and on the death penalty in the United States.

2010: Richard Hyde

For two years Richard Hyde, the investigator for the state's judicial disciplinary agency, was the driving force behind an unprecedented string of judicial misconduct cases that led to investigations of 23 Georgia judges, 21 of whom resigned or were removed from office. Among them were nine superior court judges (including five chief judges), six magistrates, four probate judges, three state court judges and a municipal court judge.

2009: The recession's impact

on Georgia lawyers

After several relatively fat years, the Great Recession dramatically altered lawyers' livelihoods and expectations. Young lawyers were especially hard hit by layoffs. The law school classes of 2008 and 2009, who started law school at a time when firms bid against each other for young talent, exited into a wasteland of delayed start dates and rescinded offers. At least 14,000 people were laid off by major firms between Jan. 1, 2008, and the latter months of 2009—more than 5,500 lawyers and nearly 8,600 staff nationwide. In Georgia, 679 lawyers filed for unemployment compensation by November 2009, up 121 percent from 2008.

2008: The Brian Nichols trial

Three years after the March 11, 2005 rampage claimed the lives of Judge Rowland Barnes and three others, the trial of Fulton County courthouse shooter Brian Nichols left a legacy of shattered lives, proposed changes in death penalty jury laws and depleted indigent defense funds.

2007: B.J. Bernstein

Atlanta criminal defense lawyer B.J. Bernstein was recognized for her zealous and tireless pro bono defense of Genarlow Wilson, who at 17 was charged with raping a 17-year-old and molesting a 15-year-old. Wilson was acquitted of the rape charge, but found guilty of the latter charge, based on what the state Supreme Court's majority later would call consensual oral sex. His conviction carried a 10-year mandatory minimum prison term. Bernstein lobbied the Legislature and worked the media. In October 2007, after more than two years behind bars, Wilson was ordered released by the Georgia Supreme Court, which called the sentence "cruel and unusual" punishment.

2006: Georgia Supreme Court

Justice Carol W. Hunstein

Justice Carol Hunstein was our Newsmaker after winning a no-holds-barred re-election campaign that pitted her against the well-funded J. Michael Wiggins, a former top lawyer in the Department of Homeland Security who touted GOP support and attacked the sitting justice as a soft-on-crime liberal. Hunstein shot back with her own attack ads, revealing a messy family dispute where Wiggins had been sued by his mother.

2005: All of those connected to

the Fulton courthouse shootings

Just nine months after Brian Nichols, on trial for rape, killed Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, court reporter Julie Ann Brandau and sheriff's deputy Hoyt Teasley, the Daily Report reviewed the tragedy and its aftermath.

2004: McCracken Poston

McCracken Poston was cited for his innovative defense of Ray Brent Marsh, the Tri-State Crematory operator who discarded more than 300 bodies. He brokered a deal that could have given Marsh as little as four years to serve in prison as families of the dead were calling for far harsher punishment, and worked a deal with an insurance company that not only allowed Marsh's family to avoid civil liability but gave them financial help as Marsh went off to prison.

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