It's time to stick up for those who can't afford a lawyer, a Gainesville attorney told fellow judicial system colleagues at Friday's Law Day 2011 luncheon.
"We cannot afford to be quiet. It's our duty to stand up and speak with all our might," Wyc Orr, a senior partner for Orr, Brown, Johnson LLP, said to a full room at the Gainesville Civic Center.
"Everyone has a right to counsel and a speedy trial," he said. "We must live up to the legacy to which you and I are fortunate inheritors."
Orr, an outspoken supporter of indigent defense and the state's public defender office, talked about past attorneys who helped clients when it may have been ridiculed or unpopular. He focused on John Adams, the nation's second president who represented a British soldier after the Boston Massacre.
"Courage has been shown by so many of our forbearers," Orr said. "They've taught us what it means to be a lawyer."
Orr expressed his concerns about state budgets cuts for public defender offices and recent legislation that changes how the offices are run.
"I've heard the horror stories about people who are locked up for months without counsel," he said. "The system has been weakened, and that's beneath our great state."
Also at Friday's luncheon, Orr was one of three people honored by the Northeastern Judicial Circuit Bar Association for their service and contributions to the local judicial system. Orr received the Judge A.R. Kenyon Award.
"He is timeless and outspoken in the area of indigent defense, which reminds me of Judge Kenyon in his work on mental health," said presenter Georgia Court of Appeals Judge J.D. Smith.
Reggie Forrester, Hall County's court administrator, was presented the prestigious Liberty Bell Award.
"He's responsible for many of the projects that we see today, and his leadership left a successful legacy for us to enjoy," said presenter Northeastern Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Andrew Fuller.
"He tackled the courthouse, which is no easy task, and he came up with the concept of the pre-trial release program so people aren't languishing in jail before standing before justice."
Forrester has served as warden of the county's correctional institute, public safety director and county administrator.
"My heart is in this community, and my heart is in this work," Forrester said.
"I remember that every day when I wake up. This award is very special, so thank you."
The group also recognized Ari Mathe of Collins & Csider LLC with the Leadership Award, which is a new award created this year to recognize young law professionals in Gainesville. Mathe served as the Law Day chairwoman for the last four years.
"Strong leaders are needed in this country right now more so than ever," said presenter John Coleman of Coleman & Chambers LLP and president of the bar association. "We need young folks to get actively involved and not stand back."