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Emory Public Interest Committee honors Underwood, Pratt, Jamieson for public service

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Three leaders will be recognized for exemplary careers in public service Feb. 7 at the Emory Public Interest Committee’s 16th Annual Inspiration Awards.

Honorees this year are: Norman L. Underwood, senior counsel at Troutman Sanders LLP (for Lifetime Commitment to Public Service); Jan Pratt, former Field Placement Program and Pro Bono Program director at Emory Law (for Outstanding Leadership in the Public Interest); and Sue Jamieson, former director, Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Mental Health and Disability Rights Project (for Unsung Devotion to Those Most in Need.)

EPIC, a student-run organization promoting public interest law at Emory Law, supports students pursuing public interest legal jobs and acknowledges the professional responsibility of lawyers and law students to make legal services more accessible.

Underwood’s career combined service in Georgia’s political and judicial systems with practice in one of the state’s most successful law firms. He was the first attorney hired by former Georgia Gov. Carl Sanders for the firm that became Troutman Sanders LLP, an international practice with more than 650 lawyers and 16 offices in North America, Europe and Asia. In 1975, Underwood was named executive secretary and chief of staff to Gov. George Busbee. At the end of his first term, Busbee appointed Underwood to the Georgia Court of Appeals, where he served until 1980.

In 1991, Gov. Zell Miller asked Underwood to chair the restructured Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission. Under his leadership the commission resolved protracted litigation challenging Georgia’s method of electing Superior Court judges. Key to resolution was Underwood’s commitment to encourage greater numbers of minority and women attorneys to apply for judicial positions. At the end of his term, the state’s judicial system had dramatically increased its racial and gender diversity. In recognition of that achievement, the State Bar of Georgia honored him with the Distinguished Service Award in 1995. In 1993, Attorney General Mike Bowers named Underwood special assistant attorney general to lead a team of lawyers charged to organize the Georgia Lottery Corporation. Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears (retired), Emory Law class of 1980, will present Underwood’s award.

Pratt has worked in law and higher education since her 1968 graduation from the London School of Economics. She retired from Emory Law in 2011 after serving as administrative professor for field placement for more than 20 years. She also was co-director of the Professionalism Program and coordinator of the Pro Bono program. Prior to that, she served as assistant dean and director of the legal writing program, moot court advisor, director of the academic assistance program and visiting assistant professor. Since 1986, she has been a mediator with the Justice Center of Atlanta. Since 1995, she has served on the Citizen Review Panel for children in foster care for DeKalb County Juvenile Court. In 1996, she was named Outstanding Child Advocate by the State Bar of Georgia. Jessica Felfoldi, Equal Justice Works Fellow at The Atlanta Legal Aid Society and Emory Law class of 2011, will present Pratt’s award.

Jamieson founded the Mental Health and Disability Rights Project at Atlanta Legal Aid in 1987 with the goal of enforcing the constitutional rights of those with mental illness and other disabilities. In 1995, she served as lead attorney in the case of two women in a Georgia psychiatric institution, arguing successfully that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires public entities to provide alternatives to institutional services in more integrated, community-based settings. The case, Olmstead v. L.C., eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Prior to her work in Georgia, Jamieson worked for Legal Aid in Jacksonville, Fla., where she filed Armstead v. Pingree, a class action representing mentally retarded clients inappropriately confined in state psychiatric facilities. The result was life-changing for hundreds of clients who were later able to live in their communities and also created more access to patient records for individuals in state institutions. Talley Wells, now director of the project Jamieson founded, will present the award.

Judge Dorothy Toth Beasley, Emory Law class of 2008, will be mistress of ceremonies for the EPIC Inspiration Awards, scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 7 in Emory Law’s Gambrell Hall, Tull Auditorium.

The annual awards are EPIC’s primary fundraiser. During the 2010-2011 academic year, EPIC raised more than $150,000, providing summer grants for students volunteering in public sector jobs. Grant recipients worked at a variety of local, national and international organizations.

Donations to EPIC are accepted at various levels with a minimum $35 donation to attend the Inspiration Awards. For more information about contributing to EPIC or attending this year’s event, contact Sue McAvoy at 404-727-5503 or

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