Title

FIRST EQUAL JUSTICE AWARDS FOR OUTSTANDING PUBLIC INTEREST WORK PRESENTED AT UGA LAW SCHOOL

Abstract

Wednesday, March 4, 1998

WRITER: Kathy R. Pharr, (706) 542-5172

CONTACT: Cindy Wang

FIRST EQUAL JUSTICE AWARDS FOR OUTSTANDING PUBLIC INTEREST WORK PRESENTED AT UGA LAW SCHOOL

ATHENS, Ga. -- Russell Gabriel, director of the Legal Aid and Defender Clinic, and Kiran Ahuja, a third-year law student, will receive the first annual Equal Justice Awards for Outstanding Work in the Public Interest during a ceremony and reception in the rotunda of the School of Law on Friday, March 6 at 3:30 p.m.

Gabriel will receive The Equal Justice Award for Outstanding Public Interest Attorney and Ahuja will receive The Shelley D. Knox Equal Justice Award for Outstanding Public Interest Student. Knox, who devoted much of her law school experience to helping those who were underrepresented in the local community, died a few weeks before her graduation in 1997. Both Gabriel and Ahuja will be presented with individual plaques, and large plaques, to be inscribed annually with recipients' names, will hang in the law school. The reception in the recipients' honor is sponsored by West Group, a law publishing company.

Law school students were asked to nominate candidates for the awards who met the following criteria: motivation and dedication to further the cause of public interest work, and the courage to fight the odds to help those in need. The recipients were selected by a panel consisting of Hosch Professor Tom Eaton, the Equal Justice Foundation (EJF) advisor; Professor Alex Scherr, director of the Civil Externship Program and Public Interest Practicum; Western Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Steve Jones; third-year law student Susan Walker, EJF president; second-year law student Amy Meyer, EJF vice president; and first-year law student John Salter.

Ahuja was elected in the fall as the vice president of the National Association for Public Interest Law (NAPIL). She is the founder of the School of Law's Public Interest Forum, in which lawyers and representatives from social service agencies discuss career opportunities and public interest law developments with law students. In addition, she participates in the community education project of the law school's Public Interest Practicum, through which she has made numerous presentations on legal rights at local schools and housing projects. Ahuja, a summa cum laude graduate of Spelman College, received a public interest law fellowship from DePaul Law School last summer which supported her work for the Chicago Lawyers Commission for Civil Rights.

"Kiran has been active in creating a culture where there is better awareness of public interest needs and opportunities," said Eaton. "She has shown students how they can still make a lifetime commitment to public interest without necessarily having to practice in the area."

Gabriel has led the University of Georgia Legal Aid & Defender Clinic since 1996. He is a previous associate director and staff attorney at the clinic and, from 1994 to 1996, served as a staff attorney with the Federal Defender Program in Atlanta. Gabriel was recently named to the steering committee of the newly formed Organization of Public Defenders in Georgia.

Gabriel earned a psychology degree with honors from the University of Michigan, a law degree cum laude from UGA, and a master of laws degree from Harvard. He has worked as a cook, carpenter, potter, electrician and half-way house counselor for substance abusers.

"Russell Gabriel was chosen because he has been a great role model for our students and has been a tremendous inspiration to other lawyers," said Eaton. "He is very enthusiastic about his work to help those traditionally left out of the legal system and he has had a great impact on the Public Defender's Office."

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