From the Columbia Daily Herald
By: Tim Hodge
High Court Judge Speaks at Law Day
A Tennessee Supreme Court Justice visited Maury County in celebration of Law Day 2012 and discussed a section of the judicial system he said is often under-appreciated.
Law Day was established in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and in 1961, Congress made the celebration official. This year’s theme was, “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom.”
Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Gary R. Wade was the featured speaker Thursday. He said he would have liked the theme to be changed to, “No Courts, No Lawyers, No Justice” because of the dedication public defenders display in representing the poor and oppressed.
“We, as lawyers, have an obligation to public service … we also have the obligation to share our time, our talent and our profession in issues of public service,” Wade said.
The justice described the 6th Amendment to the Constitution — which states in all criminal prosecution, the accused shall be afforded the right to legal counsel — as the basis of a lawyer’s existence. In 1961, the right to legal counsel was guaranteed by the United States Supreme Court to all people who could not afford representation in criminal cases.
The 1961 ruling affected the criminal justice system in two ways, because it helped create the public defense system, which is paid for by tax dollars, and the indigent defense fund. The fund is used to hire private lawyers for cases when defendants are declared indigent and are unable to pay for services.
Wade said he supported a petition in 2010 from the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers that would increase pay for services performed in public defense. The rate has remained the same since 1994 — $40 per hour for work done outside the courtroom and $50 per hour for work performed inside the court, he said.
“Frankly, it’s not a very popular position to be in,” Wade said. “No one likes crime, and there are few people marching in the streets for more lawyers.”
The Law Day ceremonies also included the Liberty Bell Award presentation that was given to Senior Chairman of First Farmers & Merchants Bank Virgil Moore. The award recognizes citizens who inspire a deeper sense of individual civic responsibility.
Chaz Molder, president of the Young Lawyers Division of the Maury County Bar Association, described Moore with the words integrity, humility, service, kindness and brilliance.
“I am so appreciative of this award,” Moore, a Maury County native, said. “It’s beautiful.”
Columbia Academy students were also presented with the 2012 Mock Trial Regional Competition Award by the Maury County Bar Association.
Judge Jim T. Hamilton, who represents the 22nd Judicial District of Maury County, offered a view into a world without a judicial system in his closing remarks.
“Without courts there would be no order,” he said “There would be nothing except giving everybody a gun and say, ‘good luck.’”