Judge to be honored with portrait unveiling

A ceremony is set for 11 o’clock this morning at the courthouse in downtown Athens: they’ll unveil the official portrait of former State Court Chief Judge Kent Lawrence.

From the Athens-Clarke County Public Information Office...

Athens-Clarke County State Court Judges Ethelyn N. Simpson and Charles E Auslander will host a portrait unveiling ceremony in honor of former State Court Chief Judge N. Kent Lawrence at 11:00 a.m. on November 17, 2017 at the Athens-Clarke County Courthouse, 325 East Washington Street, Athens.

The judges of Athens-Clarke County will dedicate the portrait of Judge Lawrence, which was commissioned by the Western Circuit Bar Association and painted by Ms. Suzanne Royal, to hang in the State Court Courtroom of the Athens-Clarke County Courthouse. A reception will be held prior to the ceremony at 10:00 a.m. in the Courthouse Atrium, located on the 2nd floor.

Judge Lawrence presided over State Court from 1985 until his retirement in 2011 and was the founder of the DUI/Drug Court, which was the first DUI Court in the state of Georgia and one of the first nationwide. In the Athens DUI/Drug Court program, participants are held strictly accountable for their behavior. The participants are on intensive probation supervision, take frequent drug and alcohol screens, and participate in intense substance abuse treatment. Participants typically spend 14 to 20 months in the program.

Since 2001, the DUI/Drug Court has had over 300 participants successfully graduate from the program. In 2012, Judge Lawrence received the National Center for DWI Courts (NCDC) Leadership Award, the highest national honor, in recognition of his vision and commitment in the field of DUI courts. The DUI Court has been recognized as one of only four DWI Academy Courts in the United States, an honor bestowed by the NCDC in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). As an NCDC Academy Court, the Athens DUI/Drug Court helps to develop, identify, and test national best practices for DWI Courts, including answering questions, providing advice and hosting visitors, including court teams from other jurisdictions participating in training.

While nationally Judge Lawrence may be best known for his tireless efforts in promoting and starting accountability courts, he was best known for the first half of his life for his outstanding accomplishments as a University of Georgia football player. Lawrence’s service for the Athens’ community began shortly after an injury ended his football career and he returned to the University of Georgia to pursue a Master’s in Education.

When given the opportunity to work in law enforcement while being a student, Lawrence seized it. He worked as a University of Georgia police officer, then moved on to working as a detective within the UGAPD followed by serving as the first Police Chief of Clarke County in 1974. Judge Lawrence attended the Law School of Atlanta by working during the day, then making the two-hour round trip to school in Atlanta every night. After graduation, Lawrence worked with a private firm in Athens, then as a prosecutor under Harry Gordon, the former District Attorney for Athens-Clarke County. In 1985, Lawrence was appointed by Governor Joe Frank Harris as State Court Judge of Clarke County where he served for 26 years.

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