Judicial Award of Merit Recipient
The Judicial Award of Merit is presented to a judge who is not retired, whether state or federal court, trial or appellate, and is determined to have contributed significantly to the administration of justice in Alabama.
Judge Burt Smithart of Union Springs has been the presiding circuit judge for the 3rd Judicial Circuit (Barbour and Bullock counties) since 1999. His professional achievements include co-chair of the Judicial Education Committee for the Alabama Circuit Judges Association and Alabama Judicial College. He was the 2009-2010 recipient of the Judge Jerry M. White Award for Judicial Excellence. Judge Smithart received his undergraduate degree and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Alabama. Following law school, he practiced in Union Springs until he was elected to his current position.
His community service involvement includes coaching youth sports, helping at the food pantry, serving on educational committees and numerous leadership roles within his church.
Judge Smithart is married to Elizabeth Smithart, also a member of the state bar.
Award of Merit Recipients
This award recognizes outstanding constructive service to the legal profession in Alabama.
Mike Atchison retired last year after 47 years as a trial lawyer. The last 20 years of Atchison’s practice were concentrated on complex business and commercial litigation including numerous securities cases. Atchison was also co-outside general counsel to a New York Stock Exchange-listed corporation, a frequent lecturer at legal seminars on a variety of topics and author/coauthor of several published articles.
A graduate of Birmingham-Southern College and the Cumberland School of Law, Atchison was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws by Birmingham-Southern College where he served as chair of the board of trustees.
He is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, Birmingham Bar Association, Alabama State Bar, American Bar Association and Alabama Defense Lawyers Association and is a fellow of the Alabama Law Foundation and the American College of Trial Lawyers.
Penny Davis graduated from the University of Alabama with a B.S. in education and her M.A. in guidance and counseling and her J.D. During law school, she was the student work editor for the Alabama Law Review.
Following graduation, she clerked for the Hon. Walter P. Gewin, senior judge of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. She recently retired as the associate director at the Alabama Law Institute and has taught at the University of Alabama School of Law since 1984.
Katharine “Kate” Musso is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. She is a certified fraud examiner and certified anti-money laundering specialist. Musso advised financial industry clients on regulatory matters and compliance. She retired from Jones Walker LLP at the end of 2015. She and her husband now spend more time in the garden with their rescue dogs.
Jeanne Marie Leslie Service Award
This award recognizes exemplary service to lawyers in need in the areas of substance abuse and mental health and is presented by the Alabama Lawyer Assistance Program Committee.
John Brinkley is a north Alabama lawyer who is active in his local bar, where he was elected as a bar commissioner and serves as the Madison County Volunteer Lawyers Program chair. He is involved in several committees/task forces with the Alabama State Bar. Service to others is an integral part of his life and practice.
Robert W. “Squire” Gwin, Jr., a Birmingham native, is a graduate of Howard College (now Samford University) and the Cumberland School of Law. His practice has been that of a practitioner with a focus on elder law. He is a founding member of the Alabama Lawyer Assistance Program (ALAP), which has been in existence since 1998, and has also served as chair of ALAP for several years.
William D. “Bill” Scruggs, Jr., Award Recipient
This award was created in 2002 in honor of the late Bill Scruggs, former state bar president, to recognize outstanding and...