By Kristy Lindstrom
E. Wayne Jernigan Jr., Assistant District Attorney for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit recently received the "J. Roger Thompson Award" during Basic Litigation Training sponsored by the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia.
The Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia (PAC) presented its Basic Litigation Training Course for new prosecutors from June 23-29, 2007 in Forsyth, Georgia at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC). Each year during the training, the J. Roger Thompson award is presented to an outstanding faculty member in memory of the late J. Roger Thompson, who was the Chief Assistant District Attorney of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit.
This year's J. Roger Thompson Award was presented during the event's annual Graduation Dinner held on Thursday, June 28. Basic Litigation Chairman and District Attorney for the Coweta Judicial Circuit, Pete Skandalakis, presented the award.
"This year's recipient of the J. Roger Thompson Award exemplifies the dedication and devotion to the furtherance of the standards established by the prosecution community," said Skandalakis. "From the time he was a student in this course, it was apparent that this year's recipient was both eager to learn and enthusiastic about his willingness to contribute wholeheartedly toward improving the quality of prosecutions throughout the State, as well as the overall image of the prosecution community."
Each J. Roger Thompson Award recipient is selected by previous winners who have remained involved in Basic Litigation Training. This year's nominating panel included Pete Skandalakis, District Attorney for the Coweta Judicial Circuit and 2006 recipient; Ben Richardson, Solicitor-General for Muscogee County and 2003 recipient; Mike Carlson, Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney for the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit and 2005 recipient; Marty First, Assistant District Attorney for the Gwinnett Judicial Circuit and 2001 recipient; and David Fowler, Deputy Executive Director for the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council and 2004 recipient.
"I am extremely humbled to be mentioned in the same breath with such great and honorable prosecutors as Pete Skandalakis, David Fowler, Mike Carlson, Ben Richardson, Marty First and all of the previous award recipients," said Jernigan. "I am very grateful to the panel which thought I was worthy of such an award and I will strive to live up to their expectations."
"We look for someone who has proven dedication to prosecution and the Basic Litigation program and has gone beyond the call in seeing that the Basic course is successful," said past winner and selection committee member David Fowler. " Wayne was chosen for his many years of service as a prosecutor and his commitment to the course. He consistently volunteers to train the least experienced team of new prosecutors at the course and has invested hundreds of hours of time in his students. Wayne represents the kind of selfless, dedicated public servant that J. Roger Thompson was known to be. Wayne Jernigan is very deserving of this award," said Fowler.
"My students are always very special to me and my team takes pride in the fact we always train the least experienced prosecutors. It is truly heartwarming to see the tremendous progress they make during the week," said Jernigan. "There is no equal to the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council's Basic Litigation Course in the country. It is truly one of a kind and I am very grateful that they allow me to be part of it."
During the award presentation, Chairman Skandalakis explained the importance of this award's namesake. "J. Roger Thompson supported and influenced the development of today's Basic Litigation Course. His skill as a trial advocate and his ability as a teacher set the standards to which we aspire today. Starting in 1994, after Roger's sudden death, we decided to recognize one outstanding faculty member each year at the conclusion of the Course. The recognition is appropriately named in honor of J. Roger Thompson. By making this presentation and giving special recognition to such a faculty member, we hope to keep Roger's memory alive for a new generation of Georgia prosecutors."
"People mattered to Roger. So did the pursuit of justice," said Skandalakis. "Fairness and honesty were not mere words to him. Roger fought hard in court, but he fought fairly. His word was his bond and he honored his commitments. He never backed down when he knew he was right. When the inevitable losses and frustrations came, he bore them with quiet dignity. Roger never figured the world owed him a living. His work ethic and life were the gifts he gave back to us, his fellow prosecutors. There are many other prosecutors sitting in this room today that have the same fundamental decency and skills that Roger did. They are the unthanked public servants who take quiet pride in their work and in their commitment to bettering our justice system."
Skandalakis concluded by saying, "My hope is that each one of us possesses a full measure of Roger's gifts. May the inspiration of his life serve as a loving benediction, and inspire us to be true to ourselves and to our calling as public prosecutors."
"I am unworthy of such a great award, especially when it is named for such an outstanding prosecutor and person as J. Roger Thompson," Jernigan said. "My father was a friend of Mr. Thompson a long time ago when my father was practicing law in and around Atlanta which makes it twice as special. I hope that I can one day live up to the high standards that Mr. Thompson always showed in his prosecutorial and personal life."
Jernigan was surprised to learn that his family knew in advance that he would receive the award. Jernigan's wife, Angel; and their three children, Brantley, McKenzie and Lily attended the award presentation. Also attending were Wayne's mother, LaVonne; his sister, Debbie Simmons; and his father, Honorable Wayne Jernigan Sr., Juvenile Judge for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit. They were waiting in the back of the ballroom during Skandalakis' award presentation speech and walked to the front of the room to surprise Jernigan when his name was called.
"I tell each new class of prosecutors at Basic Litigation every year that there will always be cases that will demand their time (much more than they are paid for), but they always should remember to keep their families first. When all the dust settles, they will always be there to back you up as mine has always been and they deserve to be number one," said Jernigan. "It is very touching to see that my family has secretly traveled to Forsyth to see me receive this award. I want to thank my wife, Angel, and my family for always supporting me in whatever I do. I am thankful to the Prosecuting Attorney's Council for making it possible for my wife, children, mother and father, and my sister to be here. I am truly surprised and it makes it that much more enjoyable."
The Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia presents its Basic Litigation Training Course to new prosecutors every June.