Justice Janie L. Shores
Trailblazer Award

The Justice Janie L. Shores Trailblazer Award is presented annually to a member of the bench or bar whose lifetime achievements in law serve as the beacon of high standards that all legal professionals should aspire to follow and who has demonstrated courage in the legal profession.  Emphasis for selection is placed on efforts and acts within the legal profession that are cutting-edge in the advancement of justice.  The award’s namesake is a retired judge on the Supreme Court of Alabama who was the first woman to ever serve on that court. She was also considered by President Bill Clinton in 1993 as a possible nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. A native of Butler County, Alabama, who grew up in Baldwin County, Alabama, Justice Shores attended Judson College and earned a bachelor’s degree from Samford University. She also graduated with honors from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1959. She earned an L.L.M. from the University of Virginia in 1992.

After graduating from law school, Justice Shores practiced law in Selma, Alabama, and also worked on the legal staff of Liberty National Life Insurance Company from 1961 until 1965. In 1965, She became the first full-time female law faculty member in Alabama (and the second in the entire Southeast) when she was hired as a law professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law.

In 1974, Justice Shores ran for and won a seat on the Supreme Court of Alabama as a Democrat, becoming the first woman ever to be elected to that court. “I hope it has now been demonstrated that women can hold these positions and can be elected in Alabama, and I hope I have had some small part in letting women know to do that is possible,” she told the Birmingham News in an article that was published on March 29, 1975.

Justice Shores chose not to run for re-election in 1998. Her final elected day on the bench was in January, 1999, though she served as a supernumerary justice until 2001.

The Justice Janie L. Shores Trailblazer Award is exclusively sponsored by the Mobile, Alabama law firm of Cunningham Bounds, LLC.  Founded in 1958, the firm has represented plaintiffs for over half a century. www.CunninghamBounds.com.

The Justice Janie L. Shores Trailblazer Award is presented or announced in the fall of each year.  Past award recipients have included the following:

F. Paul Bland, Jr.

On June 17, 2016, LCA Executive Director and General Counsel G. Steven Henry along with LCA Fellows David G. Wirtes, Jr., Steven L. Nicholas, and George W. (“Skip”) Finkbohner, III, of Cunningham Bounds, LLC, Mobile, Alabama, met with friends and family to honor Washington, D.C. Fellow Paul Bland, Jr., the Executive Director of Public Justice, as the recipient of the 2016 Justice Janie L. Shores Trailblazer Award. “Paul’s career reflects the very best of the meaning of ‘zealous advocacy.’  His life’s work and innumerable accomplishments represent the ideal toward which practicing lawyers all should strive.  He is the living embodiment of what we intend to honor with the Justice Janie L. Shores Trailblazer Award,” said Wirtes during the presentation.

Mr. Bland has dedicated his career to leading Public Justice’s mission to pursue high impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice, protect the Earth’s sustainability, and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses.  He has served as a senior attorney for many years; he now manages nearly 30 attorneys and staff, guiding the organization’s litigation strategy, briefing, and arguments. Mr. Bland has argued and won more than 30 high profile cases on behalf of consumers, employees, and whistleblowers in six of the U.S. Courts of Appeals and nine of the highest state appellate courts.  He has presented at more than 100 continuing legal education or professional conferences in more than 25 states, has testified in both houses of Congress, several state legislatures and administrative agencies, been quoted in more than 100 periodicals throughout the country, and has appeared in numerous radio and TV interviews.

He is a 1986 cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School and a 1983 magna cum laude graduate of Georgetown University, where he received a B.A. in Government.  Prior to joining Public Justice, Mr. Bland was Chief Nominations Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.  Before that he worked for seven years in Baltimore, Maryland, where he handled consumer and toxic tort class actions and prosecuted qui tam suits.

Neil Vidmar

Professor Neil Vidmar, the Russell M. Robinson II Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology at Duke Law School, was the recipient of the 2014 Justice Janie L. Shores Trailblazer Award. The award was presented to Professor Vidmar by LCA Fellow David G. Wirtes, Jr. of Cunningham Bounds, LLC (Mobile, AL), at the LCA 2014 Fall Conference & Celebration of Fellows in New Orleans. “Professor Vidmar is a social psychologist by training, but his research and publications protecting the sanctity of American civil and criminal juries and their secret deliberations make him a modern day patriot who is at the very front of the vanguard defending our constitutionally guaranteed right to trial by jury” said Wirtes, during the award presentation.

Professor Vidmar’s scholarly research involves the empirical study of law across a broad spectrum of topics in civil and criminal law. He also holds a cross appointment in Duke University’s Department of Psychology. Professor Vidmar is a leading expert on jury behavior in both criminal and civil cases. He has extensively studied medical malpractice litigation, punitive damages, dispute resolution, and the social psychology of retribution and revenge. Professor Vidmar is also Research Director for the Law School’s Center for Criminal Justice and Ethical Responsibility. In this position he has been involved in collaborative research on processes leading to wrongful convictions and he has drafted several amicus briefs bearing on racial prejudice in the administration of the death penalty in North Carolina. Professor Vidmar regularly teaches in all of these areas, offering classes and seminars on social science evidence in law, negotiation, medical malpractice litigation, the American jury, and ethics.

Chen Guangcheng

Human rights activist Chen Guangcheng was the recipient of the 2012 Justice Janie L. Shores Trailblazer Award. The award was presented on December 1, 2012, by LCA Executive Director and General Counsel, G. Steven Henry, George M. Dent, III of award sponsor Cunningham Bounds, LLC (Mobile, AL), and James R. Lynch of Lynch Daskal Emery, LLP (New York, NY) at Le Cirque in New York City.

Chen Guangcheng is an activist from the People’s Republic of China, and is considered China’s most renouned contemporary dissident. Mr. Chen is a self-taught lawyer best known for his fight against forced abortions and sterilizations under China’s One Child Policy. Consequently, he spent four years in prison, followed by a year and a half on house arrest, during which time he and his wife were routinely abused. After escaping house arrest, he sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy, sparking a diplomatic standoff between the U.S. and China, resulting in Mr. Chen and his family being granted permission to come to the U.S. on a visa to study at New York University.

Chen Guangcheng has personified the spirit of the Justice Janie L. Shores Trailblazer Award through his advocacy of women’s rights, championing the welfare of the poor, and exposure of the Chinese government’s family planning practices.

Janie L. Shores

On October 13, 2011, at The Boston Harbor Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, David G. Wirtes, Jr. and Steven L. Nicholas of award sponsor Cunningham Bounds, LLC (Mobile, AL) presented Justice Janie Ledlow Shores with the first Litigation Counsel of America Justice Janie L. Shores Trailblazer Award.

Justice Shores personifies the spirit of the award.  From humble beginnings she persevered, leaving behind the cotton fields of rural south Alabama in the 1930s and 40s.  She graduated from college when few of her female contemporaries did so, then at a time when female lawyers were a rarity, graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law at the top of her class and as an editor of the Alabama Law Review.  Early on, Justice Shores took stands against racial segregation when doing so in Alabama was not just unpopular, but often dangerous.  She fought against prejudices that were pervasive in the Deep South.  Eventually, she earned her way to the top, winning a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court, and thereby becoming the first woman ever elected to any appellate judicial post in the United States.  Since braving those new frontiers, a full thirty percent of the United States’ appellate jurists are now women.

Justice Shores served with distinction on the Supreme Court of Alabama for 25 years.  She participated in decisions of the Court that now shape the way people live and work in Alabama.  Her influence has been and will be felt for generations.

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