EJC Plenary Speaker Biographies

Tuesday Opening Plenary

Judy Perry Martinez - Judy Perry Martinez of Simon, Peragine, Smith & Redfearn in New Orleans is Immediate Past President of the American Bar Association, the largest voluntary association of attorneys and legal professionals in the world. Over the past 35 years, Martinez has held various leadership positions with the ABA, including chair of the Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which evaluates all nominees to the federal bench. Earlier, she served as the ABA’s lead representative to the United Nations and as a member of the ABA Board of Governors and its executive committee.

Jo-Ann Wallace - Before becoming head of NLADA, Jo-Ann was the organization’s senior vice president for programs, responsible for oversight of both the civil legal aid and public defense program agendas. From 1994 to 2000, she served as director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, widely regarded as the nation’s model defender agency. She is a founder of the American Council of Chief Defenders, a leadership council of the top defender executives from across the United States, and the District of Columbia Appellate Practice Institute. Her extensive experience lecturing includes serving as a member of the visiting faculty for the Trial Advocacy Workshop at Harvard Law School. Jo-Ann received recognition from the White House as a “Champion of Change.” She is a graduate of New York University School of Law.

Andrea Young - is the executive director of the 22,000 member American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.  She is a life-long advocate for civil and human rights. The ACLU of Georgia is a trusted, ethical, nonpartisan defender of our civil liberties:  opposing threats to civil liberties; combatting voter suppression; supporting criminal justice reform; protecting freedom of speech, immigrant rights, and women’s rights, especially reproductive freedom. Under her leadership, the ACLU of Georgia has reimagined its work on a framework integrating legal action, policy, advocacy, civic engagement and communications. 

Wednesday Opening Plenary

Hon. Robert Benham -  Justice Robert Benham is currently the longest serving member of the Supreme Court of Georgia. Appointed by Gov. Joe Frank Harris in December 1989, he was the first African-American ever appointed to the Supreme Court in its more than 140 years. On July 17, 1990, he won statewide election to a full term on the Supreme Court. He served as Chief Justice from 1995-2001, elected by his peers. Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Benham served on the Georgia Court of Appeals for five years.

Justice Benham is a member of the American Judicature Society, the Lawyers’ Club of Atlanta, the National Criminal Justice Association, and the Georgia Bar Foundation. He is a Trustee of the Georgia Legal History Foundation. He is a past vice president of the Georgia Conference of Black Lawyers, a former board member of the Federal Lawyers Association and of the Georgia Association of Trial Lawyers. He is also the former chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Drug Awareness & Prevention and a member of the National Conference of Chief Justices. He is a member of the Federal-State Jurisdiction Committee and a member of the Governors Southern Business Institute.

Theodore A. Howard - Ted Howard is the fulltime Pro Bono Partner at Wiley Rein LLP in Washington, D.C., where he oversees administration of the 250-lawyer firm’s Pro Bono Program, while also maintaining an active caseload representing individuals and groups of clients in civil rights, family law, housing, immigration and public benefits matters.  Ted currently serves on the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, the D.C. Circuit Judicial Conference Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services, and the Board of Governors of the District of Columbia Bar.  He has been honored for his pro bono contributions by the Legal Aid Society of D.C., with its Servant of Justice Award in 2006, and by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, with its Wiley A. Branton Award in 2015.  Ted is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Harvard Law School.

Judy Perry Martinez - Judy Perry Martinez of Simon, Peragine, Smith & Redfearn in New Orleans is Immediate Past President of the American Bar Association, the largest voluntary association of attorneys and legal professionals in the world. Over the past 35 years, Martinez has held various leadership positions with the ABA, including chair of the Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which evaluates all nominees to the federal bench. Earlier, she served as the ABA’s lead representative to the United Nations and as a member of the ABA Board of Governors and its executive committee.

Hon. Harold D. Melton - On July 1, 2005, Harold D. Melton was appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court by Governor Sonny Perdue. He was sworn in as Chief Justice on September 4, 2018 by former Chief Justice P. Harris Hines. Prior to joining the Court, Chief Justice Melton served as Executive Counsel to Governor Perdue, representing the Governor on legal issues covering the entire scope of state government. Chief Justice Melton helped safeguard Georgia’s interests in water rights disputes with Alabama and Florida, and he actively participated in administration efforts to advance the delivery of criminal justice services in the State.

Before serving as Executive Counsel, Chief Justice Melton spent 11 years in the Georgia Department of Law under two Attorneys General where he dealt with issues ranging from the creation of the Georgia Lottery Corporation to the administration of Georgia’s tobacco settlement. Prior to leaving to join the Governor’s Office, he served as Section Leader over the Consumer Interests Division.