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March 04, 2024 Top Legal News of the Week

Atlanta attorney Emmet Bondurant to receive ABA Medal

The American Bar Association will award Emmet Bondurant, founder of the Atlanta-based litigation boutique firm Bondurant, Mixson and Elmore, the 2024 ABA Medal. Bondurant will accept the award at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago in August.

Atlanta attorney Emmet Bondurant will receive the ABA Medal at the association's Annual Meeting in Chicago in August.

Atlanta attorney Emmet Bondurant will receive the ABA Medal at the association's Annual Meeting in Chicago in August.

“The ABA Medal is the highest honor bestowed by the American Bar Association, and we are proud to honor Emmet Bondurant for his five decades of commitment to democratic values, equal protection, voting rights and indigent defense,” said ABA President Mary Smith.

Throughout his career, Bondurant has pursued justice with integrity and has demonstrated a commitment to community service and pro bono litigation, including his advocacy for clients in significant civil rights and constitutional cases involving death penalty defense, habeas corpus work, voting rights and legislative reapportionment.

“I was surprised and humbled to have been selected to receive the ABA Medal,” Bondurant said.

In 1963, at the age of 26, Bondurant successfully argued Wesberry v. Sanders in the U.S. Supreme Court, which held for the first time that congressional districts throughout the United States must contain equal populations. This has since become known as the one person, one vote rule.

He has litigated challenges to state voter identification requirements in cases such as Democratic Party of Georgia, Inc. v. Perdue and Common Cause/Georgia v. Billups, arguing that these laws unconstitutionally and deliberately burden the right to vote and disproportionately disadvantage vulnerable minorities. In 2018, he returned to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue Rucho v. Common Cause, urging the court to end the practice in which state legislatures deliberately draw voting districts to disadvantage residents based on their political views.

Bondurant worked for years towards establishing a uniform statewide indigent defense system. His efforts culminated in the passage of the Indigent Defense Act in 2003. Bondurant, an ABA member for 57 years, also serves on the advisory board of Gideon’s Promise, an organization dedicated to realizing effective representation and equal justice for marginalized communities.

Bondurant prevailed before the Georgia Supreme Court in Fleming v. Zant, establishing for Georgia the rule that execution of the mentally impaired offends constitutional guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment, a full 13 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached that same conclusion in Atkins v. Virginia.

In a groundbreaking gender equality case, Bondurant represented attorney Elizabeth Hishon in Hishon v. King & Spalding. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that law firms are subject to Title VII and prohibited from discriminating against women in partner selection.

Throughout his career, Bondurant has demonstrated his skill in various legal arenas including the reversing of a $456 million patent infringement judgment against client Weyerhaeuser. Bondurant also served as chair of the Atlanta Charter Commission, a successful two-year effort to rewrite the 100-year-old Atlanta City Charter.

The ABA Medal is bestowed upon a lawyer for “exceptionally distinguished service ... to the cause of American jurisprudence.” Past recipients include Bill Gates, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Associate Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Lewis F. Powell Jr., Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sandra Day O’Connor, Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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