Former Georgia chief justice to speak at Talarico Lecture

Leah Ward Sears

Athens, Ga. – Former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears will deliver the Susette M. Talarico Lecture at the University of Georgia Sept. 20 at 4 p.m. in the Larry Walker Room in Dean Rusk Hall.

The lecture is co-sponsored by the UGA School of Public and International Affairs’ department of political science and the criminal justice studies program and is a blue-card event.

Sears became the first woman and youngest person ever to serve on the Georgia Supreme Court when she was appointed in 1992. There she spearheaded the Commission on Children, Marriage and Family Law, which addresses the legal and administrative issues resulting from the increasing fragmentation of Georgia’s families. She was also instrumental in the formation of the Committee on Civil Justice, an organization that develops, coordinates and supports policy initiatives to expand access to the courts for low-income Georgia residents.

Sears again made history in 2005 as the first African-American female chief justice in the United States when she was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. There she served until her retirement from the bench in 2009.

“We are honored to have Leah Ward Sears deliver this year’s Talarico Lecture,” said political science department head John A. Maltese. “She is a trail blazer and a role model with a wealth of experience on both sides of the bench.”

Born in Heidelberg, Germany, Sears spent her formative years in Savannah, Ga. She received her bachelor’s degree at Cornell University, her juris doctor from Emory University and a master of laws from the University of Virginia School of Law. She began her legal career with the law firm of Alston & Bird and then left private practice to begin a career in public service as a judge with Atlanta’s City Traffic Court. At the age of 32, she was elected to the Fulton County Superior Court.

Currently, Sears is a partner with the law firm of Schiff Hardin and is the Distinguished Fellow in Family Law at the Institute for American Values, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research institution.

The Talarico lecture is made possible by a fund created to honor longtime UGA professor Susette Talarico, who was a faculty member at UGA for more than three decades. Talarico was an Albert Berry Saye Professor of American Government and Constitutional Law and a Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor. She served as director of the criminal justice studies program for 22 years.

A reception will follow the lecture, which is free and open to the public. For more information, call 706/542-7079.