Western Circuit Bar Association remembers pioneering state court judge Kent Lawrence in Athens

When State Court Judge Kent Lawrence died in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of traditional funeral services.

On Monday, the Western Circuit Bar Association hosted a late memorial service lunch in Athens for the longtime Clarke County State Court judge who established Georgia’s first DUI / drug court.

Several family members, including his wife, Karlene Lawrence, attended the lunch, where Lawrence’s legacy in Athens was remembered by State Court Judge Charles Auslander and Superior Court Judge Lawton Stephens.

Clarke County Superior Court Judge Patrick Haggard, right, chats with Karlene Lawrence and grandson Andrew Costello after a luncheon in honor of State Court Judge Kent Lawrence, passed away in March 2020.

Lawrence is remembered by many University of Georgia football fans as a star catcher.

“If you were a kid growing up in Athens, Georgia in the 1960s, Kent Lawrence was a household name,” Stephens said of the man who became his close friend during their time with the judicial branch of the right.

But after Lawrence’s playing days in college and in the NFL, he returned to Athens to earn a master’s degree while working for the UGA Police Department. In 1974, he became the first police chief of the new Clarke County Police Department, according to Auslander, who described Lawrence’s rise to a bench seat where he was appointed to the bench in 1986.

“He realized he had a genuine love for the law and decided he would enter law school while he was working full time,” Auslander said.

The Western Circuit Bar Association hosted a luncheon in honor of the late State Court Judge Kent Lawrence.

The Western Circuit Bar Association hosted a luncheon in honor of the late State Court Judge Kent Lawrence.

But it was while working in law enforcement and then as a lawyer that Auslander said Lawrence was “tired of seeing the same people come before him for drug addiction issues” with no other solution than more. prison sentence.

In 2000, Lawrence established the first DUI court, but without such a program in Georgia, he traveled to New York, Michigan and New Mexico to study the workings of similar courts, according to Auslander.

Today, the court has 17 probation officers to supervise more than 3,000 people, and Lawrence has also set up a drug testing lab that can provide drug test results within an hour.

“He was not an average person. He was not an average lawyer. He was not an average judge. He did not accept the status quo, “Auslander said, adding” that he has charted a course that we are now following.

Stephens recalled that at the age of 12 he attended the 1966 UGA game against Georgia Tech, which was undefeated. He watched Lawrence come out to return a punt.

The late Judge Kent Lawrence's grandson Andrew Costello attended lunch wearing his grandfather's number from his playing days for the University of Georgia Bulldogs.

The late Judge Kent Lawrence’s grandson Andrew Costello attended lunch wearing his grandfather’s number from his playing days for the University of Georgia Bulldogs.

“He brought in the punt for 75 yards for a touchdown and we beat Tech and ruined their unbeaten season,” said Stephens.

Lawrence was a gifted athlete, “but you’d never know that if you saw him play golf,” Stephens joked, throwing happy beards that good friends share with a laugh.

“I will miss your compassion for the underdogs and the people who have difficulties in life, who came to your court to seek justice and found it,” he said.

“He knew at the end of the day it didn’t matter how many touchdowns you scored. It doesn’t matter how many cases you win. What really matters is how many people you help along the way and how many lives you’ve saved. By this measure, the legacy of Kent Lawrence will never be forgotten, ”said Stephens.

Bar Association president Gregory Sowell told the meeting that the Georgia Athletic Department created a scholarship for a student-athlete pursuing a criminal justice degree. To contribute to the endowment in honor of Laurent, visit


This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: Western Circuit Bar Remembers Late Clarke County Judge Kent Lawrence

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