– May 7 – William B. Hill
, or “Hill” as he is called, will be recognized June 28 with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daily Report’s Georgia Legal Awards dinner event and in a special editorial section that comes out that same week.
A shareholder in the firm’s Atlanta office, Hill has always seen the practice of law ultimately as an exercise in resolving conflicts fairly. For more than 40 years, he has been one of the most iconic figures on the Atlanta legal landscape, building a reputation as a lawyer who is informed, honest and trustworthy.
“We are all honored to have a colleague and friend like Hill who has made such an incredible impact, not only in the legal community but in each of our lives,” said Polsinelli’s Atlanta Office Managing Partner Brian McEvoy, who also counsels health care clients within his Government Investigations practice. “He is a wonderful mentor, leader, and friend, and makes our work an exciting and memorable experience.”
Hill split his career between the public and private sectors, first with the Georgia Attorney General’s office where in 1987 he argued a case before the United States Supreme Court, the first time the state of Georgia had been represented on oral argument by an African-American lawyer. He argued without notes, and won. Three years later, Hill was appointed to a state court judgeship and later named a Superior Court judge who dictated his rulings from the bench immediately following every hearing.
After 40 years of practicing law and trying cases, Hill said the case and the trials that affected him most took place during his years as the Director of the Criminal Division of the Attorney General’s office. In 1973, while Hill was still in college at Washington and Lee University, three escaped prisoners from Maryland looking for guns and money murdered six members of the Alday family in Seminole County, Georgia. The defendants were convicted in 1974 and sentenced to death, but were granted new trials in 1985 when a federal appeals court ruled that pretrial publicity had prevented a fair trial. The District Attorney, Charles Ferguson, and Hill, commencing in 1987, spent the next year and a half in retrials of the Alday killers. Carl Isaacs was sentenced to death and executed in 2003. A separate jury deadlocked on whether to sentence Wayne Carl Coleman to death, resulting in a life sentence. The third defendant’s case was more complicated. After reviewing the facts in the cases, and because of the degree of George Dungee’s mental impairment, Ferguson and Hill agreed that the just outcome was to allow Dungee to plead guilty to the murders and sentence him to life.
At Polsinelli, Hill has a reputation for versatility. He has successfully represented a diverse range of business clients, including companies in the automotive, pharmaceutical and hospitality industries.
“But beyond the cases, Hill takes seriously his obligation to give back and he mentors every chance he gets,” McEvoy said. “As an adjunct professor at Emory University School of Law, Hill leads by example, teaching the next generation of lawyers to practice law with conviction, guided by a strong moral compass, the way he has for more than 40 years.”
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