MILLEDGEVILLE — Rome Circuit District Attorney Leigh Patterson described Fred Bright's professional motto during the annual Prosecuting Attorney's Council of Georgia (PACGA) Summer Conference held in Jekyll Island July 21 through 24.
Patterson told a crowd of 900 state prosecutors from 49 circuits the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney “always does the right thing” before handing the area prosecutor with 32 years in the local eight-county area Georgia's District Attorney of the Year honor last Sunday.
Bright was taken aback and gave proper team credit during the acceptance speech.
“It really was moving to me. I thanked first and most importantly the office. To me it's more of a reflection of the good people in this office and the hard work they do. We can't do the work we do without everybody pitching in on this team,” Bright said.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Stephen Bradley watched his mentor walk away with a tremendous award.
“[Bright] is a wonderful boss and just a profoundly decent human being, which makes him well-suited for what he does,” Bradley said. “We were glad that they honored him accordingly.”
Bright has served on the PACGA Council since July 1, 2011 and just completed a stint as chairman. The Council acts as a Board of Directors that provide budgeting, training and professional responsibility guidance services to the hundreds of elected and appointed prosecutors across the state.
The Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit leader felt heavy involvement in the Council had something to do with the award.
“I'm humbled to be recognized by my peers in this fashion,” the DA said. “We consider ourselves brothers and sisters of the bar.”
It's been a hectic three decades serving eight counties first as an assistant DA and then the main man the last 19 years. Like most every courthouse in the state, Bright is used to his office being the first to open and last to leave.
While Bright learned delegating and trusting the prosecuting team gets more work done, he's still had a hand in “every murder case one-way or another.”
“I like to be hands on working with victims of crime. Any murder case, I'll have spoken to the victim's family myself,” Bright said. “I can't think of a case we didn't have the victim's family sitting on the front row during the entire trial. That's the way it should be.”
Justice is the singular word Bright always argues to the jury. Seeking justice for the victim guides courtroom action.
Convincing the jury with facts and evidence, while still conveying the sense of loss is a balancing act. Bright tries to put himself in the victim's shoes.
“I'm trying to hold whoever killed their loved one accountable,” the DA of the Year said. “One of the reasons I have a hand in every murder case is that's the type of crime that once you've pulled that trigger you can't take it back.”
The Ocmulgee District attorney admits he is a bit of a dinosaur that only keeps a computer for email. His staff fills the technology gap.
Over the years assistants have advanced to other impressive law posts. Hiring good people, training them well, supporting needs and then getting out of the way works well.
Bright highlighted Max Wood's appointment as the U.S. Attorney for the Middle Circuit of Georgia by then-President George W. Bush and Shannon Wallace becoming Cherokee County's District Attorney.
“We have a great team here, and I'm really proud of that. I predict a lot of the future judges and district attorneys will come out of this office,” Bright said.
Bradley said the PACGA knows the qualities and strengths that go into being at the professional pinnacle.
The DA award starts with the leader and includes all auxiliary contributors.
“When your colleagues acknowledge that what you are doing is some of the finest work, I think there isn't a higher honor. What they are noting is the fact that we are consistently doing top-notch work, and Fred is running a fantastic organization,” Bradley said.
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