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VOL. 118 | NO. 34 | Thursday, February 26, 2004

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Law Talk Buck Wellford

Lanier Honored for Career of Public Service


The Daily News

Robert A. Lanier, recently retired judge of Circuit Court Division 7, is one of two recipients of the Bobby Dunavant Public Service Awards given by the Rotary Club of Memphis-East. The award is named in memory of longtime Shelby County Probate Court Clerk Bobby Joe Dunavant.

Lanier, who retired in December after more than 21 years on the bench, was honored for his work as an elected official. A native Memphian, Lanier began his legal practice in Memphis in 1964. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Memphis and a law degree from the University of Mississippi Law School.

  Q. What was your reaction to receiving this award?

As I have won very few awards in my life, it naturally was a great honor, especially since it is patterned after a person whom I knew many years and held in the highest esteem. It is flattering to be considered in the same league with Bobby.

  Q. Why did you decide to retire in December?

I looked around and realized that I was about to be 65, had lost the sight in one eye and might be unable to do my job as well as I should. Life is short and we should know when to smell the roses.

  Q. What do you think has been your most important contribution to the justice system?

Trying to maintain the standards of the judges in whose courts I appeared as a lawyer, in the face of strong influences to lower those standards.

  Q. What do you mean when you refer to the majesty of the law?

This means following the law even when it is unpopular to do so. The courts, especially the federal courts, are the only agencies of government which citizens have to protect their rights in the final analysis. And following the law means giving meaning to the intention of those who made the law, for only they are empowered by the people to make law. The law should not change every few years when the personnel of the state and federal Supreme Courts change. Even some judges do not follow this creed.


Q. As a founder of Memphis Heritage, past member of the Tennessee Historical Commission and author of local history books, what past era would you like to have experienced as a judge?

I think I would have enjoyed being a judge in the 1950s and 1960s when the law was more stable and simpler, everyone played by the same rules, and something once learned wasnt obsolete the next day.

  Q. What are your future plans?

To sleep late and avoid anything that angries up the blood, to quote the immortal Satchel Paige.


Name: Robert Lanier

Position: retired judge of Circuit Court Division 7

Basics: Lanier recently received a Dunavant Public Servant Award from the Rotary Club of Memphis-East.


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