The Lake family established a Justice Fund and Public Service Award in 2005. The North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA) and the North Carolina Bar Foundation (NCBF), in recognition of the exemplary commitment to public service of former Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake, Jr., have re-established in his name an award to honor a North Carolina lawyer who has performed worthy public service in her or his community.
The re-establishment of the NCBA/NCBF’s highest public service award is the first naming to be approved under the newly adopted Protocol for Naming and Changing the Names of Awards and Recognitions. The new protocol bestows upon an honoree a public mark of distinction and is reserved for “those persons, families or organizations whose contributions are significant, whose conduct is consonant with the NCBA’s stated mission and the NCBF’s stated mission and who are highly regarded by the legal community and the public.” For that reason, the new protocol is specifically designed so that the NCBA and NCBF can address expressions of concern, move away from troubling legacies and pursue the NCBA’s mission to “serve the public and the legal profession by promoting the administration of justice and encouraging the highest standards of integrity, competence, civility and well-being of all members of the profession.” Having received legitimate expressions of concern about its public service award and having engaged in a year-long study of how bar associations, universities and other institutions name their facilities, awards and recognitions, the NCBA and NCBF are now pleased to re-establish their most prominent award for public service in the name of Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake, Jr.
In addition to his well-regarded legacy of judicial, legislative and other professional service, Chief Justice Lake, Jr. founded the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, putting North Carolina in the vanguard of states concerned with the pursuit of justice, as well as the application of law. More than a year ago Chief Justice Lake, Jr. wrote poignantly about capital punishment: “[C]ertain adverse economic conditions . . . have made the system fundamentally unfair for some defendants. These systemic problems continue to lead to the conviction of the innocent as well as to the death penalty for those individuals for whom it is constitutionally inappropriate, regardless of the crime. Our inability to determine who possesses sufficient culpability to warrant a death sentence draws into question whether the death penalty can ever be constitutional under the Eighth Amendment. I have come to believe that it probably cannot.” The NCBA’s and NCBF’s re-establishment of the public service award under their new naming protocol takes an important step into a more equitable and inclusive future by honoring Chief Justice Lake Jr.’s constant devotion to duty and especially his commitment to public service and the pursuit of justice based on the moral imperatives underlying the law.
The NCBA and NCBF are grateful to Chief Justice Lake, Jr. and his family for their generosity and understanding in connection with the re-establishment and naming of this award.