Gerald Beaver, David Saacks Receive Annual Criminal Justice Section Awards

Gerald Beaver     David Saacks

The North Carolina Bar Association Criminal Justice Section presented the 13th Annual Peter S. Gilchrist III & Wade M. Smith Awards on May 14 in conjunction with the section’s 2020-21 virtual annual meeting.

The recipients are David Saacks of Raleigh (above, right) who received the Gilchrist Award and H. Gerald “Jerry” Beaver of Fayetteville (above, left) who received the Smith Award. The awards are named for their initial recipients, former Mecklenburg County District Attorney Peter Gilchrist and defense attorney Wade Smith of Raleigh.

Saacks has served as a prosecutor for nearly three decades. He began serving as an assistant district attorney in Durham County in 1992, served as interim district attorney from 2007-09, and completed his service as an assistant district attorney in Durham County in 2010. He has served as an assistant district attorney in Wake County since 2010.

Saacks began his legal career as an associate with Fernandez, Forgerson & Knebel, where he worked from 1989-91. He is a graduate of Tulane Law School (1989) and Louisiana State University (1986).

“I am still trying to pick myself up off of the floor,” Saacks said in regard to being added to the roster of Gilchrist Award recipients. “That is why I am so flabbergasted by it; if I turn out to be a quarter of the lawyer as all of those people on that list, I can die a happy man.

“The common line that I would say and have been saying, because you’re not sure what to say, is that I am humbled and honored. But as I think about it, I am humbled by the honor. When you are put on a list with people like that, it helps you understand what your peers are thinking about you on both sides. I don’t think words can express what it means professionally.”

Saacks said his initial decision to become a prosecutor was fueled by his desire to be in the courtroom.

“Second,” he continued, “clearly was because of public service. I came out of law school without any debt and felt an obligation to pay back what I could. I thought this was a good way.”

His original intent was to serve in this capacity for five to 10 years and return to private practice.

“It has turned into almost 30 years now,” Saacks said. “That’s what life does. And being in Wake County has been really nice because that is the county I was living in, so I am dealing with citizens and towns and communities that I am a part of.

“When I was in the Durham office, it was still my state and my area, but I only lived in Durham County two of the 18 years I was there, and lived in Orange and Wake the rest of the time. It still felt like public service, but it means a lot to come and work for my district and help people right around me.”

Beaver is a founding partner of Beaver Courie Sternlicht Hearp & Broadfoot, PA. After graduating from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1973, he moved to Fayetteville where he first served as an assistant public defender.

He received his undergraduate degree from East Carolina University.

“To be in any way associated with Wade Smith is a distinct honor,” Beaver said. “I have known Wade since I was 8 years old. We grew up in the same town, Albemarle, and he was a sports hero for me when he was in high school. My sister took me to meet him at a part-time job he had when he was in high school, and he autographed a football for me.”

Smith also provided Beaver a helping hand when he was in law school.

“One of the great things Wade did for me was help me get a summer job with a law firm,” Beaver said. “At that time the Wake County Bar was the center of all bar activities and I got to know all of the great lawyers working in Raleigh.

“There was Robert McMillan, Carl Churchill, Earl Purser, Phil Redwine, Russell Dement and a huge number of great lawyers who helped me for years. It was a great thing at that young age to meet such fine lawyers and learn from them – and search a few titles along the way.

“I had always wanted to be a lawyer, and after meeting and being exposed to lawyers, I set my mind very solidly on wanting to be a member of the legal profession, which at that time and age was amongst the most respected positions you could have. And I always gravitated toward criminal defense because I always felt sorry for the imperfections of people and wanted to be of service and help them out.”

Receiving this award, Beaver added, is a tremendous honor for which he is extremely grateful.

“I stand on the shoulders of dozens of lawyers who have gone before me and set examples I have tried to follow,” Beaver said. “I have benefited greatly from getting to know lawyers all over the state of North Carolina. I am a big fan of lawyers, and believe organizations like the Bar Association serve the profession well and help improve it daily.”

The Peter S. Gilchrist III and Wade M. Smith have been presented since 2008 in recognition of a prosecutor and defense attorney who exemplify the highest ideals and professionalism through their career.

Previous recipients of these awards are:

Gilchrist Award

2019-20  Kimberly Overton Spahos, Raleigh

2018-19  Howard P. Neumann, Greensboro

2017-18  W. Clark Everett, Greenville

2016-17  Howard J. Cummings, Raleigh

2015-16  Barton Menser, Charlotte

2014-15  Sandra J. Hairston, Greensboro

2013-14  James J. Coman, Raleigh

2012-13  Calvin W. Colyer, Fayetteville

2011-12  C. Colon Willoughby Jr., Raleigh

2010-11  William D. Kenerly, Salisbury

2009-10 Edward W. Grannis Jr., Fayetteville

2008-09 Peter S. Gilchrist III, Charlotte


Smith Award Recipients

2019-20 John P. “Jack” O’Hale, Smithfield

2018-19 Claire J. Rauscher, Charlotte

2017-18 Michael A. Grace, Winston-Salem

2016-17 Sean P. Devereux, Asheville

2015-16 Thomas C. Manning, Raleigh

2014-15 Mark W. Owens Jr., Greenville

2013-14 Fredrick G. Lind, Greensboro

2012-13 James E. Ferguson, Charlotte

2011-12 Joseph B. Cheshire V, Raleigh

2010-11 James P. Cooney III, Charlotte

2009-10 Locke T. Clifford, Greensboro

2008-09 Wade M. Smith, Raleigh

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