Edward W. Mullins Jr., a partner in the Columbia-based Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough law firm, has been awarded the 2013 John H. Pickering Award by the National Center for State Courts, based in Williamsburg, Va.
The award was established in 2005 to recognize a member of the center’s Lawyers Committee who has contributed to the organization professionally and personally in a significant way. Mullins was recognized chiefly for his efforts improve civics education nationwide.
“Ed Mullins is one of the most relentless and passionate advocates the NCSC could ever ask for,” center president Mary McQueen said in a statement. “He has worked tirelessly for many causes, but he became our strongest foot soldier in the fight to improve and broaden civics education. Ed singlehandedly built an army of lawyers around the country who are committed to this worthy cause. The benefits of Ed’s dedication and commitment will be felt for years.”
In South Carolina, Mullins introduced the center’s Justice Case Files graphic-novel series – teaching students about the justice system -- into middle and high schools. The program has spread to several states.
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Mullins said state courts have been substantially underfunded for the past several years during the economic downturn and improving civics education is critical to the public’s access to justice.
“Ninety-plus percent of all litigation flows through the state court system,” Mullins said, adding courts often work as problem solvers, offering programs for drug rehabilitation, for example, to help minor offenders get back on the right path.
Judge Mike Heavican, chief justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court and president of the Conference of Chief Justices, said the civics education spearheaded by Mullins is “absolutely critical” to state courts.
“It’s great to have support from people like Ed,” he said.
Mullins accepted the award – named after a founding member of the Lawyers Committee – at a ceremony Thursday in Washington, D.C. He said he was honored and surprised by the recognition.
S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal, who recommended Mullins, said: “Ed epitomizes all that is good and decent about America’s lawyers. … His infectious enthusiasm for involving lawyers across the country in grass-roots civics education has been transformational.”