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Emory Law News Center

Honors and Awards

2021 Distinguished Alumni Award

The Emory Law Alumni Awards recognize outstanding alumni who have achieved distinction in legal practice, teaching, research, or public administration and who have demonstrated distinguished service to Emory Law, the Emory Alumni Association, or Emory University.



Established in 1985, the Distinguished Alumni Award is given to an alumna or alumnus who embodies the values of the school and has demonstrated extraordinary achievement in the legal profession and in service to society.

Judge Michael E. Hancock 78L

Georgia native Judge Michael Eugene Hancock 78L was the first Black student to graduate from Gainesville High School; following that he moved to Atlanta to earn a communications degree from Georgia State University.

While working as a DeKalb Juvenile Court investigator, his courthouse colleagues suggested he attend law school. He was accepted to and enrolled in Emory School of Law. While there he was president of the Law Students Civil Rights Research Council and also organized Emory Law’s first minority student recruitment conference. He clerked for Margie Pitts Hames (a parallel case litigator to Roe v. Wade), Fulton Juvenile Court Judge Romae T. Powell, and worked at the Arrington, Winter, and Goger law firm.

 After law school, he spent a year as a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) assigned to the Atlanta Legal Aid Society’s Senior Citizens Law Project. He also briefly worked at Georgia Legal Services in his hometown, but soon returned to Atlanta to join the Fulton County Public Defender’s Office.

Nicknamed “the Dean,” Hancock blazed trails in the DeKalb County legal system, including founding the DeKalb Lawyers Association. He was the county’s first Black assistant public defender and also assistant solicitor general. He became the county’s first full-time Black judge and served as chief judge of the DeKalb Recorders Court from 1983 to 1991 when Gov. Zell Miller appointed him to the DeKalb Superior Court bench, a position he held until retirement in January 2012. On September 25, 2005, he became a member of a historic Georgia Supreme Court bench when he was asked to sit in place of a justice who had a conflict. The majority of jurists on the bench for that occasion were Black.

Hancock continues to hear cases as a senior judge. Following a long-standing interest in the nexus between law and faith, he completed a Master of Arts in Christian Studies from Luther Rice Seminary in 2016. He continues to pursue that interest along with striving to become proficient at jazz guitar.



The Eléonore Raoul Trailblazer Award commemorates Eléonore Raoul 1920L, the first woman admitted to Emory University and a national leader in the women’s suffrage movement. It is given to an Emory Law alumna who has blazed a trail for others through her own professional and personal endeavors.

 MiAngel Robinson Cody 04L

MiAngel Cody 04L is nationally recognized for her defense of men and women sentenced to life in federal prison. Among the hundreds of people she’s represented, Cody has won freedom for over 40 prisoners serving life sentences. Her work spans from the courtroom, to Congress, to clemency. Six of her clients had their sentences commuted by the president of the United States. Cody has been described as a national “Powerhouse Litigator,” after she led the historic #90DaysOfFreedom Campaign. In three short months, Cody and her team won freedom for 17 federal prisoners unfairly sentenced to life without parole for drug offenses.

Cody worked as a corporate litigator and Chicago federal defender before launching The Decarceration Collective, a national criminal defense firm that is 100% woman-led and woman-powered. Prior to becoming a lawyer, she was a death penalty investigator who spent seven years listening to the stories of death row prisoners in Louisiana and Georgia.

Cody clerked for both US District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson (Middle District of Alabama) and US Court of Appeals Judge Ann Claire Williams (Seventh Circuit).

Reflecting on her Emory education, Cody believes:  “Emory prepared me for a justice-driven career and taught me that the Sixth Amendment demands the highest caliber of lawyering, especially when a person's life or liberty is at stake."



The Alumni Service Award honors an alumna or alumnus who has contributed significant, sustained leadership and outstanding service to the Emory Law community.

Cheryl F. Turner 94C 99L

Atlanta native Cheryl F. Turner 94C 99L has promoted diversity and community service throughout her career. She previously served as senior counsel at The Coca-Cola Company and worked on a variety of innovative marketing campaigns for several well-known brands. She is most proud of her work on programs that helped deliver more than $1 million dollars in scholarships to diverse communities. While at Coca-Cola, she also coordinated the Legal Division Summer Intern Program, co-chaired the Legal Division Diversity Council, and served on the executive board of the women’s Business Resource Group.

In 2010, the Daily Report cited her as a promising young attorney, one of that year’s “40 under 40.” In 2011, she was a member of the inaugural class of fellows of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. In addition, she has worked on political campaigns and coordinated lawyers working to protect the right to vote for the 2020 elections.

An active member of the Gate City Bar Association, Georgia’s oldest African-American bar association, Turner served as president in 2016. She is also the founder of the Gate City Bar Summer Associate Program, which has provided summer legal experiences to more than 40 law students and more than $100,000 in scholarships over the past decade.

An active alumna, Turner has served on the Emory Law Alumni Board, the Emory Alumni Board, the BLSA Alumni Advisory Board, and the Emory Law Young Alumni Council.  She also spearheaded the endowment of the Dr. Rudolph Byrd Memorial Scholarship benefitting Emory college students. While at Emory, she was a Martin Luther King Scholar as an undergraduate student and a Woodruff Scholar during law school.



The Young Alumni Award recognizes the professional and personal achievements of an alumna or alumnus who graduated within the past 15 years and has made notable leadership and service contributions to Emory Law and to the legal profession.


Carlissa R. Carson 08L

In 2020, Carlissa R. Carson 08L joined Emory Law’s Volunteer Clinic for Veterans as its senior staff attorney. She manages the clinic under the direction of Clinic Director Drew Early and Assistant Dean for Public Service Rita Sheffey. In addition to representing clinic clients she also recruits, trains, supervises, and teaches student volunteers. She is the clinic’s primary liaison with law firms, volunteer attorneys, and the federal government. 


Carson is also a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve (Air National Guard). She joined the Air National Guard in 2012 after serving nine years in the Army Reserve. While in the Army, Carson served as a military intelligence officer and as a judge advocate. She is currently the staff judge advocate for the 117ARW (Air Refueling Wing). After earning her JD from Emory Law, Carson also completed an LLM degree with a concentration in International Law and Human Rights at Georgetown University Law Center. Before joining the Emory Volunteer Clinic for Veterans, she was Georgia District Counsel for the US Small Business Administration.

Read the full bios for the 2020 and 2021 winners at