Peter Gilchrist Retirement Reception, December 20120

Remarks from U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins

 

When each one of us retires, we can only hope that first, we even have a legacy to leave, and second, that our legacy is one of justice passion courage commitment loyalty and fairness.

 

Peter Gilchrist leaves this legacy in the Mecklenburg County Bar.. He is one of the very few real icons of the Bar -- not just in the Mecklenburg County Bar, but in the practice of law. 

 

And, in a political environment in which the average lifespan of an elected official is a term or two, Peter has served nine terms as District Attorney, with every single race unopposed.  This is an amazing tribute to Peter's fairness and integrity.  Peter sat on the hot seat for 35 years -- maybe the hottest seat in the County -- and emerged unscathed -- well maybe a singe here and there.

 

Peter is Charlotte born and bred.  In a prime example of the fairness and balance that he has brought to the office, Peter graduated from both Chapel Hill as an undergrad, and Duke Law School. 

 

While this community has changed dramatically in the time that Peter has been DA, his vision for justice in this community has remained steadfast and true.

 

Peter was first elected in 1974 and took office in 1975.

In 1975, the DA's Office consisted of 15 prosecutors. There are now 85.

Charlotte's population was 227,000; now close to 800,000

The Police Department had 325 officers (1735 today)

There were 376 jail beds (over 3000 today)

The Song of the year was Love Will Keep Us Together by Captain and Tenille

 

And in 1975, Steven Jobs came up with this cool idea he called the Apple 1 protype -- the DA's Office is still trying to get one of those to automate the office.

 

In each of those 35 years, Peter's advice to every ADA has remained the same:

do the right thing

....and contribute the maximum to your 401(k)

 

Peter is that rare kind of leader who pushes his people forward when there are accolades to be collected but stands in front to receive the full force of any criticism.  

 

Peter was not the kind of leader to tell his ADA's what to do -- he taught us all to remember that we represent the people of this state, that justice requires both compassion and a backbone, and that he placed his trust in each one of us to do justice every day, in every case.  

 

Those of you who have been around for a while know that Peter was quite the trial lawyer for many years -- he tried a lot of cases, and his trial skills are legendary.  By the time I got to the DA's Office, Peter had stopped trying cases.  But, I'm here to tell you -- you can take the DA out of the courtroom, but you can't take the courtroom out of the DA.

 

Which is not always a good thing....

 

I was in trial in the old 3301 -- I heard the door open and close and felt a presence behind me.  I resisted the urge to turn around, but eventually felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Peter.  Now by this time, Peter's presence in the courthouse was somewhat rare, so seeing him come in and sit down behind me was somewhat disconcerting.  The boss sitting behind you&how can this possibly be a good thing? 

 

Anyway,  Peter handed me a note.  It said ask him this... And had a question written out.  All you trial lawyers out there know how much we love it when people hand us notes during our case.  I read the question, and thought it would probably draw an objection.  I ignored it for a while and turned around and saw give me the high sign and signal that I should ask the question.

 

So I asked Peter's question, defense counsel objected and court sustained the objection.  When I turned around, I saw the flash of Peter hightailing it out of the courtroom.... 

 

That is actually an unfair story to tell on Peter -- this is a man who we were all 100% sure would be there when the going got rough.  And the going does get rough.  Peter has had my back on many occasions both personally and professionally.  I have never been in doubt that he is right there, right with me, just like he is with the 85 ADAs who go to court everyday on his behalf.

 

Over the past 35 years, about 150 lawyers have been ADAs who have worked for Peter and then left the office to continue their practice outside the DA's Office.

 I am one of those lawyers, and like each one of them, I owe my success to Peter. 

 

Of the lawyers who have been trained by Peter, there have been:

  • Two US Attorneys
  • Two federal Magistrate Judges for the Western District of NC
  • Numerous Asst. U.S. Attorneys for Western District of NC
  • Two retired senior resident superior court judges in Mecklenburg County
  • Numerous other Superior court judges, District Ct judges, members of the Police Attorney's Office, the City Attorney's Office and the County Attorney's Office
  • In addition, there are currently than 50 attorneys practicing law in Charlotte right now  who have been brought up in the practice of law by PSG  to do the right thing.   

 

Peter has worked tirelessly inside the office to ensure that justice is done.  He has also been a leader in the Bar and has worked tirelessly on two major goals that go beyond his own office: 

 

·         adequate funding for the Judicial Branch of government across the state and

·         the development of an information system for the criminal justice system. 

 

Now I know firsthand that the index card system that the DA's Office used for so many years worked just fine, but modern times call for modern processes and Peter has been a passionate and consistent voice to try and make the criminal justice system work better for the good of the all the communities across the state. 

 

It is a great honor to come here and speak about Peter to the Bar. 

 

I was asked to come here tonight give a brief biography of Peter Gilchrist to this crowd. This is one of the greatest honors I have had as member of this Bar. But, I think all I have managed to mention by way of a biography is that Peter went to both Duke and Carolina.  But to give a biography of Peter Gilchrist is to give the biography of the hundreds of lawyers who have worked for Peter in the past, and who work for him now. 

 

Peter Gilchrist has given more of himself to this Bar than anyone I can think of.  For this gift, I thank him personally.  And for this gift, Peter -  the Mecklenburg County Bar honors you and thanks you.

 

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