Circuit Public Defender Claudia Saari Honored


Atlanta, GA – March 2, 2020 – Circuit Public Defender for DeKalb County, Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit, Claudia Saari will be presented with the John R. Lewis Lifetime Achievement Award  by Gideon’s Promise, a public defender organization whose mission is to transform the criminal justice system by building a movement of public defenders who provide equal justice for marginalized communities. The award will be presented at the organization’s Igniting Change fundraiser on March 20, 2020 at 595 North Event Center from 6:00 – 10:00 p.m.

Annually, Gideon’s Promise honors individuals and organizations in the Atlanta community committed to improving the dialogue and engagement around the issue of criminal justice reform. This year’s event will also honor Pro Football Hall of Famer Champ Bailey with the Ambassador of Change Award and The Gathering Spot with the Community Impact Award. The evening will also feature a cocktail reception, plated dinner and dancing with music provided by the band Gritz & Jelly Butter.

Claudia Saari received a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a law degree from Emory University School of Law. She joined the DeKalb County Public Defender’s Office in 1987 and over the next three decades tried a wide variety of cases ranging from DUI to death penalty and the first criminal trial in Georgia that featured DNA evidence. Saari now leads an office of 100 people who represent clients in Juvenile Court, State Court, Superior Court, Magistrate Court, Appellate Courts, and all Accountability Courts and diversion programs.

Saari is a Fellow with the American College of Trial Lawyers and previously chaired its national Public Defender Committee.  She is a graduate of Leadership DeKalb; a Master with the Lumpkin Inns of Court; a member of the State Bar Board of Governors; and a member of the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism. Saari also serves on a number of committees and boards including the Indigent Defense committee for both the State Bar and the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; an Advisory Board member for the Emory University School of Law Public Interest Law Committee; an officer with the Clyde Shepherd Nature preserve; and served on the Gideon’s Promise Board of Directors.  Saari’s previous awards include the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (GACDL) Indigent Defense Award; 2018 and a 2019 recipient of the GACDL President’s Commitment to GACDL Award; and she was honored by the American Constitution Society with its Legal Legend Award.

“We are pleased to salute Claudia Saari’s unwavering commitment to upholding the rights of DeKalb county’s disfranchised residents,” says Gideon’s Promise Executive Director Ilham Askia. “Her years of dedicated service exemplify the critical need for strengthening public defense in America as the centerpiece for boarder criminal justice reform,” she continued.

All proceeds from the 2020 event will be used to provide scholarships for the training, mentorship and leadership development of new public defender fellows.

2020 Igniting Change sponsors include Freed Grant; CP Law Group; Stern Law; The Cochran Firm Atlanta; Delta Community Credit Union; Ten ATL; B-Tech Printing; Positive Promotions; and Bailey Brothers Foundation.

For information about Igniting Change tickets and sponsorships, please visit or contact Christopher Pearson at 404-921-3836 or [email protected].


About Gideon’s Promise

Gideon’s Promise is a 501(c)(3) public defender organization whose mission is to transform the criminal justice system by building a movement of public defenders who provide equal justice for marginalized communities.  Founded in 2007 by Jonathan Rapping, the organization has grown from a single training program for sixteen attorneys in two public defender offices in Georgia and Louisiana to a national enterprise with 1,000 participants in 45 public defender offices across 27 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization’s initial three-year program for new public defenders has expanded into a comprehensive program model that supports public defenders at all levels of their career.