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Court clerk, former DA Tom Lawler loses fight with prostate cancer

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Tom Lawler, Gwinnett County's clerk of court and former district attorney, passed away Wednesday after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer.

Lawler, 63, spent more than three decades serving the people of Gwinnett and helped revolutionize the county's judicial system. A former police officer, the father of one served as district attorney from 1985 to 1992 before assuming the role of court clerk in 1997.

Current District Attorney Danny Porter called Lawler a mentor and "one of my best friends."

"When he came into office in 1985, Gwinnett County was basically a small town, almost rural judicial system where things were written by hand and everything was done on typewriters," Porter said. "He basically brought technology into those areas and modernized both the DA's office and the clerk's office."

"He was a very talented man and I think a lot of people underestimated that."

Prior to being elected as district attorney, Lawler served as the head of Gwinnett County police's drug and narcotics unit and then the solicitor of juvenile court. As district attorney, Lawler's suggestions led to the construction of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. He also started the county's victim witness program, among many other accomplishments.

Just last week, the county announced a new jury service and management model, crediting Lawler with developing and implementing the software that made it possible.

"He was really passionate about what he did," Porter said. "He would chase after something and make it happen."

Porter called Lawler a "really funny guy" and said he tried to keep his affairs private, but had been fighting cancer for at least three years.

Lawler is survived by his wife Trish and son Michael, as well as one granddaughter and brothers Jesse, Johnny and Jimmy.

Information regarding funeral and visitation arrangements was not available Thursday.