We are now accepting nominations for our 2020 Legal Services Award and Government Pro Bono Award. Each year at our Awards Ceremony, we recognize the extraordinary work of some of the District’s most dedicated public-interest and pro bono lawyers. Our 2020 Awards Ceremony will take place on Thursday, December 3. Our Legal Services Award recognizes a dynamic legal-services lawyer who represents low-income clients, works to improve access to justice, or thinks creatively to solve difficult legal problems. Our Government Pro Bono Award commends a dedicated government lawyer who also volunteers time to organize pro bono efforts or represent low-income clients. Nomination materials for the Legal Services Award and the Government Pro Bono Award are due by 5 pm on Thursday, October 1, 2020. Nominations should be sent via email to Nancy Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org. The awards criteria and nomination instructions are below: Legal Services Award Our Legal Services Award recognizes the work of lawyers who serve in the public interest community: the staff attorneys who provide outstanding representation to low-income individuals day in and day out. These may be rising stars or unsung heroes – but they demonstrate a passion for helping people and a hunger for increasing the access to justice. We’re looking for nominees with one or more of the following characteristics: An advocate who has not previously been widely, publicly recognized for her or his work and whose work benefits low-income or otherwise marginalized clients in the Greater DC Metro Region; An individual who supports the DC public interest community in improving the access to justice for those who cannot afford an attorney; An advocate who has endeavored to bring together the public interest, pro bono, and government legal communities to improve the quality and availability of free legal services for those in need; and Someone who has gone above and beyond the normal requirements of their job to assist persons in need or has demonstrated outside-the-box thinking about how to resolve difficult legal issues. Past Winners: 2019 Tricia Monroe, The Legal Aid Society for the District of Columbia 2018 Lindsy Miles-Hare, Ayuda 2017 Tracy Goodman, Children’s Law Center 2016: Thomas “Skip” Mark, D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center 2015: Rebecca Lindhurst, Bread for the City 2014: Jodi Feldman, The Legal Aid Society for the District of Columbia Government Pro Bono Award The Government Pro Bono Award highlights the important (and often overlooked) pro bono contributions made by government lawyers. Pro bono service can take many forms and is not limited to direct legal representation or litigation. Past recipients have promoted access to justice in a variety of ways and in many different substantive practice areas. The Government Pro Bono Award recipient will be a government attorney who has made significant pro bono contributions. The pro bono work performed may include, but is not limited to activities such as: Involvement in establishing or implementing an agency pro bono program; Increasing the level of pro bono service by agency attorneys through promotion or facilitation of pro bono opportunities; Mentoring or training agency lawyers handling pro bono matters, litigating cases or providing non-litigation legal services to low income people or entities; or Participating regularly in pro bono clinics. Please note that the above lists of pro bono activities are not exhaustive. We gladly will consider nominations of attorneys who have performed other kinds of pro bono service. Past Winners: 2019 Marissa Schnaith, U.S. Department of Labor 2018 Catalina Martinez, U.S. Small Business Administration 2017 Deborah Birnbaum, U.S. Department of Labor 2016 Katrina Rouse, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2015 Kathryn Legomsky, U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development 2014 John Bowers, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2013 Jay Owen, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2012 Edward Eliasberg, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2011 Karen Shrimp, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 2010 John Warshawsky, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2009 Sean Keveney, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2008 Paul Kendall, Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Department of Justice 2007 James Yoon, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2006 Mark Pletcher, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2005 Julie Abbate, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2004 Laura Klein, Pro Bono Program, U.S. Department of Justice 2003 Claire McGuire, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation & Department of Treasury Nomination Instructions Nominations should describe the nominee’s relevant professional activities, including: (1) a description of the legal services and/or other efforts upon which the nomination is based, (2) an explanation of the impact of that work on clients, other advocates, and/or others and (3) the time period covered by the activities. Nomination materials should be no longer than 6 pages in length, including the nomination, resume, and any other supporting documents, such as letters of recommendation. Please submit nomination materials via email to Nancy Lopez at email@example.com. Deadline All nominations must be received by 5:00 pm on Thursday, October 1. Learn more about the Awards Ceremony and past award winners.
by Nefertari Elshiekh On July 23rd, we wrapped up this year's Summer Forum, with the sixth panel focusing on Criminal Law & Death Penalty. The panelists included: Brandi Harden, Harden & Pinckney, PLLC Callie Heller, ABA Death Penalty Representation Project Daniel Levin, White & Case Bridgette Stumpf, Network for Victim Recovery of DC Liz Wieser, D.C. Office of the Attorney General’s Public Safety Division D.C. Office of the Attorney General's Public Advocacy Division's Stephon Woods facilitated our conversation. Bridgette began by talking about the wide array of services with which her organization provides victims. In DC, which sits at a unique nexus of federal and local law, survivors face additional barriers with regard to accountability and transparency because of the lack of elected prosecutors that many local jurisdictions have. Brandi then went on to describe how growing up in Texas as the only black child in her elementary school impacted her view of the law. Her firsthand experiences with an unfair justice system and her Texan perspective shaped her decision to become a lawyer as she felt she had a responsibility to ensure poor people had exceptional representation even if they couldn't afford a lawyer. Brandi highlighted one staggering statistic: Harris County, in Texas, has more death sentences than anywhere else in the country, and this resonated with Callie, who practiced in Harris County. Callie pointed out the lack of resources provided to attorneys involved with death penalty cases. She helps connect pro bono counsel, who are crucial in filling those gaps, with where the need is greatest. Callie also alluded to the interplay of racial injustice in the work she does through a policy example in North Carolina, where the Racial Justice Act allowed death row inmates to see a commutation of their sentence to life in prison if race was a factor in imposing the death penalty. However, the Act was later repealed, which caused contention over what happens to the six inmates that had applied for or were granted relief while the law was in effect. In June, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that applying the repeal retroactively violated the constitutional prohibition on ex post facto laws. This is a prime example of the importance that policy work plays alongside individual representation in addressing systemic racism in the criminal justice system. In continuing this discussion of racial injustice, the panelists addressed alternative methods to prosecution and the role the Black Lives Matter movement plays in each of their respective organizations. Liz elaborated on the D.C. Office of the Attorney General's restorative justice program, which addresses accountability for some crimes by focusing on the harm done to victims. This approach aims to empower victims while still holding offenders accountable. Bridgette echoed the impact of such a program by noting that when asked, many victims did not want to necessarily engage in a punitive process, but rather wanted to have a conversation that allowed them to elucidate the harm that was done to them. Brandi expressed her hope that the Black Lives Matter movement is exposing the need to redirect resources to better serve and protect the community. From his own experience in working on cases that address gang violence, Daniel described how the people involved in gang violence often had long criminal histories that started with minor crimes committed when they were juveniles. Without another alternative, they were "thrown into the criminal justice system, and it was a spiral that led to more and more criminal behavior." He stressed that as a society we have not done enough to find alternatives to help individuals and give them opportunities to get out of that spiral, but it can be beneficial to everyone to shift resources to these areas. He ended with encouraging the audience to "have discussions, invite people in, and listen to them." Catch up on the conversation and discover pro bono opportunities on social media using #SumFo2020. Nefertari Elshiekh is the 2020 Washington Council of Lawyers Summer Intern.