Last Thursday, more than 600 lawyers, judges, government officials, and friends and supporters of Legal Aid came together to honor Servant of Justice Awardees – Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund and Thomas S. Williamson, Jr. of Covington & Burling – as well as Klepper Award Honoree Brendan Carroll of Alston & Bird. We are proud to announce that our 27th Annual Servant of Justice Awards Dinner raised almost $1.2 million (a record for the event!) for Legal Aid’s work on behalf of persons living in poverty in the District. This represents more than 20% of the budget of Legal Aid, the oldest and largest general civil legal services program in D.C.
Mike Nannes of Blank Rome LLP and Jonice Gray Tucker of BuckleySandler LLP served as the evening’s co-chairs. Board President Dan Jarcho of Alston & Bird LLP kicked off the evening with a warm welcome, offering thanks to everyone for their support of Legal Aid.
Arlene Klepper presented the Klepper Award for Volunteer Excellence to Brendan Carroll. In his acceptance speech, Brendan talked about the pro bono housing conditions case in which he represented a Legal Aid client, where the inspector found over 20 violations. Brendan thanked Alston & Bird for instilling the values of pro bono representation, and even more importantly for "providing the resources to see it through.”
"The pro bono hour is priceless."
- Brendan Carroll
Dan Jarcho announced that the Honorary Chair for this year’s Generous Associates Campaign, which kicks off June 1st, will be Hogan Lovell’s Neal Katyal. He noted that even though the Campaign is run by associates, much of its success is also owed to the participation and support of partners, counsel, paralegals, and administrative assistants who get involved in the campaign every year to support Legal Aid. Dan recognized the many Generous Associates Campaign Co-Chairs and Coordinators that were in attendance that night and thanked them for their leadership.
Executive Director Eric Angel spoke about income inequality in the District and the ways in which providing high quality legal services for our client community is one of the best ways of combatting the pernicious effects of income inequality. Eric closed his remarks by recognizing one of Legal Aid’s client who was in attendance that night: Ms. Sharice Coleman, and recounted her touching and courageous story of how she fought, with Legal Aid at her side, to escape from a domestic violence situation and win custody of her child.
The Honorable Patricia M. Wald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (retired) presented the Servant of Justice Award to Marian Wright Edelman, describing her dedication to advocacy for children as a campaign waged on multiple fronts, but with a single strategy--improving the lives of children. She noted that Ms. Edelman’s special talents are working intimately with the people she serves and then mobilizing them for action. Judge Wald also noted that this award is special because Legal Aid ensures that children have access to the rights that Marian has spent her life fighting for: protection from physical and emotional abuse, and ensuring access to food stamps, healthcare, and subsidized housing.
Accepting her award, Ms. Edelman thanked Legal Aid and told the audience that she loves the "Servant of Justice" title for this award because “it's what lawyers should be." She talked about the importance of investing in our children because, even today, children continue to be the poorest Americans. In her inspiring speech, Ms. Edelman also reminded us that "what matters most is what we do for each other" and that "if you follow need, you will never lack a purpose in life."
"Service is the rent we pay for being, it is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time."
- Marian Wright Edelman
Eric H. Holder, Jr., former U.S. Attorney General and current Partner of Covington & Burling (and a past Servant of Justice Honoree himself) presented the Servant of Justice Award to Thomas S. Williamson, Jr. Speaking about Mr. Williamson, Mr. Holder described him as a "quiet warrior for justice" who only focused on the outcome for his clients, not the recognition. Mr. Holder also said that Mr. Williamson has shaped the life of this community for decades and that his is truly a life worth emulating. He also said that because Mr. Williamson has always been a quiet warrior, this award is our chance to make sure he knows how much we appreciate what he has done.
Mr. Williamson accepted the award and told the audience that being selected for the award is "deeply gratifying and deeply humbling.” He described his co-honoree, Ms. Edelman, as a “hero” who inspired him as an “indomitable warrior for justice.” He thanked and commended Legal Aid for its work, stating that: "this organization is without peer as the most venerable and accomplished champion at making justice real for the most vulnerable members of our community." Finally, Mr. Williamson challenged the audience to “dream of the world as we wish it to be, and deal with the world as it is.”
Dan Jarcho ended this special evening, thanking all those who were able to attend, or who sponsored the evening. He issued an invitation to those in attendance: we hope to see you next year on April 25, 2017 for the 28th Annual Servant of Justice Awards Dinner!