Thursday evening, Legal Aid celebrated its 80th Anniversary with over 500 supporters, special guests, and dignitaries in attendance – its largest Servant of Justice Awards dinner ever. The event was an enormous success, raising over $850,000 for Legal Aid – funds that will go a long, long way in assisting survivors of domestic violence, veterans seeking life-changing public benefits, families facing eviction, and so many others.
In his remarks, Legal Aid Executive Director Eric Angel reflected on the similarities between the circumstances that led to Legal Aid’s founding 80 years ago – crushing poverty, staggering unemployment, and significant disparities between rich and poor – and the crises that our client community continue to confront today, observing that the organization’s mission is as important as ever.
The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General of the United States, presented the keynote address. The Attorney General described the fight “not only to restore the essential rights of those who cannot afford representation on their own, but also to ensure the strength and integrity of our nation’s justice system” as “nothing less than a moral imperative.” Citing statistics on the need for civil legal services that he described as “not only shocking” but “unacceptable,” the Attorney General praised Legal Aid for having responded to this challenge “not with despair, but with resolve.” He encouraged those gathered that evening to join Legal Aid and reaffirm their commitment to closing the “justice gap.”
Following the Attorney General’s address, Legal Aid honored three individuals. Two giants of the legal profession were recognized with the Servant of Justice Award, Legal Aid’s highest honor. Peter Edelman, Georgetown law professor and Chair of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, presented the Award to James vanR. Springer, of Legal Aid, and David Stern, Executive Director of Equal Justice Works, presented the Award to Susan M. Hoffman of Crowell & Moring LLP. Arlene Klepper – who, together with her husband, Skadden partner Marty Klepper, has been a long-time supporter of Legal Aid – presented the Klepper Prize for Volunteer Excellence to Jonathan G. Lin of Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett LLP. All three award recipients inspired the audience with their remarks.
Debby Baum, Legal Aid’s Board President and a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, ended the evening on a light note, pointing out that 81st anniversaries are very important as well. She invited everyone to return to Legal Aid’s Servant of Justice Dinner next year, already scheduled for April 18, 2013 at the JW Marriott Hotel.