Legal Aid DC to Honor Civil Rights Leaders Debo P. Adegbile & Judge David S. Tatel with 2024 Servant of Justice Awards
34th Annual Dinner on April 9 Aims to Bring DC’s Legal Community Together to Raise Nearly $2 Million for Free Legal Services


Legal Aid DC today announced that the organization will honor legal civil rights leaders in DC, Judge David S. Tatel and Debo P. Adegbile, with the Servant of Justice Award at the 34th Annual Servant of Justice Awards Dinner, to be held in Washington on April 9, 2024.

Judge Tatel and Mr. Adegbile will receive their awards and provide remarks at the Dinner, which brings together leading public servants and attorneys from across the District to recognize the awardees for their service. The Servant of Justice Awards recognize exemplary commitment to the pursuit of justice from legal luminaries who have dedicated their careers to the protection of underserved communities and the defense of moral and ethical standards under the law.

“My colleagues and I at Legal Aid are inspired by the work that Mr. Adegbile and Judge Tatel have done on behalf of the communities we serve. We are proud to honor these two civil rights leaders for their unwavering commitment to justice and fierce advocacy to end racism and poverty,” said Vikram Swaruup, Executive Director of Legal Aid DC. “Their dedication to justice mirrors the spirit of Legal Aid DC, and we look forward to bringing together public servants and attorneys across the District to recognize their exceptional service. Mr. Adegbile’s and Judge Tatel’s work reinforces the impact that lawyers can have in making our country – and city – a better and fairer place.”

Judge Tatel, who rejoined Hogan Lovells as Senior Counsel this year, is a living legend of the law. His career spans nearly six decades in public interest law, government service, private practice, and almost 30 years on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, nearly all in staunch defense of civil liberties. He served as first Executive Director of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which went on to recently celebrate a landmark 50 years of providing pro bono civil legal counsel, after which he became Director of the national Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. In the early 1970s, he helped found the Legal Services Corporation, which promotes equal access to justice by providing grants for civil legal defense for low-income Americans. Judge Tatel also led the Office for Civil Rights under President Jimmy Carter, revitalizing that office at a critical time in American civil rights history. He later founded the Education practice at then-Hogan & Hartson, advancing desegregation in school districts in suburban St. Louis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, and other cities throughout the country. In 1994, he was nominated by President Bill Clinton to the DC Circuit to succeed former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. As a DC Circuit judge, he decided dozens of landmark cases, earning a reputation as one of the most brilliant and fair legal minds in the judiciary. He accomplished most of this after losing his eyesight at age 30. His memoir, “Vision: A Memoir of Blindness and Justice,” will be published by Little, Brown on June 11, 2024.

Mr. Adegbile is a Partner at WilmerHale and Chair of the Anti-Discrimination practice. He previously worked at the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund from 2001 to 2014, including as Director of Litigation from 2007 to 2014 and Acting President & Director-Counsel from 2012 to 2013. He has argued several important civil rights cases at the Supreme Court and beyond – including successfully defending the Voting Rights Act before Judge Tatel on the DC Circuit, in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder. Mr. Adegbile also served as senior counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary from 2013-2014, advising on Supreme Court jurisprudence and the defense of civil rights, especially voting rights. In 2016, he was appointed by President Barack Obama to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, on which he served for six years. More recently, he led a WilmerHale team in a successful challenge to Georgia’s congressional and legislative maps. Among his many roles at WilmerHale, Mr. Adegbile conducts civil rights and equity audits for clients, imparting the wisdom and practice from his many years of upholding American civil liberties.

Chioma Achebe of The Carlyle Group, Josh Hsu of Jenner & Block, Lauren Moore and David Ogden of WilmerHale, Micah Myers of Cozen O'Connor, Beth Neitzel of Foley Hoag, and Cate Stetson of Hogan Lovells will serve as co-chairs of this year’s dinner. With the Dinner, Legal Aid DC aims to surpass the fundraising record of $1.79 million set in 2023.

“The Servant of Justice Awards is one of the finest examples of the DC legal community coming together to both support Legal Aid's vital mission, and celebrate the contributions of some outstanding attorneys,” said Ms. Achebe. “I am confident that this will be the most successful event yet.”

In addition to the Servant of Justice Awards, Legal Aid will present the Klepper Prize for Volunteer Excellence to a pro bono attorney and the Partnership Award to a client at the Dinner. The Dinner will also feature remarks about Legal Aid’s work and successes over the last year.

Tickets are available online and sponsorships for the Dinner start at $10,000 for a table of ten. Please contact Rob Pergament, Director of Development, at or (202) 661-5964 for more information about supporting the Dinner. 

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