Legal Aid Honors John Payton and Paul Smith at Servant of Justice Awards Dinner
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Last Thursday, over 550 lawyers, judges, government officials, and friends of Legal Aid attended our annual Servant of Justice Awards Dinner. We are delighted to announce that the event was a resounding success, raising over $880,000 – more, even, than what our 80th Anniversary dinner raised last year.

Philip W. Horton of Arnold & Porter LLP and Tangela S. Richter of Capital One served as the evening’s co-chairs. Board President Deanne Ottaviano of Arent Fox LLP kicked off the evening with a warm welcome, offering thanks to everyone who has ever contributed to Legal Aid for their generous support. In his remarks, Executive Director Eric Angel noted that as a result of this support, today, Legal Aid is larger than it has ever been, is helping more clients than ever, and – as the large swaths of the District struggle to emerge from the financial crisis – continues to provide critical civil legal services that are perhaps more relevant than ever.

The first half of the evening closed with Arlene Fine Klepper presenting Legal Aid’s Klepper Prize for Volunteer Excellence to Warren T. Allen, II, Nicole L. Grimm, and Luke A. Meisner, of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Warren, Nicole, and Luke were honored for their leadership in implementing the firm’s domestic violence “Impact Project” in conjunction with Legal Aid.

In the second half of the evening, Legal Aid presented its Servant of Justice Awards to two giants of the legal profession. At last year’s dinner, we observed a moment of silence in honor of John Payton, a hero of the civil rights movement who cared so deeply about access to justice in the District.  This year, we had moments of celebration of John’s extraordinary life.  Gay McDougall, his wife, who was in South Africa doing human rights work, videotaped a thank you on his behalf, noting how honored John would have been to have been recognized as a Servant of Justice.  The inimitable Elaine R. Jones, Director Counsel Emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, accepted the award in person, regaling the audience with stories of John’s passion for justice.

The Honorable Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. presented the second award to Jenner & Block partner, Paul M. Smith. In his moving and heart-felt remarks, Don spoke not only about Paul’s significant role in shaping poverty law, voting rights and election law, and constitutional LGBT rights and privacy law, but also about the incredible courage Paul demonstrated in his personal and professional life over the years. Paul accepted the award, sharing gracious and humble reflections on how he has witnessed such significant changes in the legal profession, and encouraging everyone in the room to continue making justice real for the most vulnerable among us.

Thank you to all those who were able to attend, or who made a contribution to Legal Aid.  Your support helps us to continue this critical work of ensuring access to justice for thousands of D.C. residents.  We hope to see you next year on April 29, 2014!


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