Next Tuesday, April 29, Legal Aid will be celebrating our 25th Anniversary Servant of Justice Awards Dinner. That evening, we will bestow Legal Aid’s highest honor – the Servant of Justice Award – on Barbara McDowell (posthumously) and Don Salzman. Today’s post will focus on Barbara. Her award will be presented by Barbara’s law school roommate, Professor Sarah Barringer Gordon of the University of Pennsylvania.
Barbara McDowell was one of the leading appellate advocates of her generation when she came to Legal Aid to serve as the Founding Director of Legal Aid’s Appellate Advocacy Project. The Project, which is now named in Barbara’s honor, was established in 2004 to pursue an affirmative poverty law agenda before the D.C. Court of Appeals. Barbara was an advocate of extraordinary talent. She combined her powerful intellect and unique skill with a commitment to justice for everyone. She believed deeply that she could make a difference in ending poverty and inequality and used every case as an opportunity to do just that.
As Project Director, Barbara guided the Project from its initial stages to where it is today: Legal Aid is now known as a leading institutional litigant at the Court representing people in poverty in the District and is frequently appointed as amicus in cases of importance to low-income litigants at both the trial and appellate levels. During her five years at Legal Aid, Barbara worked on establishing critical precedent benefiting persons living in poverty in D.C. and awarded the Rex Lee Advocacy and Public Service Award, which is presented annually to a distinguished lawyer who exemplifies the highest accomplishments and excellence in the profession.
Prior to joining Legal Aid in 2004, Barbara spent nearly seven years as an Assistant to the Solicitor General of the United States, in which role she argued eighteen cases before the Supreme Court of the United States and wrote briefs in numerous other cases. Before joining the Solicitor General’s Office, Barbara was a partner at Jones Day in the Issues and Appeals Section.
A graduate of George Washington University and Yale Law School, Barbara served as a law clerk to Justice Byron R. White on the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Ralph K. Winter on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and Judge José A. Cabranes on the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.
Barbara died in January 2009 at the age of 56. Barbara’s husband, Jerry Hartman, has been devoted to continuing Barbara’s good works. He was instrumental in creating the Drinker Biddle Barbara McDowell High Impact Project and is the Founder of the Barbara McDowell and Gerald S. Hartman Foundation. In addition, he also established funds in Barbara’s memory at Westmoreland Congregational United Church of Christ and Shaw Community Ministry Scholarships. He is a Member of the Board of Trustees of Legal Aid and is the Founding Donor for The Barbara McDowell Endowment for Appellate Litigation at Legal Aid. Jerry will be accepting the award on Barbara’s behalf next Tuesday.
We could think of no better way to commemorate our 25th Servant of Justice Awards Dinner (and the 10th anniversary of our Barbara McDowell Appellate Advocacy Project) than to honor Barbara McDowell this year. She is sorely missed by her friends and colleagues at Legal Aid.