(Washington, D.C.) —The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law will host its private Virtual 2021 Annual Awards Celebration on Thursday, Dec. 9th. This special event will feature tributes to board members, clients, and partners for their commitment to racial justice and their invaluable role in advancing our mission to secure equal justice under law.
“Without courageous clients, exceptional lawyers, and extraordinary law firms contributing their time and talent to serving the greater good, our fight to advance racial justice would have been lost long ago,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “This year’s honorees are the best example of what is possible when lawyers work in active and authentic partnership, using all of the tools they have to strengthen communities. We are immeasurably thankful for the contributions that the honorees have made in the ongoing fight for racial justice and equality for all.”
The Lawyers’ Committee will honor four individuals and one law firm whose actions have helped make our country a fairer place over the past year.
Honorees include: Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church; Thomas Sager, partner, Ballard Spahr LLP; Dean Danielle Holley-Walker, dean and professor of Law at Howard University School of Law; Roscoe Jones, Jr., counsel, with the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; and the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
Rev. William H. Lamar, IV will receive the Frank R. Parker Client Award on behalf of his congregation at the Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, DC. As the pastor, Rev. Lamar exhibited bold leadership when members of the far-right Proud Boys hate group vandalized a Black Lives Matter banner on church property a month after the 2020 elections. Undeterred, he authored a poignant commentary addressing the need for the nation to abandon racist violence and signed the church on as a plaintiff in the Lawyers’ Committee lawsuit Metropolitan A.M.E. v. Proud Boys, to hold the hate group accountable.
The Frank R. Parker Client Award is named in memory of the former chief counsel of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Jackson, Mississippi Office and longtime director of the Lawyers’ Committee Voting Rights Project, Frank R. Parker. This award recognizes the courage and perseverance of a client of the Lawyers’ Committee.
Thomas Sager, a partner at Ballard Spahr LLP, will receive the Whitney North Seymour Award. Sager was a strong and early advocate of diversity in the legal profession and helped pioneer the DuPont Company Legal Model—an industry benchmark that has received national acclaim for its innovative approach to the business of practicing law. Sager is an immediate past co-chair of the board and executive committee member at the Lawyers’ Committee.
The Whitney North Seymour Award recognizes a board member whose body of work exemplifies the legacy of service and integrity which characterized the life of Whitney North Seymour. He was a prominent New York trial lawyer, 84th president of the American Bar Association, long-serving managing partner of the law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and assistant solicitor general in the Justice Department from 1931 to 1933.
Dean Danielle Holley-Walker, the dean and professor of Law at Howard University School of Law, and Lawyers’ Committee board executive committee member, will receive the Segal-Tweed Founders Award. In response to George Floyd’s murder, Dean Holley-Walker joined other Black women law school deans to co-found the Law Deans Antiracist Clearinghouse Project . The project offers resources and guidance for leaders of law schools to leverage the power of curriculum and their collective leadership voices to engage their institutions in the fight for justice and equality and eradicating racism.
The Segal-Tweed Founders Award is named in honor of Lawyers’ Committee founding co-chairs Bernard G. Segal and Harrison Tweed, two of the nation’s most esteemed jurists, this award is presented to a Lawyers’ Committee board member who has displayed outstanding leadership and service in the cause of equal justice under the law.
Roscoe Jones, Jr., a counsel with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and a Lawyers’ Committee board member, will receive the Brooks Burdette “Rising Impact” New Board Member Award. Jones has distinguished himself through pro bono efforts on critical policy matters in 2021 – first, leveraging his deep expertise and unique understanding of the norms, process, and relationships on the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of Kristen Clarke’s nomination to serve as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, and later in the challenging effort to negotiate a bipartisan compromise version of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
The Brooks Burdette “Rising Impact” New Board Member Award is named in honor of Brooks Burdette, a beloved member of the Lawyers’ Committee’s board who upon joining our board declared “I am going to be your best Board member ever.” With this award, the Lawyers’ Committee recognizes a new Board member who has demonstrated innovative and dynamic leadership in advancing the Lawyers’ Committee’s mission.
Kirkland & Ellis LLP, will receive the Robert F. Mullen Pro Bono Award in recognition of the firm’s contributions to pro-bono services. For 12 years, Kirkland was pro-bono co-counsel alongside the Lawyers’ Committee in the landmark Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education Inc., et al. vs. Maryland Higher Education Commission. Under the leadership of Kirkland partner and Lawyers’ Committee board executive committee member Michael D. Jones, the legal team recently secured a settlement that will provide over $500 million in relief to the state’s four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The historic settlement ending this fifteen-year litigation will help level the playing field for the HBCUs competing with the state’s other schools. Kirkland is also donating $12.5 million in attorneys’ fees to seven HBCUs nationwide and nonprofit and community organizations that advance racial justice, equity and civil rights. Some of the funds will be used to create a Kirkland Fellows program at the Lawyers’ Committee to build a pipeline of HBCU law students, undergraduates, and alumni to lead the next wave of civil rights work.
The Robert F. Mullen Pro Bono Award, the Lawyers’ Committee’s pro bono award is named in memory of Robert F. Mullen, a former Lawyers’ Committee co-chair, who was a staunch advocate for pro bono legal services and partner at the Cravath, Swaine & Moore law firm in New York. The award honors a law firm that has provided extraordinary pro bono legal services on behalf of a Lawyers’ Committee client or matter.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law— The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.