WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) honored the outstanding pro bono service and stellar commitment to equality and justice of lawyers, law firms and clients during its 2016 Annual Awards Reception, hosted by hosted by Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP in New York on December 8. “Pro bono support remains a critical tool in advancing civil rights across our nation,” said Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke. “The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law was built upon the principle that the private bar stands to play a central role in efforts to combat discrimination across our country. That principle remains equally relevant today. We are grateful for the outstanding contributions that these honorees have made in advancing equality justice under law for all.”
Honorees included: Michael D. Jones, partner, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and Lawyers’ Committee board member and former co-chair; Jane C. Sherburne, principal, Sherburne PLLC, and Lawyers’ Committee board member and former co-chair; Thomas S. Williamson Jr., senior counsel, Covington & Burling, and Lawyers’ Committee board member; Bryan Cave LLP law firm; Garfield B. Simms, Ph.D., partner, Jones Day, and Lawyers’ Committee board member and Helen Butler, executive director, Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda.
WHITNEY NORTH SEYMOUR AWARD
This 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 and assistant solicitor general in the Justice Department from 1931 to 1933.
Michael D. Jones
Michael Jones has a national trial practice that has ranged from New York to Hawaii. He is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, and an adjunct faculty member of trial advocacy at Georgetown University Law Center. In 2007, Jones was selected by the Legal Times as one of the top 10 business litigation attorneys in Washington, D.C. He has also been selected as one of the top 10 trial attorneys in the nation by The National Law Journal in its feature, “Winning: Successful Strategies From 10 of the Nation’s Leading Litigators.” He was also chosen as one of the 75 Best Lawyers in Washington by Washingtonian magazine. He was featured in the American Lawyer’s “Top Guns” article, naming Kirkland the “Litigation Department of the Year” in 2008.
Jones joined the Lawyers’ Committee’s board in 2003 and immediately distinguished himself – ascending in leadership to the Board of Directors, Executive Committee and co-chair of the board in 2012.
His brilliant work on the Lawyers’ Committee Criminal Justice sub-committee was the catalyst for establishing our Criminal Justice Project.
Since 2009, Jones has spearheaded Kirkland’s team in The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, Inc., et al v. Maryland Higher Education Commission et al, where the Lawyers’ Committee and Kirkland represent a coalition of students, alums, and faculty of Maryland’s four public Historically Black Institutions.
His contributions have included delivering the opening and closing statements at trial and examining several witnesses. In October 2013, Judge Blake of the United States District Court of Maryland held that the State of Maryland had violated the United States Constitution by failing to dismantle its de jure era policy of unnecessarily duplicating of programs at Historically Black Institutions and traditionally white institutions and this policy has a segregative effect at the Historically Black Institutions. The parties are scheduled to go to a trial on remedies in January 2017.
Jones and his incredible colleagues at Kirkland & Ellis have also been longstanding Election Protection partners of the Lawyers’ Committee hosting national call centers for several election cycles providing critical assistance to voters encountering problems when seeking to exercise their right to vote.
Jane C. Sherburne
Jane Sherburne is principal of Sherburne PLLC, a legal consulting firm providing strategic advice in crisis environments and in connection with regulatory policy developments. Over the past 14 years, Sherburne has served as general counsel to BNY Mellon, Wachovia and Citi Global Consumer Group. Prior to that, she practiced law as a litigation partner at the Washington D.C. law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, interrupting her private practice from 1994 to 1997 to serve as special counsel to the president in the Clinton White House, managing ethics investigations.
Sherburne has been a member of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Board since 2000. In addition to serving as co-chair of the Board from 2012 to 2014, she has served on the Lawyers’ Committee’s Executive Committee, Corporate Counsel Committee and Development Committee. Last year, she was recognized for her outstanding leadership as a member of the Board’s Transition Team, which provided oversight of the management of the Lawyers’ Committee’s operations during a critical period of transition in executive leadership.
Sherburne’s pro bono and public service contributions are many and varied. She was co-lead counsel for the University of Michigan in the Gratz v. Bollinger affirmative action case from its inception in 1997 through 2000. While serving as general counsel at the Bank of New York Mellon she helped to establish the company’s hugely successful pro bono program.
Members of the company’s pro bono program participated in the Lawyers’ Committee’s Election Protection Program, worked with the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund and provided microfinance assistance to women in Haiti. The bank’s tremendous pro bono efforts were recognized by the Pro Bono Institute, the Legal Aid Society and the New York City Bar’s Justice Center.
SEGAL-TWEED FOUNDERS AWARD
Named in honor of Lawyers’ Committee founding co-chairs Bernard G. Segal and Harrison Tweed, two of this century’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.
Thomas S. Williamson Jr.
Tom Williamson Jr. is a senior counsel at Covington & Burling. He was the solicitor of Labor at the U.S. Department of Labor from 1993 to 1996. He served as deputy inspector general for the U.S. Department of Energy from 1978 to 1981. In 2003 at Covington Mr. Williamson played a key role in developing the National Football League’s “Rooney Rule,” designed to promote increased opportunities for minorities to become head coaches in the NFL.
From his early years, Williamson has been a pro bono activist. In 1976 he served as a staff attorney for the Neighborhood Legal Services Program. In 1997 and 1998 Williamson led a team of Covington litigators before the District Court of Hawaii and the Ninth Circuit defending a constitutional challenge to various restrictive regulations that had been adopted by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The leadership of LSC credited Covington’s defense of the regulations with sparing LSC from a total cutoff of Congressional funding. More recently, Williamson co-led a team that assisted in the defense of the District’s same sex marriage law. He has also worked on race and disability discrimination class actions, the most significant being a nationwide class action to obtain dramatic improvements in American Sign Language interpreter services for thousands of deaf employees of the U.S. Postal Service and $3.5 million in compensatory damages.
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, staunch advocate for pro bono legal services and partner at the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York. The award honors a law firm that has provided extraordinary pro bono legal services on behalf of Lawyers’ Committee clients or matters.
Bryan Cave LLP
In NAACP v. Board of Elections of Hancock County, Bryan Cave teamed with the Lawyers’ Committee to reverse steps taken by a Georgia board of elections to purge African-American voters from the voter rolls. Early in the case, the court ordered that unlawfully purged voters be restored to the rolls and the team worked diligently to locate purged voters so that their voting rights could be restored. Thereafter the team aggressively pursued an injunction to ensure that additional voter purges would not take place in the future. The team is currently conducting negotiations over a consent order to accomplish that goal.
In NAACP v. Governor Deal, Bryan Cave again teamed with the Lawyers Committee to extend the time period for voters in Chatham County, Georgia to register to vote in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. The governor and secretary of state refused to extend the time period for registration in this county with a large minority population. Suit was brought alleging claims under the U.S. Constitution and the National Voter Registration Act. The federal court granted the motion for preliminary injunction and required that registration to be extended. Approximately 1,400 individuals were thereafter permitted to register and vote in the November 8 general election.
SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD
To honor the exceptional contributions of an individual or law firm to the advancement of our mission, the Lawyers’ Committee periodically presents a Special Recognition Award.
Garfield B. Simms, Ph.D.
Garfield Simms, Ph.D., is a patent litigation partner at Jones Day. His litigation practice focuses on complex technologies involving digital imaging, digital cameras, electronic sensors, electronic commerce, data caching, bar codereaders, and power management systems in electronic devices. In addition, Mr. Simms has prosecuted trademark and patent applications and counseled clients regarding intellectual property rights for semiconductor devices and processes, internet security systems, medical diagnostic equipment, electromechanical and mechanical devices, biometric identification systems, and electronic circuits.
Earlier this year the Lawyers’ Committee launched a “Know Your Rights” Initiative as part of a formalized partnership with the National Bar Association. The campaign seeks to mobilize members of the private bar to serve as legal observers and provide individual-level representation for protesters who are detained or arrested during mass demonstrations against police misconduct. We believe that citizens should be free to exercise their first amendment rights and provided with the support needed to engage in protests and demonstrations.
Simms led his colleagues in researching and producing information for “Know Your Rights” brochures for over 10 states for citizens who desired to participate in protests, including Atlanta, Baton Rouge, and Washington, D.C. Simms was also on the ground with us at the height protests in Charlotte, North Carolina following the controversial police-involved shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.
FRANK R. PARKER CLIENT AWARD
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 Voting Rights Project, Frank R. Parker. This award recognizes the courage and perseverance of a client of the Lawyers’ Committee.
The Lawyers’ Committee is grateful for our clients’ courage and commitment to equal justice.
Helen Butler serves as executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda comprised of over 40 diverse organizations committed to social justice convened by Dr. Joseph E. Lowery. In keeping with the People’s Agenda’s commitment to protect the right to vote, she is active in leading voter registration drives, voter education and mobilization efforts and other initiatives around education, economic and environmental justice, and criminal justice.
Butler has served as a member of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Georgia Election Protection team since 2000 and strives to fight barriers to participation such as the Macon-Bibb precinct consolidations/closures, Hancock County voter challenges/purges and other prohibitive policies and procedures. She coordinated and recruited a grassroots Election Protection team to monitor monthly election board meetings and to augment Election Day field operations in Georgia after the Shelby decision.
Photos are available here: https://www.facebook.com/lawyerscommittee/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10154870026575712
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. Formed over 50 years ago, we continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and community development; employment; voting; education; and criminal justice. For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.