NLADA Awards

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NLADA sponsors 13 awards honoring the distinguished men and women whose outstanding service and achievements advance the cause of equal access to justice in the realm of Corporate, Law Firms/Judicial/Govt/Private Arena, and Community.

Annually, NLADA presents these awards during the NLADA Exemplar Award Dinner, the Equal Justice Conference; and the NLADA Annual Conference.

NLADA Awards



National Exemplar Awards (annual)

Each year at its annual dinner, NLADA honors one or more members of the private bar or corporate community who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in promoting and supporting equal justice.

Past recipients include:

  • 2023 - Margaret Egan, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary with Hyatt Hotels & Resorts and Nadine Jones, Senior Vice President and General Counsel with Kuehne + Nagel, Inc
  • 2022 - Deborah Goldstock Ringel, Accenture Federal Services and Tony West, Uber
  • 2021- Jim Chosy, U.S. Bancorp and Jack Salzwedel, American Family Insurance
  • 2020 - Marcus V. Brown, Entergy Corporation
  • 2019 - Monica Howard Douglas, The Coca-Cola Company; Frank R. Jimenez, Raytheon Company
  • 2018 - Bradley Gayton, Ford Motor Company; John Gleeson, Debevoise & Plimpton; Deborah Majoras, Procter & Gamble
  • 2017 - Max Laun, Arconic
  • 2016 - Louise Pentland, PayPal Holdings, Inc.
  • 2015 - John Schultz, Hewlett-Packard Company
  • 2014 - Bruce Kulick, Merck & Co., Inc.
  • 2013 - Teri Plummer McClure, UPS
  • 2012 - Laura Stein, Clorox
  • 2011 - Brad Smith, Microsoft
  • 2010 - Rick Cotton, NBC Universal
  • 2009 - Michael Holston, Hewlett-Packard Company
  • 2008 - Kenneth C. Frazier, Merck & Co., Inc.
  • 2007 - Roderick A. Palmore, Sara Lee Corporation
  • 2006 - William B. Lytton, Tyco International; Mark J. MacDougall, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLC
  • 2005 - Jeffrey B. Kindler, Pfizer Inc
  • 2004 - Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr., General Electric
  • 2003 - José de Lasa, Abbott Laboratories; Frank S. Moseley, Davis Polk & Wardwell
  • 2002 - Thomas A. Gottschalk, General Motors Corporation; Esther F. Lardent, The Pro Bono Institute
  • 2001 - John H. Pickering, Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering; James J. Johnson, The Procter & Gamble Company
  • 2000 - Mary M. McDonald, Merck & Co., Inc.; Martha W. Barnett, Holland & Knight LLP
  • 1999 - Andrew D. Hendry, Colgate-Palmolive Company; Robert N. Weiner, Arnold & Porter
  • 1998 - Joseph E. Mullaney, The Gillette Company; John Payton, Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering
  • 1997 - John Martin, Jr., Ford Motor Company
  • 1996 - Benjamin Civiletti, Venable, Baetjet, Howard and Civiletti LLP
  • 1995 - Sara-Ann Determan, Hogan & Hartson; Jack W. Londen, Morrison & Foerster; William O. Whitehurst, Whitehurst, Harkness, Watson, Loudon, Ozmun & Galow
  • 1994 - Hon. Dennis Archer, Mayor, Detroit, MI; David S. Tatel, Hogan & Hartsen Alfred; Charles Kammer, S.J., Catholic Charities USA
  • 1993 - Hillary Rodham Clinton, Legal Services Advocate and First Lady; Marna Tucker, Feldesman, Tucker, Leifer, Fidell & Bank; F. Wm. McCalpin, former NLADA president, retired partner, Lewis, Rice & Fingersh, L.C.
  • 1992 - Hon. Elliot L. Richardson, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.; Brooksley Born, Arnold & Porter
  • 1991 - Congressman Robert W. Kasenmeier, Wisconsin; David B. Isbell, Civil Rights Advocate

Arthur von Briesen Award (biennial)

The Author von Briesen award honors an attorney not employed by a legal services or defender program, who has made substantial volunteer contributions in support of the delivery of legal services and/or indigent defense representation. The award celebrates the achievements of the first president of NLADA.

Past recipients include:

  • 2022 - Tim Moran, Member of the Seminole County Bar Association
  • 2018 - Allison Clayton, Law Office of Allison Clayton, Lubbock, TX
  • 2016 - Dan Westbrook, Partner, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, Columbia SC
  • 2014 - Maureen Alger, Partner, Cooley LLP, Palo Alto, CA
  • 2012 - Richard. L. Tate, Partner, Tate Moerer & King, LLP, Richmond, TX
  • 2010 - Chris Messerly and Philip Sieff, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Cerisi, L.L.P., Minneapolis, MN
  • 2008 - Andrew F. Susko, White and Williams, LLP of Philadelphia
  • 2006 - Phyllis Mann, Law Office of Phyllis E. Mann
  • 2004 - Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., partner, Jenner & Block
  • 2002 - Private Attorney Carl Quintal of Massachusetts
  • 2000 - Former Kentucky State Representative Michael D. Bowling
  • 1998 - Kentucky State Senator Gerald A. Neal
  • 1997 - Robert C. Ewald of Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, Louisville, KY
  • 1996 - Jeffrey D. Colman, Jenner & Block, Chicago, IL
  • 1995 - Barry McDonald Staples, founder and director of Community Outreach, Carrollton, GA
  • 1994 - George Wittgraf, Chair of the LSC Board from 1990-1994
  • 1993 - Howard Dana, LSC board member during the Reagan and Bush administrations
  • 1991 - A. James Elliott, Atlanta
  • 1990 - Edward J. Duggan, Gary M. Schweickart
  • 1989 - George Cauthan
  • 1988 - Richard Blumenthal, David Golub, Thomas Smegal
  • 1986 - L. Jonathan Ross
  • 1985 - Parker D. Thompson
  • 1984 - Richard Cotton
  • 1983 - Frank Eaman
  • 1982 - Shelvin Singer
  • 1981 - F. William McCalpin
  • 1980 - William Reece Smith
  • 1979 - John G. Brooks
  • 1978 - Justice Sam D. Johnston
  • 1977 - Jerome Shestack
  • 1976 - Anthony Amsterdam
  • 1975 - John F. Irving
  • 1974 - William Ide, III, Chesterfield Smith
  • 1973 - William Claus, Robert Meserve
  • 1972 - Anthony Amsterdam
  • 1971 - John Robb
  • 1970 - H. Sol Clark, Bernard Segal
  • 1969 - James W. Baker, Honorable Oscar Knuston
  • 1968 - Benjamin Boyer, Maynard Toll
  • 1967 - Murray Seasongood, Whitney North Seymour, Howard Westwood
  • 1966 - John Cummisky
  • 1965 - William Gossett
  • 1964 - William Avery, Wilas Swan
  • 1963 - Francis Allen, Cecil Burney, Eustice Seligman
  • 1962 - Herbert Clark, E. Smythe Gambrell, Honorable Raymond Wilkins
  • 1961 - Charles Evans Hughes, Orison Marden, William Howard Taft

Law Firms/Judicial/Govt/Private Arena

Justice John Paul Stevens Lifetime Achievement Award

The Justice John Paul Stevens Lifetime Achievement Award is given to an attorney from the judiciary, academy or private arena, who has committed his or her life to the fair administration of justice for all people regardless of race, color, creed or income, demonstrated an exemplary commitment to equal justice, and whose life and professional accomplishments serve as an inspiration to the entire legal profession.

Past recipients include:

  • 2016 - Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States - 2009-2015
  • 2014 - Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
  • 2011 - Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
  • 2010 - Justice John Paul Stevens, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

Kutak-Dodds Prize (annual)

Established in 1989 and presented each year at NLADA's Annual Dinner in Washington, DC, the Kutak-Dodds Prize honors an equal justice advocate "who, through the practice of law, has contributed in a significant way to the enhancement of the human dignity and quality of life of those persons unable to afford legal representation." The award is jointly sponsored by NLADA and the Robert J. Kutak Foundation and carries a cash prize of $10,000. Beginning in 2001, two prizes have been given each year, one for exceptional work in civil legal aid and the other for outstanding service in public defense. The Kutak-Dodds Prize is named for the late Robert J. Kutak, a member of the first Legal Services Corporation Board, and the late Kenneth R. Dodds, former partners in the Omaha office of Kutak Rock. Bob Kutak dedicated his career to public service and legal education, and Ken Dodds was well known for his life-long interest in providing legal services to the disadvantaged.

Past recipients include:

  • 2023 - Mary V Day Staff Attorney, Southern Arizona Legal Aid, Inc. and Amrutha N. Jindal, Chief Defender of the Operation Lone Star Defense Program, Lubbock Private Defenders Office
  • 2022- Aidin Castillo with Centro Legal de La Raza's Immigrants' Rights Practice and Fred Nakamura with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County
  • 2021- Teresa Enriquez, Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office; Ishmael Jaffree, Legal Services of Alabama
  • 2020 - Adeola Ogunkeyede, Travis County Public Defender's Office; Jennifer Bias, The Wisconsin State Public Defender's Office
  • 2019 - Frank P. Cervone, Support Center for Child Advocates; John Schoeffel, The Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Practice 
  • 2018 - G. Gordon Bonnyman,Tennessee Justice Center; Gary Horton, New York State Defenders Association’s Veterans Defense Program
  • 2017 - D. Michael Dale, Northwest Workers’ Justice Project; Lisa B. Freeland, Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Pennsylvania
  • 2016 - Lisa Greenman, Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project; Jane Perkins, National Health Law Program
  • 2015 - Richard Rothschild, Western Center on Law & Poverty; Kenneth Rose, The Center for Death Penalty Litigation
  • 2014 - Ellen Katz, William E. Morris Institute for Justice; Edward Ungvarsky, Office of the Capital Defender for Northern Virginia
  • 2013 - Lisa Krisher, Georgia Legal Services Program; Sandra Levick, Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia
  • 2012 - Abigail Turner, Legal Aid Justice Center, VA; Kim Dvorchak, Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition
  • 2011 - Wendy Pollack, The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law; Samuel S. Dalton, Solo Practitioner, Jefferson Parish, LA
  • 2010 - Alan Alop, Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago; J. McGregor Smyth, The Bronx Defenders
  • 2009 - Julie Levin, Central Office of Legal Aid of Western Missouri; Danalynn Recer, Harris County, Texas
  • 2008 - Charles F. Elsesser, Jr., Florida Legal Services, Inc.; Eileen Hirsch, State of Wisconsin Office of The State Public Defender
  • 2007 - William C. McNeill, Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center; Dennis R. Murphy, Legal Aid Society, New York, NY
  • 2006 - Sharon Dietrich, Managing Attorney for Public Benefits and Employment for Community Legal Services, Inc.; Melinda Pendergraph, Appellate Attorney, Missouri Public Defender System
  • 2005 - William Grimm, Senior Attorney, National Center for Youth Law; Brownlow Speer, Chief Appellate Attorney, Committee for Public Counsel Services, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • 2004 - William J. Brennan, Jr., Director of the Home Defense Project of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society; Roberto Nájera, Deputy Public Defender in the Alternate Defender Office of the Office of the Public Defender of Contra Costa County
  • 2003 - Lois Wood, managing attorney, of the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation; Stephen L. Richards, deputy defender of the Death Penalty Trial Assistance Division, of the Office of the Illinois State Appellate Defender
  • 2002 - Harry J. Fulton, Chief of the Mental Health Division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia; Fred Fuchs, Attorney with Legal Aid of Central Texas
  • 2001 - Christine B. Hastedt, Public Policy Specialist, Maine Equal Justice Partners, Inc.; Fred B. Last, Wayne E. Natale & P. Jeffrey Wintner, Gloucester County Regional Office, New Jersey Office of the Public Defender
  • 2000 - Robin Steinberg, Founder and Executive Director of Bronx Public Defenders
  • 1999 - Steve Fredrickson, Staff Attorney, Columbia Legal Services
  • 1998 - John M. Bouman, Co-Founder and Director of the Poverty Law Project, a public-interest law office of the National Clearinghouse for Legal Services in Chicago
  • 1997 - Cheryl Rafert, Attorney, Death Row Defender, St. Louis, MO
  • 1996 - Tanya Neiman, Executive Director, Volunteer Legal Services Program, San Francisco, CA
  • 1995 - Ellen Hines Smith, Executive Director, Piedmont Legal Services, Spartanburg, SC
  • 1994 - Elaine R. Jones, Director, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
  • 1993 - Ralph Santiago Abascal, General Counsel, California Rural Legal Assistance, San Francisco, CA
  • 1992 - Stephen Bright, Director, Southern Center for Human Rights
  • 1991 - John Rosenberg, Director, Appalachian Research and Defense Fund, Inc.
  • 1990 - Martha Bergmark, for her Civil Rights and Legal Services work in Mississippi
  • 1989 - Florence Roisman, for her pioneering work as a national housing advocate

Beacon of Justice Award

Acknowledges law firms that have provided an exemplary pro bono commitment to a designated area of representation.

The 2023 Beacon of Justice Awards will feature law firms who are addressing issues related to LGBTQ+ rights and/or gender-based equity issues that intersect with racial equity. View the 2023 digital book highlighting their work.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLPBaker Hostetler LLPBaker McKenzieCrowell & Moring LLPDechert LLPDLA Piper LLP (US), Fried Frank LLPHanson Bridgett LLPKing & Spalding LLPKirkland & Ellis LLPKramer LevinLatham & Watkins LLPMcCarter & English LLPMintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky, and Popeo P.C., Nixon Peabody LLPRope & Gray LLPSkadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLPSteptoe & Johnson LLPWilmerHale, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

The 2022 Beacon of Justice Awards honors law firms with pro bono programs whose work addressed racial inequities within their communities and/or on the national level in 2021. Check out the digital book highlighting their work. 

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Baker McKenzie, Crowell & Moring LLP, Dechert LLP, Dentons US LLP, DLA Piper LLP (US), Hanson Bridgett LLP, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins LLP, Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo P.C., Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Stinson LLP, WilmerHale, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Zuckerman Spaeder LLP. 

The 2021 Beacon of Justice Award honors law firms with pro bono programs whose work addressed systemic racial disparities in 2020. Check out the digital book highlighting their work. 

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP;  Arent Fox; Baker McKenzie; Crowell & Moring;  Debevoise & Plimpton; Dechert;  DLA Piper; Epstein Baker Green; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Goodwin Procter; Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Kramer Levin; Latham & Watkins; Lowenstein Sandler LLP; Mintz; Morrison & Foerster LLP; O'Melveny & Myers LLP; Sheppard Mullin; Steptoe & Johnson LLP;  Stinson LLP; WilmerHale;  Wilson Sonsini and Zuckerman Spaeder.

The 2020 Beacon of Justice Award honors law firms with pro bono programs serving vulnerable people fleeing to the U.S. border. Check out the digital book highlighting their work. 

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP; Arent Fox; Cravath, Swine & Moore LLP; DLA Piper; Dorsey; Epstein Becker Green; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP; Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Lowenstein Sandler LLP; Mintz; Morrison & Foerster LLP; O'Melvney & Myers LLP; Orrick; Ropes & Gray LLP; Steptoe & Johnson LLP; Stinson LLP

The 2015 Beacon of Justice Award honors law firms for exceptional pro bono leadership and have met the high expectations and criteria for selection by expanding opportunities for the underserved in areas such as education, health care, housing, and legal services.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP; Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC; Covington & Burling LLP; Dechert LLP; DLA Piper; Hunton & Williams; Jones Day; Lavelle Law, Ltd.; Morrison & Foerster; O'Melveny & Myers LLP; Perkins Coie LLP; Phillips Lytle LLP; Stinson Leonard Street LLP 

The 2011 Beacon of Justice Award proudly honors Law Firms that have Innovative Public-Private Partnerships that Protect Equal Justice for All through Appellate Litigation

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP; Covington & Burling; Dechert LLP; Jones Day; Kean Miller; Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP; Liskow & Lewis; Morrison & Foerster; O'Melveny & Myers; Paul Hastings; Perkins Coie; Reed Smith LLP; Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP; and WilmerHale

The 2010 Beacon of Justice Award proudly honors Law Firms That Have Made a Significant Impact in the Area of Immigration.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP; Arnold & Porter; Cozen O'Connor; Crowell & Moring LLP; Dickstein Shapiro; Dorsey & Whitney; Dykema Gossett, PLLC; Foster Quan, LLP; Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP; Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; Goldman & Goldman, P.C.; Goodwin Procter; Holland & Knight; Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP; Hunton & Williams; Jenner & Block; King & Spalding; Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP; Latham & Watkins; Law Office of Marisa DeFranco; Leonard, Street and Deinard; Morrison & Foerster LLP; Parker, Butte and Lane Law Firm; Parrilli Renison; Perkins Coie LLP; Quarles & Brady; Reed Smith; Richard Toscano; Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.; The Sparks Law Corporation; Steptoe & Johnson; Troutman Sanders; Williams, Kastner & Gibbs PLLC

2009 - Law Firms Providing Significant Pro Bono Representation Law Firms Who, In Partnership with a Legal Aid Program, Have Represented Disadvantaged Families in Foreclosure Proceedings

Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin; Joseph, Greenwald & Laake and Snell and Wilmer L.L.P.

2008 - Law Firms Providing Significant Pro Bono Representation to People on Death Row

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP; Allen & Overy LLP; Baker & McKenzie LLP; Bingham McCutchen LLP; Burke McPheeters Bordner & Estes; Burns & Levinson LLP; Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP; Clifford Chance LLP; Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, PLLC; Covington & Burling; Cowan Liebowitz & Latman PC; Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; Davis Wright Tremaine LLP; Debevoise & Plimpton LLP; Dechert LLP; Dickstein Shapiro LLP; Dorsey & Whitney LLP; Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC; Esdaile, Barrett & Esdaile; Foley Hoag LLP; Fredrikson & Byron PA; Fulbright & Jaworski; Hangley, Aronchick, Segal & Pudlin; Harris Wiltshire & Grannis; Heller Ehrman; Holland & Hart LLP; Hunton & Williams; Jenner & Block LLP; Jones Day; Keller & Heckman LLP; Kilpatrick Stockton LLP; Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP; Lesnevich and Marzano-Lesnevich; Lesser, Newman, Souweine & Nasser; Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP; McCarter & English, LLP; Morrison & Foerster LLP; Murphy & Shaffer;Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; Pepper Hamilton LLP; Perkins Coie LLP; Reed Smith LLP; Rodgers, Powers & Schwartz LLP; Schiff Hardin LLP; Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP; Shearman & Sterling LLP; Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP; Spriggs & Hollingworth; Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan LLP; Tennant Lubell LLC; Trainor, Billman, Bennett, Milko & McCabe LLP; Venable LLP; Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP; Weinberg & Garber, PC; WilmerHale

2007 - Law Firms Providing Significant Pro Bono Representation to Detainees at Guantanamo Bay

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP; Alston & Bird LLP; Arnold & Porter LLP; Covington & Burling LLP; Dechert LLP; Dorsey & Whitney LLP; Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP; Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.; Gibbons P.C.; Jenner & Block LLP; Jones Day; Kaye Scholer LLP; Morrison & Foerster LLP; Perkins Coie LLP; Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP; Sidley Austin LLP; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP; Zuckerman Spaeder LLP

Justice Through Government Service Award

Justice Through Government Service Award is presented to those who have made a difference for equal justice through their service in government.

Past recipients include:

  • 2017 - U.S. Representative Susan Brooks [R-IN5, 2013-2020] and U.S. Representative Joseph Patrick Kennedy III (D-MA5, 2013 – 2021)
  • 2015 - U.S. Senator Cory A. Booker (D-NJ)


Harrison Tweed Award (annual)

NLADA and the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid jointly sponsor the annual Harrison Tweed Award, which honors state and local bar associations that develop or significantly expand projects or programs to increase access to civil legal services or indigent defense services. Harrison Tweed served as the president of the New York Legal Aid Society and was a national leader of legal aid during the 1940's and 1950's.

Past recipients include:

  • 2021 - Iowa State Bar Association, New York State Bar Association
  • 2019 - Mississippi Bar, Philadelphia Bar Association (PA)
  • 2018 - The State Bar of Texas, The Suffolk County Bar Association (NY)
  • 2017 - The Essex County Bar Association Advocates, Inc. (MA)
  • 2016 - District of Columbia Bar
  • 2015 - Birmingham Bar Association (AL)
  • 2014 - Colorado Bar Association, San Juan County (NM) Bar Association
  • 2013 - The Onondaga County (NY) Bar Association
  • 2012 - San Mateo County (CA) Bar Association, San Antonio Bar Association
  • 2011 - The Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association
  • 2010 - Tennessee Bar Association, Washington State Bar Association
  • 2009 - North Carolina Bar Association, Philadelphia Bar Association (PA)
  • 2008 - Monroe County Bar Association (NY), Houston Bar Association (TX)
  • 2007 - Boston Bar Association (MA), Massachusetts Bar Association
  • 2006 - Baton Rouge Bar Association (LA), Minnesota State Bar Association,
  • 2005 - Lafayette Parish Bar Association (LA), New York State Bar Association, Cleveland Bar Association (OH)
  • 2004 - State Bar of Georgia, Mecklenburg County Bar (NC)
  • 2003 - Santa Clara County Bar Association (CA)
  • 2002 - Atlanta Bar Association, Association of the Bar of the City of New York and State Bar of Texas
  • 2001 - Brooklyn Bar Association (NY), State Bar of California and Oregon State Bar
  • 2000 - The Alameda County Bar Association (CA), and the Delaware State Bar Association
  • 1999 - The Saginaw County Bar Association (MI), and the Washington State Bar Association
  • 1998 - The State Bar of Michigan, the Forsyth County (N.C.) Bar Association and the Dallas Bar Association
  • 1997 - Bar Association of San Francisco (CA), Gaston County Bar Association (NC), King County Bar Association (WA)
  • 1996 - Jacksonville Bar Association (FL), Philadelphia Bar Association (PA), New York State Bar Association
  • 1995 - Harrisonburg/Rockingham Bar Association (VA)
  • 1994 - York County Bar Association and the Asian-American Bar Association of the Delaware Valley, District of Columbia Bar, Minnesota State Bar Association
  • 1993 - Ohio State Bar Association
  • 1992 - Florida Bar Association and the Indianapolis Bar Association

NLADA Innovations in Equal Justice Award (annual)

This award is presented at the annual ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference and honors an individual or group who has made outstanding career contributions to creativity and innovation in the delivery of legal services to poor people.

Past recipients include:

  • 2022 - 
  • 2021 - Betty Balli Torres, Texas Access to Justice Foundation
  • 2020 - Don Saunders
  • 2019 - Community Legal Services of Philadelphia
  • 2018 - John Pollock, National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, Public Justice Center
  • 2017 - Karen Lash, The Justice In Government Project
  • 2016 - Jonathan Pyle, Philadelphia Legal Assistance
  • 2015 - Michigan Legal Help Program
  • 2014 - Vincent Morris, Arkansas Legal Services Partnership
  • 2013 - Jeff Hogue, Legal Assistance of Western New York 
  • 2012 - Richard Zorza, Self Represented Litigation Network
  • 2009 - Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grants Program
  • 2008 - Iowa Legal Aid
  • 2007 - Legal Services National Technology Assistance Project (LSNTAP)
  • 2006 - I-CAN! Legal
  • 2005 - Alison Paul, Montana Legal Services
  • 2004 - Gwen Daniels, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
  • 2003 - Practising Law Institute
  • 2002 - Pro Bono Net, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Legal Services for New York City, and the Legal Aid Society of New York
  • 2001 - Ann Crawley, Maryland Legal Assistance Network
  • 2000 - Hugh Calkins, Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Maine
  • 1999 - Wayne Moore, AARP

Reginald Heber Smith Award (annual)

The Reginald Heber Smith Award is presented at NLADA's National Conference, and recognizes the dedicated services and outstanding achievements of civil or indigent defense attorneys while employed by organizations supporting such services. The award may be given up to two years after the attorney's termination of employment with the organization. The "Reggie" is named for the author of the first definitive examination of the unfair administration of justice and its effect on the poor, Justice and the Poor, which was published in 1919.

Past recipients include:

  • 2022 - Lillian M. Moy, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York
  • 2020 - Howard Belodoff, Associate Director, Idaho Legal Aid Services, Boise, ID
  • 2019 - Wendy Glasbrenner, Managing Attorney, Georgia Legal Services Program, Gainesville, GA
  • 2018 - Saundra Brown, Directing Attorney-Disaster Legal Services, Lone Star Legal Aid, Houston, TX
  • 2017 - Alan Mills, Executive Director, Uptown People's Law Center (UPLC), Chicago, IL
  • 2016 - Jonathan Gradess, Executive Director, New York State Defenders Association, Albany NY; Sarah Megan, Director of Litigation, Prairie State Legal Services, St. Charles IL
  • 2015 - Steve Gottlieb, Executive Director, Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Atlanta GA
  • 2014 - Peter Komlos-Hrobsky, Managing Attorney, Colorado Legal Services, Denver, CO; Claudia Trupp, Supervising Attorney; Director of Justice First Project, Center for Appellate Litigation, New York, NY
  • 2013 - Nzinga Hill, Supervising Attorney, Child in Need of Care Division, Orleans Public Defenders, New Orleans, LA; Victor Geminiani, Executive Director, Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, Honolulu, HI
  • 2012 - William G. Hoerger, California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc.; Adachi, San Francisco Public Defender's Office
  • 2010 - Josefina Pontoja-Oquendo, Puerto Rico Legal Services, Inc.
  • 2009 - Ann B. Lever, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri
  • 2008 - Michael P. Judge, Chief Public Defender for Los Angeles County
  • 2007 - Mona Tawatao, regional counsel with Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC)
  • 2006 - Shelley Davis, Farmworker Justice, and Lawrence Sullivan, Public Defender of the State of Delaware
  • 2004 - Gregory Schell, Florida Legal Services
  • 2003 - Charles Gessler, retired from the Los Angeles County Public Defender and "Dean of the Death Penalty" in California; and Herbert Semmel, director of the Federal Rights Program, for the National Senior Citizens Law Center in Los Angeles
  • 2002 - Webb Brewer, litigation director for Memphis Area Legal Services, Inc., of Tennessee; and David Feige, Trial Chief with The Bronx Defenders, New York
  • 2001 - Mary Ann Tally, Director of the Trial Assistance Unit at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation
  • 2000 - E. Clinton Bamberger, Jr., Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Maryland
  • 1999 - Jacqueline A. Nash, Southern University Law Center, Baton Rouge, LA
  • 1998 - The late Robert C. Ericson, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty
  • 1997 - George Castelle, Chief Public Defender, Kanawha County, WV Jane Perkins, National Health Law Program in Chapel Hill, NC.
  • 1996 - Larry A. Landis, Indiana Public Defender Council
  • 1995 -Andrea Lyon, Illinois Capital Resource Center in Chicago, IL.
  • 1994 - David Williams, New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation Robert Schwartz, Juvenile Law Center, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1993 - Alice Bussiere, Children's Advocate in California and throughout the country James Neuhard, for his nationally recognized opposition to the death penalty
  • 1992 - Jonathan Stein and Richard Weisenaupt, counsel in Sullivan v. Zebley, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court found that the eligibility requirements for Social Security Income disability benefits for children were tougher than those for adults. Theodore Gottfried, Director of the Office of the State Appellate Defender, Springfield, IL
  • 1991 - Overton Pollard, Public Defender Commission of Virginia Pauline Gee, California Rural Legal Assistance
  • 1990 - Robert Carran, Brian Paddock
  • 1989 - Craig Barnard, Gordon Bonnyman, Richard Goos, Allan Rodgers
  • 1988 - Alex Landon
  • 1987 - Robert Boruchowitz, Melvin D. Miller, Alex Landon
  • 1986 - Robert Cullen, Terence F. MacCarthy
  • 1985 - Douglas Hall, Eileen P. Sweeney
  • 1984 - Leroy Cordova, Michael Millman
  • 1983 - Jonathan Asher, Willie E. Cook, Jr., Sheldon Portman
  • 1982 - Charles Dorsey, Clinton Lyons
  • 1981 - Henry A. Freedman, Ashley T. Wiltshire
  • 1980 - Gary Myers, Valerie Vanaman
  • 1979 - Geraldine Moses, Myzell Sowell
  • 1978 - Marshall Hartman
  • 1971 - Brook Hart
  • 1969 - Robert E. Jagger
  • 1965 - George Nye
  • 1961 - H. Sol Clark

Robert F. Kennedy Award

The Robert F. Kennedy award, sponsored by the American Council of Chief Defenders and first awarded in 2000, recognizes a criminal justice system leader other than a defender, whose work acknowledges the critical role the public defense function plays in ensuring fair justice systems. The award is named for former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in honor of his support for quality public defense systems, including shepherding through to passage the nation's first indigent defense statute, the federal Criminal Justice Act, in 1963, the year that Gideon v. Wainwright was handed down.


  • 2001 - Hon. Janet Reno, Former United States Attorney General
  • 2000 - Nancy Gist, U.S. Department of Justice, Director of Bureau of Justice Assistance

Mary Ellen Hamilton Award (annual)

The Mary Ellen Hamilton Award honors a legal services client or client community advocate who, on a volunteer basis or receiving a stipend for their services, has provided extraordinary support to the delivery of legal assistance to low-income people, to increase involvement of low-income people in the fight for equal justice, or to enhance the involvement of low-income people in their cases. The award commemorates Mary Ellen Hamilton, one of the founders of the National Clients Council and the Alliance for Legal Rights, who served on NLADA’s Board of Directors and remained an active Alliance member until her death in 1985.

Past recipients include:

  • 2022 - Patricia Vining, Chairperson of the Client Advisory Committee of LAFLA and as Vice Chairperson of the African American Advisory Committee
  • 2021 - LaDonna Sims, Board Member, Indiana Legal Services, Indianapolis, IN
  • 2020 - Sonia Brookins, President and CEO of Welfare Rights and Welfare Pride, Philadelphia, PA
  • 2019 - Soummer Crawford, Brightmoor Homes Concerned Residents, Detroit, MI
  • 2018 - Harry Johnson, Board Member, Indiana Legal Sevices, Indianapolis, IN
  • 2017 - Julie A. Reiskin, Executive Director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), Denver, CO
  • 2016 - Gwendolyn Johnson, Vice President, Maryland Legal Aid, Baltimore MD
  • 2015 - Charlie F. Morris, Board Member, Memphis Area Legal Services, Memphis TN
  • 2014 - Ethel Sylvester, Board Member, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, East St. Louis, IL
  • 2013 - no selection
  • 2012 - Theron McNeil, Nevada Legal Services, Inc., Las Vegas, NV
  • 2010 - Yvette Long, Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network
  • 2007 - Amelia Nieto, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles; Peggy Santos, Massachussetts
  • 2001 - Gladys Barnes (posthumously), Alabama
  • 1999 - Phyllis A. Carr, Indiana
  • 1998 - Norah Cooney Rogers
  • 1997 - Lillie J. Winn, Georgia
  • 1996 - Virginia Rojo Holland, Texas Ronald E. Miles, Kansas
  • 1995 - Veda McKnight, Georgia
  • 1994 - Ann Bailey
  • 1993 - Rosie Newsome, Indiana
  • 1991 - Mary Ellen Beaver, Pennsylvania
  • 1990 - Lucymae Echols
  • 1989 - Jo Ann Smith Louise Brookins
  • 1987 - Romie Campbell
  • 1986 - Virginia Montford

Charles Dorsey Award (biennial)

The Charles Dorsey Award is given biennially to an individual who has provided extraordinary and dedicated service to the equal justice community and to organizations that promote expanding and improving access to justice for low-income people. To be eligible to receive this award, an individual must have demonstrated a commitment to equal justice for all through service as an officer, board or committee member of a national or statewide organization devoted to fulfilling the promise of equal justice.

Past recipients include:

  • 2021 - Barton Stichman, Special Counsel, National Veterans Legal Services Program, Washington, DC
  • 2019 - Deborah Perluss, Deputy Director, Northwest Justice Project, Seattle, WA
  • 2017 - Dennis Groenenboom, Executive Director, Iowa Legal Aid, Des Moines, IA
  • 2015 - Linda K. Rexer, Executive Director, Michigan State Bar Foundation, Lansing MI
  • 2013 - Ramon Arias, Executive Director, Bay Area Legal Aid, Oakland, CA
  • 2009 - Edgar and the late Jean Camper Cahn, University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, Timebanks, USA
  • 2007 - Stuart Andrews, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, South Carolina
  • 2005 - Malcolm Young, executive director of The Sentencing Project in Washington, DC
  • 2003 - Alex Gulotta, director of the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, VA
  • 2001 - Robert Spangenberg, president of The Spangenberg Group in Newton, MA
  • 1999 - Laurie D. Zelon, a partner at the Los Angeles law firm of Morrison and Foerster, co-founder of Californians for Legal Aid and chair of the California Commission on Access to Justice
  • 1997 - Lillian O. Johnson, Director of Community Legal Services, Phoenix, AZ
  • 1995 - Joseph R. Bartylak, Executive Director of Land of Lincoln Legal Aid Foundation, Alton, IL

Clara Shortridge Foltz Award (biennial)

Commends a public defender program or defense delivery system for outstanding achievement in the provision of indigent defense services. The achievement may be the result of an effort by the entire program, a division or branch or a special project. This award is co-sponsored by NLADA and the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants. Established in 1985, this award was named for the founder of the nation's public defender system. Foltz, California's first woman lawyer, introduced the "Foltz Defender Bill" at the Congress of Jurisprudence and Law Reform in Chicago in 1893.

Past recipients include:

  • 2021 - West Virginia Public Defender Services, Charleston, WV
  • 2019 - Alameda County Public Defender's Office, Oakland, CA
  • 2017 - Cook County Public Defender Office, Chicago, IL
  • 2015 - Orleans Public Defenders, New Orleans LA
  • 2013 - The Bronx Defenders, Bronx, NY
  • 2009 - Michigan State Appellate Defender Office
  • 2007 - Public Defender's Office of the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida (PD-11)
  • 2003 - Louisville-Metro Public Defender's Office, Kentucky
  • 2001 - Youth Advocacy Project (YAP) of the Committee for Public Counsel Services
  • 1999 - The San Diego County Alternate Public Defender's (APD) Dependency Program
  • 1998 - The Capital Defense and Trial Services Unit, Connecticut Division of Public Defender Services
  • 1997 - Washington Defender Association
  • 1995 - Minnesota State Board of Public Defender
  • 1993 - The Office of the Public Defender for the State of Maryland
  • 1991 - Lake County Illinois Public Defender Office
  • 1987 - The Defender Association of Philadelphia
  • 1986 - Illinois State Appellate Defender
  • 1985 - Los Angeles County Public Defender

Emery A. Brownell Media Award (annual)

Affords national recognition to newspapers, films, radio, and television stations that have informed the public of the crucial role played by civil or defender organizations in ensuring equal justice for poor people. This award commemorates Emery Brownell, who began his legal career with the Legal Aid Society of Rochester, N.Y., in 1925 and served as NLADA's executive director from 1940 to 1961.

Past recipients include:

  • 2019 - Christine MacDonald, Staff Writer, The Detroit News, Detroit, MI
  • 2018 - Eve Abrams, independent documentarian, producer, reporter, & storyteller, New Orleans, LA
  • 2017 - No winner selected
  • 2016 - The American Lawyer, New York NY
  • 2015 - No winner selected
  • 2014 - Gary Craig, Investigative Reporter, Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester, NY
  • 2013 - No winner selected
  • 2012 - No winner selected
  • 2010 - The Daily Record
  • 2002 - Seattle Post-Intelligencer
  • 2000 - Chicago Tribune
  • 1998 - Times of Northwest Indiana The Lexington, Kentucky Herald-Leader
  • 1996 - The New Yorker
  • 1994 - City Limits in New York, NY.
  • 1992 - The New York Times

Pierce-Hickerson Award (biennial)

Honoring outstanding contributions to the advancement or preservation of Native American rights, the Pierce-Hickerson Award was created in 2003 by advocates in civil legal assistance programs to pay homage to the legacies of Julian Pierce and Robert Hickerson for their outstanding advocacy in pursuit of justice for Native Americans. Pierce was a Lumbee Indian who served as executive director of Lumbee River Legal Services in Pembroke, North Carolina, from 1978 until 1988. Hickerson served as director of Alaska Legal Services Corporation for 20 years and prior to that was director of the Oklahoma Legal Services Center.

  • 2018 - James Keedy, Executive Director, Michigan Indian Legal Services, Traverse City, MI
  • 2016 - Jim Fitzsimmons (posthumous), former Executive Director, Legal Services of North Dakota
  • 2014 - Rosalie (Lisa) Chavez, Manager of Native American Program, New Mexico Legal Aid, Bernalillo, NM 
  • 2012 - James Botsford, Director of the Indian Law Office of Wisconsin Judicare, Wausau, WI
  • 2010 - Dorothy Alther, California Indian Legal Services, Escondido, CA 
  • 2008 - Steven C. Moore, Native American Rights Fund (NARF)
  • 2006 - Raylene Frazier, Dakota Plains Legal Services
  • 2003 - Peterson Zah, legendary activist on issues affecting Native Americans.

New Leaders in Advocacy Award (annual)

  • 2022 - 
  • 2021 - Julia Simon-Mishel, Supervising Attorney, Philadelphia Legal Assistance, Philadelphia, PA
  • 2020 - Stacey Lannert, Assistant Public Defender, Missouri State Public Defender, Columbia, MO
  • 2019 - Kevin DeLiban, Staff Attorney, Legal Aid of Arkansas, West Memphis, AR
  • 2018 - Ashley Steele, Post-Conviction Attorney, Office of Capital and Forensic Writs, Austin, TX
  • 2017 - Reyna Ramolete Hayashi, Legal Aid Society of Hawai'i, Founder of Emergent Island Economies
  • 2016 - Madison Hardee, Senior Attorney, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, Charlotte NC
  • 2015 - Todd L. Belcore, Lead Attorney-Community Justice, The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Chicago IL
  • 2014 - ArchCity Defenders, St. Louis, MO Margaret Middleton, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, West Haven, CT
  • 2013 - Rebecca Vallas, Deputy Director of Government Affairs, National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, Washington, DC
  • 2012 - James Botsford, Director of the Indian Law Office of Wisconsin Judicare, Wausau, WI
  • 2010 - Dorothy Alther, California Indian Legal Services, Escondido, CA 
  • 2008 - Steven C. Moore, Native American Rights Fund (NARF)
  • 2006 - Raylene Frazier, Dakota Plains Legal Services
  • 2003 - Peterson Zah, legendary activist on issues affecting Native Americans.

Denison Ray Award (biennial)

The "Denny" award honors persons who have provided at least five years of service to the legal services community in staff, client or volunteer capacities. Dennison Ray, who dedicated his professional life to equal justice for the poor, is the former director of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Legal Services of North Carolina, and other programs.

Past recipients include:

  • 2022 - Paul Furrh, CEO of Lone Star Legal Aid
  • 2020 - Ed Marks, Former Statewide Pro Bono Manager, Legal Aid Services of Oregon, Portalnd, OR
  • 2018 - Jonathan Asher, Executive Director, Colorado Legal Services, Denver, CO
  • 2016 - Norman Metzger, Executive Director (retired), Indiana Legal Services, Indianapolis IN
  • 2014 - Sylvia Bosen, Pro Bono Assistant, Utah Legal Services, Salt Lake City, UT
  • 2012 - Antone Gerry Singsen III, Consultant, Singsen & Tyrrell Associates, Watertown, MA2010 - Jeremy Lane, for exceptional service to the equal justice community
  • 2008 - Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr., executive director of the Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland
  • 2006 - Catherine Carr, Executive Director of Community Legal Services, Inc., Philadelphia
  • 2004 - Sister Marjorie Shelvy, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
  • 2002 - Ira Newman, Directing Attorney of the Appalachian Research & Defense Fund of Kentucky, Inc. (Appalred)
  • 2000 - Patrick McClintock, Legal Services Corporation of Iowa
  • 1998 - Sharon Bourassa, Legal Aid Services of Broward County, Florida
  • 1996 - Shirley Bergert, Connecticut Legal Services
  • 1994 - Robert C. Lyman, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services Trini Gamez, Texas Rural Legal Assistance

Courageous Leader Award

The Courageous Leader Award is given to racial equity leaders who are committed to taking anti-racist stances. It recognizes the dedicated advocacy of trailblazers who model the commitment and courage that it takes to advance meaningful, lasting change.

Past recipients include:

  • 2023 - NLADA Mutual Insurance Co., RRG
  • 2022 - Leander Dolphin, Shipman & Goodwin and Dr. Marvin Carr, Walmart’s Racial Equity Center
  • 2021 - Law Firm Antiracism Alliance, Dr. Danette Howard, Lumina Foundation, and Malcolm Jenkins, Former National Football League Player