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During the annual meeting of The American Bar Association in San Francisco on August 9, the ABA will announce the recipients of this year's 2010 Pro Bono Publico Awards. Each year, the ABA recognizes the outstanding contributions made by some of its members to volunteer legal services. Pro bono work is one of the duties and privileges of the practice of law.
The 2010 awards will be given to three individuals and two law firms by ABA resident Carolyn B. Lamm. Speaking about the recipients of this year's awards, President Lamm said, "The pro bono work that these individuals and firms contribute to their communities without charge demonstrates how the legal profession delivers on the promise of equal justice for all."
The recipients of the Pro Bono Publico Awards are a varied group. The individuals receiving the award are Lan T. Nguyen of Shortt & Nguyen in Houston, David A. Reiser of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP in Washington, D.C. and Sylvia Hardaway Walbolt of Carlton Fields in Tampa, Fla. Each of these attorneys has made a personal commitment to pro bono service.
Beyond handling cases for the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program, the Houston Area Women's Center and Vietnamese charities, Lan Nguyen has translated free legal handbooks from the Houston Bar into Vietnamese and also co-founded the Asian Will-a-thon, an annual event to provide wills and estate documents for indigent members of the Vietnamese-speaking communities in Houston.
David Reiser helped launch the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia's Appellate Advocacy Project with the goal of providing the highest quality appellate representation in civil matters to the disadvantaged in Washington, D.C.
Sylvia Hardaway Walbolt established and served as first chair of her firm's pro bono committee. Her pro bono clients have included a group of Holocaust survivors, the widow of a migrant worker who died because the temporary trailer he was living in lacked a smoke detector and individuals on death row.
The firm recipients are Bryan Cave LLP and Mintz Levin, Cohen, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. One outstanding example of Bryan Cave's commitment to pro bono work in the communities which host its offices is the exoneration of Joshua Kezer, who although innocent, served 16 years of a 60-year sentence before a team of the firm's lawyers obtained his release with a writ of habeas corpus. Mintz Levin has, among other projects, worked on behalf of victims of domestic violence since 1990. In that time, the firm has represented about 750 individuals on domestic violence issues.
All members of the ABA no doubt thank this year's award recipients for reminding all of us what the practice of law can and should be.
Note: Information on the August meeting can be found here.