The D.C. legal community is mourning the death Friday of Barbara McDowell, director of appellate advocacy at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. Before going to the Legal Aid Society in 2004, the onetime law clerk to the late Supreme Court Justice Byron White argued 18 cases before the high court for the U.S. solicitor general's office. A statement prepared by friends and sent to Legal Times Friday night says she died at her home in Virginia after a short illness, with her family at her side. She is survived by her husband Jerry Hartman, and by her mother and brother.
With a calm, unassuming presence, McDowell was a star appellate advocate for the government who once argued two separate cases before the Court on the same day. She spoke frequently about the Court and in 2004 was a panelist on the Legal Times annual review of the Court's term even though she had already left the solicitor general's office.
As a seven-year veteran of that office, she could have returned to private practice -- she once worked for Jones Day -- but instead went to the Legal Aid Society to establish its appellate department. There, she argued nearly 50 cases before the D.C. Court of Appeals, winning cases on behalf of the poor that related to housing, public benefits and dometic violence. She also trained young lawyers in appellate advocacy.
"Barbara was an advocate of extraordinary talent," said Jonathan Smith, director of the Legal Aid Society of D.C. on Saturday. "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... We will miss her deeply. We will treasure the legacy of commitment, compassion and excellence she left us."
McDowell served for many years on the board of directors for the Shaw Community Ministry, which provides social services to young people, families and senior citizens in D.C. "Barb leaves a legacy of accomplishment, hard work, good fun and great love," the statement by her friends says.
In March 2008, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. presented McDowell with the Rex Lee Advocacy and Public Service Award at the Mayflower Hotel. Named after the late solicitor general Rex Lee, the award is a prestigious tribute whose past recipients have included Seth Waxman, Carter Phillips, Theodore Olson, Ed Kneedler, Maureen Mahoney, Michael Dreeben and Jeff Minear.
Funeral services will be held Jan. 10 at Westmoreland Congregational Church in Bethesda, Maryland. McDowell's family asks that instead of flowers, contributions be made to the Barbara McDowell Endowment for Appellate Litigation and sent to Jonathan Smith, director of the Legal Aid Society of Washington, D.C., 1331 H St., NW, Suite 350, Washington, DC 20005.