In her speech last night accepting the William J. Brennan Jr. Award, the D.C. Bar’s highest honor, Patricia Fugere quickly turned to the topic of her children. The executive director of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless mentioned that in her own home, game time had always been a vehicle to teach social values.
“When playing Monopoly, if they wanted to build hotels on Boardwalk, they also had to build houses on Baltic and Mediterranean,” she said to laughter.
Often, she added, the kids would stump her with simple questions.
"Mommy, why can't God work a miracle and just zap down an apartment building in that empty lot on the corner so the homeless people have a place to live?" she said one of her children had asked. “My halting response to this high-stakes question was ‘Well, we have to be the instrument of those miracles.’"
Last night at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, members of the D.C. Bar celebrated a year of its members’ achievements and welcomed a new president at the group’s annual business meeting and awards dinner. And as the group’s leaders, sporting red carnations for the evening, hailed the importance of pro bono work, Fugure’s speech provided an emotional high point for the evening.
Members donated more than $600,000 to the bar’s pro-bono program in honor of new president Kim Keenan of The Keenan Firm. That amounts to more than a third of the bar’s overall budget.
After she was sworn in, Keenan addressed the 450-strong crowd and promised to “inject the culture of leadership into everything we do.”
The bar also handed out awards for significant contributions to the bar and exceptional pro-bono work. Jenner & Block partner David DeBruin won pro bono lawyer of the year for his work representing indigent clients, including a Washington man accused of three separate homicides. Jones Day took home the law firm pro bono award for their involvement wtih the Landlord Tenant Resource Center, among other projects.
Fugere, who helped found the homeless clinic in 1986 and has served as executive director for most of the more than two decades since, talked at length about the personal strength of her clients and how they had enriched her own life. She urged members to “help craft a new law” that established a right to housing and mandated a living wage.
“There is much to be done, many miracles to make,” she said. “In tribute to Justice Brennan, let's get to work, There is an empty lot on the corner waiting to become someone's home.”
A carnation on display. Kim Keenan, new president of the D.C. Bar, speaks at the pro bono reception. Outgoing D.C. Bar president Robert Spagnoletti, Chief Judge Eric Washington of the D.C. Court of Appeals, and Keenan, during her swearing in. Patricia Fugere, executive director of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, accepts the William J. Brennan Jr. award. Bar members before dinner.