The Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs honored Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Hogan Lovells partner John Keeney Jr. with its top award for public service today at its annual Wiley A. Branton Awards Luncheon.
Conyers (right) and Keeney (below) received the award for their long work to advance civil rights in the nation’s capital and across the country.
Conyers, who was introduced by Bryan Cave partner Broderick Johnson, was recognized for his career-long efforts to better the live of African-Americans. Johnson, who said that Conyers was one of his “biggest heroes and role models,” noted the long-serving congressman’s work on virtually every major piece of civil rights legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In accepting the award, Conyers paid tribute to the lawyers who labor every day to advance civil rights. He said that anyone who hasn’t decided on a career path should consider going to law school because “it changed my life.” Conyers added, “All of us here and this organization hosting us today have the opportunity to help someone who doesn’t have either jobs, justice or peace. That’s what makes this profession special, and we should continue that in the future.”
Keeney was honored for his nearly three decades of work to further civil rights through the Washington Lawyers Committee, particularly for the African-American community in Charles County, Md. Keeney was introduced by Ignacia Moreno, a former Hogan partner who is currently assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Keeney, whose practice focuses on complex litigation, told the crowd of more than 500 that “unfortunately the problems dealing with civil rights in this country haven’t been solved yet; the mission hasn’t been accomplished.” He also called on young lawyers and those considering going to law school to “become the future of civil rights enforcement.”
Among other honorees, Ronald Flagg of Sidley Austin was named this year’s recipient of the Vincent E. Reed award, which recognizes lawyers who promote the advancement of public education. Flagg, who will become D.C. Bar president on June 24, was recognized for his work beginning in 1995 to establish a partnership between Sidley Austin and Thompson Elementary School. That program has since expanded to include 25 partnerships between Washington law firms and local public schools. He has also played a key role in Washington Lawyers Committee reports on D.C.’s public schools.
The committee honored the American Association of People with Disabilities with the Alfred McKenzie Award, which recognizes organizations that have produced civil rights victories of “particular significance.” The AAPD was a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that caused 11,000 Archstone Apartments across the country to be retrofitted so they are accessible to people with disabilities.
The committee also handed out outstanding achievement awards to several firms in Washington for exceptional work in specific areas of civil rights during the past year.
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and Steptoe & Johnson were honored for their work in equal employment opportunities; Dechert, Kelley Drye & Warren, Kirkland & Ellis, Gilbert LLP, and Hogan Lovells for fair housing; Arnold & Porter, McKenna Long & Aldridge, Crowell & Moring, and Zuckerman Spaeder for immigrant and refugee rights; Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Foley & Lardner, Jenner & Block, and Morrison & Foerster for disability rights; Williams & Connolly and Winston & Strawn for prisoners rights; Covington & Burling, Willkie Farr & Gallagher, Hunton & Williams, and King & Spalding for parole representation; Drinker Biddle & Reath and Epstein Becker & Green for public education, and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr for general excellence.
Photos by The National Law Journal's Diego Radzinschi.