Spring 2005

Hon. Abner J. Mikva to Receive 2005 ABA Thurgood Marshall Award

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Hon. Abner J. Mikva of Chicago, Ill., will receive the ABA’s 2005 Thurgood Marshall Award in recognition of his outstanding commitment to the preservation and expansion of civil rights for all Americans. The award will be presented at the Section’s Annual Thurgood Marshall Award Dinner on Saturday, Aug. 6, during the 2005 ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.

"We are privileged to honor Judge Abner J. Mikva with this year's Thurgood Marshall Award,” said Section Chair Stephen F. Hanlon. “His service to his country, his state and his profession has truly been remarkable: five consecutive terms in the Illinois House of Representatives; five consecutive terms as a Congressman from Chicago; fifteen years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the last three years as its Chief Judge; and one year as White House Counsel, all in addition to a distinguished career in private practice and as a law professor and a writer."

Judge Mikva has devoted nearly half a century to public service, during which he has demonstrated consistent leadership in protecting the rights of the disenfranchised and promoting respect for the Rule of Law. As Chairman of the Illinois House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Mikva established standards to eliminate race and gender bias among judicial appointees. He helped enact a new criminal code for Illinois that better respects the rights of the accused, as well as a new mental health code that addresses the needs of disabled persons. During his tenure in the U.S. Congress, he sponsored numerous bills that promoted equality among all Americans, including a bill assuring adequate employment, housing and education, free from any discrimination, to all American citizens, and two bills amending the Social Security Act to provide benefits to blind and disabled persons. As White House Counsel to former President Clinton, Mikva worked closely with Attorney General Janet Reno on important Justice Department issues that required White House or presidential input, including positions taken by the Justice Department on many issues and cases involving civil rights and civil liberties.

Judge Mikva has taught courses at seven top law schools and is the co-author of several legal texts on the legislative process as well as a political science textbook entitled, “The American Congress: The First Branch.” In addition to numerous honorary degrees, he is the recipient of the Paul H. Douglas Ethics in Government Award from the University of Illinois, the Alumni Medal of the University of Chicago, and recently was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Throughout his career, Judge Mikva and his wife Zoe, have mentored young people involved in his campaigns, teaching them the value of citizen participation and the impact individuals can have on the electoral process. The Mikva Challenge, established in 1997 as a tribute to the Mikvas, seeks to continue this tradition by encouraging young people to develop an interest and commitment in active participation in the democratic process, particularly youths from neighborhoods where residents traditionally feel disenfranchised from the political process.

“Abner Mikva's dedication to public service and social justice is exemplary,” said Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, Chair of the Thurgood Marshall Award Committee. “We are pleased to honor him with the Thurgood Marshall Award.”

For more information about the award or the dinner, call the Section office at 202/662-1030 or visit the IRR Section Web site at www.abanet.org/irr.

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