Established by the American Bar Association and the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice (formerly the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities) in 2001, the Robert F. Drinan, Jr., Award for Distinguished Service is named in honor of the late Father Robert F. Drinan, a former member of Congress and a founding member of the Section. The award recognizes individuals whose sustained and extraordinary commitment to the Section has advanced its mission of providing leadership to the legal profession in protecting and advancing human rights, civil liberties, and social justice.
Robert F. Drinan, S. J., a founding member of the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, served as its Chair in 1990-91 and as its Delegate in 1993-96. Formerly the dean of Boston College Law School and a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, he was widely known and revered throughout the ABA for his longstanding service to the bar in many capacities, including as Chair of the Standing Committee on Professionalism and Ethics. Within the profession and beyond, he was also known as a dedicated and principled former member of Congress, a widely published legal scholar and author of several books, and a worldwide human rights advocate called into service in times of crisis by presidents and diplomats innumerable times over the past several decades. Whether serving the Section, the bar, or the nation, Robert Drinan has been at once teacher, scholar, and advocate of the Section mission to protect and advance human rights, civil liberties, and social justice.
Nominees for the award must have sustained commitment to and advanced its mission of providing leadership to the legal profession in protecting and advancing human rights, civil liberties, and social justice. To demonstrate "commitment to the Section," the activity recognized must have been carried out at the request of and on behalf of the Section, in service to the Section as leader or member, or directly in furtherance of Section goals or ideals in a capacity outside the Section and recognized by the Section. "Sustained commitment" shall mean a single type of activity or numerous related activities carried out over a period sufficient to result in demonstrable achievement or service. The longevity of service alone is not sufficient to demonstrate such commitment.