January 09, 2019

Robert F. Drinan Award

Honoring Mark D. Agrast

Friday, January 25, 2019  •  ABA Midyear Meeting  •  Las Vegas

The Section is proud to announce that former  Section Chair and leader Mark D. Agrast will receive the 2019 Robert F. Drinan Award for Distinguished Service. The award, named in honor of the late Father Robert F. Drinan, a former member of Congress who chaired the Section in 1990-91, 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.

Mark Agrast is a hero. “Hero” is a mighty word, not to be used lightly. To our great good fortune in the Civil Rights and Social Justice Section we’ve been blessed with an overabundance of heroes. Some nationally prominent, from Ruth Ginsburg, William Brennan, Bob Drinan and Jerry Shestack on. But Mark is one of those quite extraordinary quiet heroes of social justice work—those rare and remarkable souls of whom people remark: “No one is more committed. No one is more knowledgeable. No one is more effective. And, no one is more helpful and gracious.” Yet, amidst all they do, those quiet heroes don’t clamor for credit. Mark has long been in the trenches getting it done and helping others get it done, but hasn’t expended energy seeking credit for himself. His resume is sparkling, and speaks for itself. Achievements, accomplishments and accolades galore. But even more powerful is his personal impact. Personally, I’ve always admired Mark deeply. When I started in the Civil Rights Section some 20 years ago, working and walking amongst giants like Schestack, Curtin and Drinan, it was Mark who was most inspirational, because of his dynamism and dedication to the work for sure, but equally so because he was just as helpful and welcoming to me—although I was just a baby lawyer—as he was to the those giants. That’s rare. Mark is rare. I knew from the moment I began on the track to Chair that Mark should receive the Drinan Award, and I’m thrilled he’ll accept it this year. No one…is more deserving.

2018-19 Section Chair, Wilson Schooley

2019 Father Drinan Recipient

Mark D. Agrast has devoted his career to advancing social justice and human rights through the rule of law. He is executive director and executive vice president of the American Society of International Law. Before joining the Society, Mr. Agrast served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legislative Affairs at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he had responsibility for legislative initiatives and oversight in the areas of national security, immigration, and criminal justice. He previously was a senior vice president and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and served for over a decade in senior positions on Capitol Hill. Earlier in his career, he practiced international law with the Washington office of Jones Day.

Mr. Agrast has served in numerous leadership capacities in the American Bar Association, including as a member of its Board of Governors and its Executive Committee, as a longtime member of the House of Delegates, and as chair of the Commission on Immigration, the Commission on Disability Rights, and the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities (now the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice). He is a member of the Council of the Section of International Law.

In the course of his work for the ABA, Mr. Agrast has led numerous efforts to adopt and implement ABA policy on a wide range of issues, including policies to promote fairness and equality for immigrants and asylum seekers, LGBT individuals, and persons with disabilities. He also has been engaged in ABA efforts focused on separation of powers, national security and civil liberties.

Mr. Agrast has been a leader of the World Justice Project since its inception and currently serves as a vice president of the Project. He played a central role in designing and implementing its Rule of Law Index, which measures countries’ adherence to the rule of law. He also is a member of the Board of Governors of the Washington Foreign Law Society.

A past co-chair of the National LGBT Bar, he was instrumental in securing representation for that organization in the ABA House of Delegates, later serving as its delegate. He also played a leading role in creating the ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and co-founded the LGBT Congressional Staff Association and the LGBT Bar Association of the District of Columbia.

In recognition of his contributions to LGBT rights, Mark received the Dan Bradley Award from the National LGBT Bar, the Distinguished National Service Award from the LGBT Bar Association of the District of Columbia, and the Civil Rights Hero Award from the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice. In January, he will receive the 2019 Stonewall Award from the ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, he graduated summa cum laude from Case Western Reserve University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He pursued his postgraduate studies as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, and received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was editor in chief of the Yale Journal of International Law and founding co-director of the Allard K. Lowenstein Clinical Program in International Human Rights Law. He is a member of the Supreme Court Bar and is admitted to practice in Ohio and the District of Columbia. He is a member of the American Law Institute and a life fellow of the American Bar Foundation.