The Commission on Racial & Ethnic Diversity in the Profession is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020 Spirit of Excellence Awards. The awards are presented to lawyers whose commitment to racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession is evident in their workplace and at the national, state, or local level.
Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee
Professor Ferguson-Bohnee is the Director of the Indian Legal Clinic, Faculty Director of the Indian Legal Program, and Clinical Professor of Law, at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. Professor Ferguson-Bohnee has substantial experience in Indian law, election law and voting rights, and status clarification for tribes. She has assisted in complex voting rights litigation on behalf of tribes, and has drafted amicus briefs to the United States Supreme Court for tribal clients with respect to voting rights issues. She serves as the Native Vote Election Protection Coordinator for the State of Arizona and has testified before Congress regarding Indian voting issues. Professor Ferguson-Bohnee has also testified before the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the Louisiana State Legislature regarding tribal recognition. She successfully assisted four bayou tribes in obtaining recognition from the State of Louisiana. More recently, she has been involved in advocating for the rights of unrecognized tribes in response to environmental disasters.
Donise E. Brown
In her current role as Director- Corporate Counsel for Starbucks, Donise is responsible for providing legal support for all of Starbucks corporate and retail real estate matters in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast Regions. Throughout her career, Donise has committed herself to fulfilling that obligation, through her commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. Some of her efforts to support diversity and inclusion include serving on and, a past Co-Chair of, the Starbucks Law & Corporate Affairs Diversity Committee, which is responsible for, among other things, overseeing the surveying and review of its outside counsel annually to ensure that the firms retained by Starbucks reflect a commitment to diversity. In addition, Donise is a Florida Bar Certified Diversity Trainer & Facilitator; a member of the Executive Committee of the National Bar Association’s Commercial Law Section; a member of the National Pre-Law Diversity Initiatives, Inc. Host Committee, and a member of the Board of Directors for Hope South Florida; a not-for profit corporation focused on providing crisis and rapid re-housing assistance, and support services to homeless families and veterans.
The Honorable Lora Livngston
The Honorable Judge Lora J. Livingston, known, throughout the state of Texas and beyond for her tireless commitment to everyone’s right to access to justice, many including Judge Lora J. Livingston, herself may not realize the impact she has had on creating our legal landscape. Judge Livingston has been contributing to the fabric of our legal community through her quiet and ceaseless promotion of diversity in feeding the pipeline to and through the practice of law. The Austin Bar Association and the Austin Bar Foundation recognized her work in the area of diversity in 2016 conveying upon her the inaugural Joseph C. Parker, Jr. Diversity Award, an award named after the first African-American President of the Austin Bar Association. The Austin Bar saw in Judge Livingston what we see in Judge Livingston, characteristics Joseph Parker, Jr. also possessed. She has spent her life and work championing equal and fair treatment for all and advocating as well as demonstrating the power of diversity in our society. Judge Livingston has demonstrated her commitment and received the honor of this award from her Austin Bar for her work in bringing diversity to her legal community. She does so everywhere she goes. This coveted award is merely an example of others recognizing what she does in her daily walk through life.
Richard Pena is president and CEO of the Law Offices of Richard Pena, P.C. He was elected by his peers to serve as the President of the State Bar of Texas from 1998-1999. He served as President of the American Bar Foundation and was on the Board of Governors for the American Bar Association. He is also past president of the Austin Bar Association, former Chair of the Texas Bar Foundation, and former Chair of the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation. He was a director to the State Bar of Texas and a State Delegate to the ABA. Richard has received three Presidential Citations from the State Bar of Texas for his meritorious service to the profession and has been selected a member of the prestigious American Inns of Court as well as receiving the Distinguished Lawyer Award presented by the Austin Bar Association in 2007 and the Joseph C. Parker Jr. Diversity Award from the Austin Bar Foundation in 2018. The Texas Bar Journal recognized him as 1 of 20 “trailblazers” in the February 2014 issue. He also was the recipient of the 2010 Difference Makers Award presented by the ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division. Richard also has the distinct honor as the first person of color to serve as the President of the State Bar of Texas. Richard is rated “AV” by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory indicating a “very High to Preeminent” reputation for legal ability. He received his BA and JD from the University of Texas. He has chaired the City of Austin’s Homeless Task Force and been a director for the Center for Battered Women in Austin. He has led nineteen (19) legal delegations to other countries. Richard represents injured workers, many on a pro bono basis, is a Vietnam Veteran and is co-author of the book, Last Plane Out of Saigon.
Donald K. Tamaki
Donald is Managing Partner of Minami Tamaki LLP in San Francisco, representing business and non-profit clients. In 1976, he received a Reginald Heber Smith fellowship to practice poverty law in San Jose, and co-founded the Asian Law Alliance, which has represented thousands. From 1980 to 1983, he was Executive Director of the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco and served on the legal team which reopened the 1944 U.S. Supreme Court case of Fred Korematsu, overturning his criminal conviction for defying the removal of almost 120,000 Japanese Americans. In 2012-13, he served on the legal team representing the California State Bar urging the state supreme court to admit Sergio Garcia to the bar, notwithstanding his undocumented immigrant status. The combined efforts of Garcia, the State Bar and the legislature resulted in the court admitting Garcia. In 2017-18, he served on the legal team filing an amicus brief in Trump v. Hawaii for the children of Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui, reminding the court that in 1944 when it abdicated its role as a check on the executive branch, it was a civil liberties disaster. Justice Sonia Sotomayor cited the brief in her dissent. Don has received the State Bar of California’s Loren Miller Legal Services Award in 1987, the ACLU (Northern California) Civil Liberties Award in 2003, the NAPABA Trailblazer Award in 2003, NAPABA President’s Award co-recipient in 2018, and Superlawyer designation since 2004.