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April 28, 2014 Articles

The 2014 John Minor Wisdom Awards

This year's recipients include Martin Glick and Lisa Wood.

By Leila Lawrence

Each year, the Access to Justice Committee (formerly the Pro Bono & Public Interest Litigation Committee) honors deserving members of the legal profession who exemplify the values of late Fifth Circuit judge, the Honorable John Minor Wisdom, with the John Minor Wisdom Public Interest & Professionalism Award. Awardees are selected based on their commitment to seeking justice for those who do not have ready access to the legal system. This year’s awardees are Martin Glick and Lisa Wood. These worthy recipients were presented with their awards at the Diversity Leadership and John Minor Wisdom Public Service & Professionalism Awards Luncheon on April 10, 2014, during the ABA Section of Litigation Annual Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Judge Wisdom, who was known as a member of “The Fifth Circuit Four,” along with fellow Fifth Circuit judges Elbert Tuttle, John Brown, and Richard Rives, is best known for his lengthy tenure on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. During his tenure, Judge Wisdom was a part of such groundbreaking civil-rights decisions as Meredith v. Fair, 305 F.2d 343 (5th Cir. 1962)(which ordered the University of Mississippi to admit James Meredith, effectively desegregating the university), and United States v. Jefferson County Board of Education, 372 F.2d 836 (5th Cir. 1966)(which addressed desegregation standards in the light of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the guidelines of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare). Judge Wisdom also joined the majority court in Fifth Circuit decisions that eliminated racial discrimination in voter registration and jury selection in Louisiana. Over the course of his career, he was the recipient of many honors, including the 1993 Presidential Medal of Freedom and the renaming in his honor of the U.S. Court of Appeals Building in New Orleans, on May 25, 1994. Judge Wisdom remained a champion of justice until his death in 1999.

Martin Glick
Martin Glick is senior counsel with Arnold & Porter LLP in San Francisco, California. He practices complex civil litigation, specializing in intellectual property. Mr. Glick is being recognized for his work with California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA). He has been pro bono counsel to CRLA for 29 years. His affiliation with the organization began in 1966, as a staff attorney, and includes his tenure as its executive director from 1972 to 1974. CRLA has provided civil legal assistance to California’s rural poor, including thousands of immigrant farm workers, for nearly 50 years. In recent years, CRLA’s work has resulted in the recovery of $2–3 million in unpaid wages and labor benefits for farm workers. However, federal audits, monitoring, and investigations have threatened CRLA’s ability to effectively represent its clients. Mr. Glick’s unwavering commitment to CRLA has helped the agency navigate these audits and investigations. Specifically, Mr. Glick has assisted CRLA in its fight to stop the enforcement of an administrative subpoena served by the inspector general of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The subpoena required CRLA to disclose attorney work product, including strategic legal planning and initiatives on a wide range of subjects. In addition, the subpoena sought the identities of, as well as confidential information concerning, individual applicants and clients of CRLA. In addition to CRLA, the subpoena could potentially impact legal-services organizations nationwide due to the fact that the potential disclosure of a client’s identity to federal authorities could adversely affect a prospective client’s decision to seek legal advice or representation. Mr. Glick led CRLA’s resistance, citing California’s strict privacy laws that prohibit attorneys from revealing personal information without an individual’s consent. In 2006, the American Bar Association issued a letter of support for this position, providing that the LSC, and other funders, should respect the state laws under which their recipient attorneys are licensed and must conduct their professional obligations.

Ultimately, this legal battle took Mr. Glick and CRLA to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals in the matter of United States of America, et al. v. California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., No.11-5347 (D.C. Cir. Oct. 21, 2005). In a blow to legal-services programs everywhere, and their low-income applicants and clients, the court of appeals held that CRLA could not use California privacy laws as a shield to prevent compliance with the subpoena. This outcome does not detract from Mr. Glick’s tireless commitment to CRLA and its mission to strive for economic justice and human rights on behalf of California’s rural poor. Mr. Glick’s career-long commitment to CRLA is to be applauded.

Lisa Wood
Ms. Wood is a partner with Foley Hoag, LLP, in Boston, Massachusetts. Her practice area is complex business litigation with an emphasis in securities fraud, accountants liability, and antitrust. Ms. Wood received this award for her work with the Boston Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) and the Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Committee. For more than 25 years, Ms. Wood has served on the board of the VLP and was its chair for three years. The VLP is a highly regarded pro bono program in Massachusetts and is a national model for pro bono representation. In the last calendar year alone, volunteers donated an estimated 19,835 hours, valued at more than $4 million. Ms. Wood has also been a member of the MA-IOLTA Committee and was elected its chair in 2006. Through her dedicated efforts, Ms. Wood navigated the committee through the worst crash of interest rates in IOLTA history. Ms. Wood is also the chair of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid & Indigent Defenders (SCLAID).

Ms. Wood’s commitment to these organizations and her tireless efforts ensure that there will always be advocates for the low-income and indigent client. Specifically, through her work with the IOLTA Committee, when the Massachusetts state courts adopted the rule allowing residuals of class-action lawsuits to be awarded to legal-services programs or the IOLTA Committee, Ms. Wood encouraged the federal courts to make the same award in federal cases. Ms. Wood also led the successful national response to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) board’s proposed final rule to drop full FDIC coverage for IOLTA accounts. This successful campaign established that IOLTA accounts are similar to transaction accounts and, as such, are entitled to full FDIC coverage.

Ms. Wood’s involvement with SCLAID has resulted in (1) advocacy for funding for the LSC; (2) establishment of state blue-ribbon access-to-justice commissions in more than 30 states; and (3) establishment of a new metric for assessing public-defender workloads, which has improved indigent defense systems. These are but a small number of the successful projects of SCLAID. In addition to her work with the above committees, Ms. Wood has donated her individual time to pro bono representations such as the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts, the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts, and the mentoring of associates on pro bono special-education matters. Ms. Wood was also the lead counsel on an amicus brief to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on the issue of  separation of church and state. Notably, the court of appeals overturned the district court’s dismissal of a complaint challenging the Cleveland school board’s practice of opening its meetings with prayer and, citing Ms. Wood’s arguments, held the practice unconstitutional. Ms. Wood is an excellent example of how we as members of the legal community can dedicate our time to pro bono and public-service activities, while maintaining a full-time practice. 

Keywords: litigation, access to justice, pro bono, litigation, John Minor Wisdom, Fifth Circuit, Martin Glick, Lisa Wood, California Legal Assistance, Boston Volunteer Lawyers Project

Leila Lawrence works in Trenton, New Jersey, in the area of equal employment opportunity.

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