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.