October 17, 2014

U.S. official Kevin Washburn to receive ABA diversity commission 2015 Spirit of Excellence Award

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2014 — The American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession will honor Kevin Washburn, an assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., with its 2015 Spirit of Excellence Award for his commitment to racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession. The award will be presented during a ceremony on Feb. 7, 2015, at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Houston.

The Spirit of Excellence Award celebrates the efforts and accomplishments of lawyers who work to promote a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession. Awards are presented to lawyers who excel in their professional settings; who personify excellence on the national, state, or local level; and who have demonstrated a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession.

“Kevin Washburn has served America and our legal profession with the highest integrity and professionalism,” said F. John Garza, chair of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. “He began as a federal law clerk, served as a federal prosecutor, educated the next generation of attorneys as an author, law professor and dean, and now serves as the 12th Assistant Secretary — Indian Affairs for the U.S. Department of the Interior.  His contributions to full diversity and inclusion are as many as his professional accomplishments.  It is with the greatest of pride that we honor Kevin Washburn.”

Washburn has been the assistant secretary of Indian Affairs since 2012, when he was nominated by President Barack Obama and won unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Prior to joining the administration, he was the dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law from June 2009 to October 2012. He entered academia in 2002, earned tenure at the University of Minnesota in 2006, and served as the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School in 2007-08.  He served as the Rosenstiel Distinguished Professor at the University of Arizona in 2008-09. Prior to academia, Washburn had a career in the federal public service, beginning as a judicial law clerk for the Hon. William C. Canby, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Phoenix, a trial attorney in the Attorney General’s Honors Program at the U.S. Department of Justice, in the Indian Resources Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division. He also served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Albuquerque, N.M. At the end of the Clinton Administration, he was the general counsel for the National Indian Gaming Commission. Washburn is a member of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, grew up in Oklahoma and earned a B.A. in Economics with honors from the University of Oklahoma (1989).  He received a J.D. from Yale Law School (1993), where he served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Journal on Regulation. Mr. Washburn was elected to the American Law Institute in 2007, and is a member of the state bars of Minnesota and New Mexico.

A photo of Washburn is available for download here.


The mission of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession is to promote racial and ethnic diversity and inclusion within the legal profession. The commission serves as a catalyst for change, so that the profession may more accurately reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of society and better serve society. The commission promotes the recruitment, hiring, promotion and advancement of attorneys of color and works to ensure equal membership and employment opportunities for diverse lawyers in the ABA. The commission accomplishes all this through many initiatives, activities and programs, including the annual Spirit of Excellence Award.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at www.ambar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.