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August 08, 2019

ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division announces 2019 award recipients

WASHINGTON, August 8, 2019 — The American Bar Association Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division (GPSLD) has chosen the recipients of its 2019 Dorsey, Hodson and Nelson Awards.  The annual awards are for outstanding work in the government and public sector.

The awards will be presented at the General E. E. Anderson Awards Reception, which is sponsored by Thomson Reuters, on Friday, Aug. 9, from 3:30 – 5p.m. at the Marriott Marquis (Foothill F Room) during the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

The Dorsey Award honors an outstanding public defender or legal aid lawyer. The Hodson Award recognizes an exceptional government or public sector law office. The Nelson Award recognizes the superior, sustained contributions to the ABA by an individual government or public sector lawyer.

Judge Susan N. Burke, GPSLD chair, says of this year’s winners: “These honorees represent public service at its finest. Public lawyers across the country work hard to improve people’s lives and represent the needy. We are pleased to highlight their outstanding achievements.”

The 2019 Dorsey Award recipient:

LaToya Bell is an assistant public defender for Houston County, Ga. Bell works tirelessly for those in need, both inside and outside of the courtroom. She played a major role in the implementation of the Drug Court in Houston County through the Department of Community Supervision. In support of the Drug Court, she secured a partnership with Walmart to provide backpacks and bikes for program participants who were without reliable transportation. Bell provides pro bono assistance at the Second Chance Record Restriction Clinic, helping convicted individuals seeking jobs to expunge their criminal records. She is also a volunteer and avid supporter of the First Responder Wills Clinics that provide free simple wills to EMS personnel, firefighters and police officers.

The 2019 Hodson Award recipient:

The Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office works to prevent federal funding cuts to sanctuary jurisdictions. The office also provided critical assistance to address the region's housing crisis; challenged the repeal of federal net neutrality protections and efforts to undermine the 2020 census; successfully litigated cases to protect consumers and residents; and authored amicus briefs in support of litigation nationwide to protect immigrants, access to healthcare, and local policymaking discretion.

The 2019 Nelson Award recipient:

James M. Durant III, SES, Colonel, USAF (Ret.) is the chief counsel, Office of Science for the U.S. Department of Energy in Chicago. For over 27 years, Durant has devoted exceptional energy, talent and time to advance the mission of the ABA. As chair of the Standing Committee on Armed Forces Law, he created the Outstanding Career Award for senior military judge advocates; while serving on the YLD Diversity committee, he co-created the Diversity Scholars Program for the Young Lawyers Division; as chair of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division, he developed online resource sites for solo practitioners and military lawyers. Durant has served three terms in the ABA House of Delegates and will become a member of the ABA Board of Governors in August.

The GPSLD’s National Awards are designed to recognize the extraordinary achievements of government lawyers and to inform the public about the outstanding work performed and the positive impact made by our nation’s public lawyers. Winners are selected based on their professional accomplishments and their role in ensuring access to justice.

“Thomson Reuters is proud to support the GPSLD’s National Awards and the accomplishments of its recipients,” said Sharon Sayles-Belton, vice president and Government Partnerships & Alliances lead at Thomson Reuters. “They represent the best of the government and public sector legal communities and the on-going efforts by so many to improve the legal profession and the lives of others.”

The 8,200 member ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division provides programs, publications, and online resources specifically designed for government, public sector and military lawyers, as well as interested law students.

With more than 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 and on Twitter @ABANews