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ABA selects awards for outstanding work in the government and public sector

The American Bar Association has announced the recipients of its awards recognizing exemplary work in government and public sector law. 

“These honorees represent public service at its finest,” said Judge Susan N. Burke, chair of the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division, which presents the three awards. “Public lawyers across the country work hard to improve people’s lives and represent the needy. We are pleased to highlight their outstanding achievements.”

This year’s recipient of the Dorsey Award, which honors an outstanding public defender or legal aid lawyer, is LaToya Bell, an assistant public defender for Houston County, Ga. Bell played a major role in implementing a new drug court in the 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 did not have reliable transportation.

The Hodson Award, recognizing an exceptional government or public sector law office, is going this year to the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office. Staff in this office worked to prevent federal funding cuts to sanctuary jurisdictions, including providing critical assistance to address the region’s housing crisis, and authored amicus briefs in support of litigation nationwide to protect immigrants. 

The recipient of the Nelson Award, which recognizes the superior, sustained contributions to the ABA by an individual government or public sector lawyer, is  James M. Durant III, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He is the chief counsel for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Durant has worked for more than 27 years 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. 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 awards will be presented at the General E.E. Anderson Awards Reception on Aug. 9 during the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

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