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October 04, 2019

ABA diversity commission names five recipients for 2020 Spirit of Excellence Award

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2019 — The American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession has announced five recipients of its 2020 Spirit of Excellence Award for their commitment to racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession. The awards will be presented during a ceremony on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Austin, Texas.

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 field of law.

“One of the ABA’s preeminent goals is eliminating bias and enhancing diversity in the legal profession and in our justice system.  These five honorees have distinguished themselves in various spheres of the profession – academia, corporate America, private practice, public service and the judiciary,” said Helen Kim, chair of the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.  “Each one of them has fully embraced and championed diversity and inclusion and each of them has helped provide opportunities for others while distinguishing themselves in their own legal careers.” 

The 2020 award honorees are:

Patty Ferguson-Bohnee is director of the Indian Legal Clinic, faculty director of the Indian Legal Program and clinical professor of law at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. She has substantial experience in Indian law, election law and voting rights and status clarification for tribes. Ferguson-Bohnee has assisted in complex voting rights litigation on behalf of tribes, and has drafted amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court for tribal clients on voting rights issues. She successfully assisted four bayou tribes in obtaining recognition from the State of Louisiana. More recently, Ferguson-Bohnee has advocated for the rights of unrecognized tribes in response to environmental disasters.
Click here for a photo of Patty Ferguson-Bohnee.

Donise E. Brown is director-corporate counsel for Starbucks, where she is responsible for providing legal support for Starbucks corporate and retail real estate matters in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. She has served as co-chair of the Starbucks Law & Corporate Affairs Diversity Committee, is a Florida Bar Certified Diversity Trainer & Facilitator; a member of the executive committee of the National Bar Association’s Commercial Law Section; and is a member of the board of directors for Hope South Florida, a not-for-profit corporation that provides crisis and rapid re-housing assistance and support services to homeless families and veterans.
Click here for a photo of Donise Brown

Judge Lora Livingston sits on the bench of the Travis County Civil District Court in Austin. Judge Livingston was recognized in 2016 by the Austin Bar Association and the Austin Bar Foundation for her work in helping to bring diversity to the legal profession, presenting her with the inaugural Joseph C. Parker, Jr. Diversity Award named after the first African-American president of the Austin Bar Association.
Click here for a photo of Judge Lora Livingston.

Richard Pena is president and CEO of the Law Office of Richard Pena, P.C. in Austin. He represents injured workers, many on a pro bono basis. Pena was the first person of color to serve as president of the State Bar of Texas from 1998-99. He also served as president of the American Bar Foundation and was on the board of governors for the American Bar Association. He is a past president of the Austin Bar Association, former chair of the Texas Bar Foundation and former chair of the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation. Pena received the Distinguished Lawyer Award from the Austin Bar Association in 2007 and the Joseph C. Parker Jr. Diversity Award from the Austin Bar Foundation in 2018.
Click here for a photo of Richard Pena.

Donald K. Tamaki is managing partner of Minami Tamaki LLP in San Francisco. In 1976, he received a Reginald Heber Smith fellowship to practice poverty law in San Jose, and co-founded the Asian Law Alliance. From 1980-83, he was executive director of the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco and served on the legal team that reopened the 1944 U.S. Supreme Court case of Fred Korematsu, overturning his criminal conviction for defying the removal of almost 120,000 Japanese Americans. In 2017-18, he was on the legal team filing an amicus brief in Trump v. Hawaii for the children of Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui, reminding the court that in 1944 when it abdicated its role as a check on the executive branch, it was a civil liberties disaster.
Click here for a photo of Donald Tamaki.

The Spirit of Excellence Awards Luncheon will be held on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, from noon to 2 p.m. at the JW Marriott Austin, 110 E. 2nd Street. This event is open to members of the press. For media credentialing, please contact Robert Robinson at [email protected].

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. It 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.

The American Bar Association is the largest voluntary association of lawyers 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.