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June 10, 2020

ABA honors 2020 recipients for government and public sector service

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2020 — The American Bar Association Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division (GPSLD) has chosen the recipients of its 2020 Dorsey, Hodson and Nelson Awards.  The annual awards are for outstanding work in the government and public sector.

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.

“During this challenging time, it’s important to honor public lawyers,” said Sharon Pandak, chair of the ABA’s Government & Public Sector Lawyers Division. “Government attorneys, who work so hard to provide legal services to those in need, not only assist vulnerable individuals but their work promotes access to and confidence in our justice system. Public lawyers’ legal guidance to elected officials promotes the safety of our communities and, critically, ensures that our governments continue to function.”  

The 2020 Dorsey Award recipient

Casey N. Payton is the supervising attorney for Legal Services of The Virgin Islands, Inc. After Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Payton led the mammoth effort to administer the disaster legal services program in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This involved mobilizing dozens of attorney volunteers to provide pro bono civil legal services to disaster survivors; serving as the central point of contact between the ABA, the Virgin Islands Bar, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross and other stakeholders; establishing a disaster legal services hotline; and conducting extensive public outreach. 

The 2020 Hodson Award recipient

The Toledo Legal Aid Society (TLAS) is a vital partner in the criminal justice reform process and has assisted in shaping and developing strategies to improve outcomes for both individuals and the community. TLAS identified incarcerated felony defendants with underlying needs (mental health, housing, and/or substance abuse) and connected them with services to increase the chance for bond modification and more favorable case outcomes; created an expedited case resolution program resulting in approximate savings of 26,000 bed days; and assisted in the development of a program that interrupts the cycle of incarceration utilizing concepts of procedural fairness.

The 2020 Nelson Award recipient

The late Lt. Col. Gary Anderson (U.S. Army Ret.) devoted literally hundreds of volunteer hours to the ABA. Serving in leadership positions in numerous ABA entities, he contributed his talents and expertise to advancing the legal profession. An example of his leadership occurred when, at the request of the ABA Board of Governors, Anderson created and served as chair of the ABA’s Military Lawyers Coordinating Committee that brought all ABA military lawyer related entities together to collaborate on services and resources for military lawyers. Anderson generously gave his time and effort, not for personal gain or recognition, but because he had the honest desire to ensure that the ABA provided outstanding benefits and resources for public sector lawyers. He worked especially hard to ensure that military lawyers were well represented and that their voice was heard within the ABA.  

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

The 6,460 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.

The ABA is 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.