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December 10, 2021

Gerald (Jerry) Gardner, first indigenous person to receive ABA Robert F. Drinan Award

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2021 — The American Bar Association  Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice will honor Gerald (Jerry) Gardner, a California lawyer and civil rights and social justice advocate, with its Father Robert F. Drinan Award for Distinguished Service in an online presentation Feb. 3, 2022, at 3 p.m. ET during the ABA Midyear Meeting in Seattle.

Gardner is the first indigenous person to receive the  award,  which honors those who have strengthened the section’s mission to provide leadership to the legal profession by protecting and advancing human rights, civil liberties, and social justice.

Gardner has more than 40 years of experience advocating for and working with American Indian/Alaska Native Nations, tribal court systems, and victims of crime in Indian country. He has served as the executive director of the Tribal Law and Policy Institute since 1996. The institute is a Native American run nonprofit that is dedicated to providing free resources, training and technical assistance for Native nations, tribal justice systems and tribal victim services programs.

“Jerry passionately advocates for issues dear to us but does so in a way that unifies and doesn’t divide,” said Beth Whittenbury, chair of the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice. “He brings humor when we need it but is relentlessly ours as he seriously pursues our causes.”

Gardner has been actively involved with the ABA for nearly twenty years. He serves as special counsel to the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice since 2019 and is a member of the Judicial Division’s Tribal Courts Council. He also has worked closely over the years with the Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence. He has held various leadership positions, including serving as a council member for the section from 2005-2011. He co-chaired the section’s Native American Concerns Committee and from 2018-2020, he was the delegate to the ABA House of Delegates for the National Native American Bar Association.

His significant contributions to the development of ABA policies addressing Native American issues, supports ABA advocacy on American Indian and Alaska Native issues.

Gardner  worked as an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, UCLA School of Law, and Southwestern School of Law. He also served as the administrator for the National American Indian Court Judges Association,  an appellate court judge for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota and Poarch Creek Band in Alabama. He was also a senior staff attorney with the National Indian Justice Center (NIJC) from its inception in 1983 until 1996. Gardner also served as a professional staff member in 1978-79 at the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

He received his bachelors from Northwestern University and his J.D. from Antioch School of Law.

Click here for a photo of Gardner.

Media can register for the award presentation by contacting Betsy Adeboyejo at 202-662-1039 or [email protected].

The ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice provides leadership within the legal profession in protecting and advancing human rights, civil liberties and social justice. Representing over 10,000 members with a wide range of professional interests, the section keeps its members abreast of complex civil rights and civil liberties issues and ensures that the protection of individual rights remain a focus of legal and policy discussion.

The ABA 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.