Four lawyers with varied practices and a Seattle-based law firm are this year’s honorees for the American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, which annually recognizes individuals and entities for demonstrating outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services for low-income and disadvantaged persons.
The awards, which began in 1984, represent the top honor given by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. They will be presented at an evening reception on Aug. 4 during the 2023 ABA Annual Meeting, which will run from Aug. 2-8 in Denver.
The four attorneys are:
- Charles B. (Charlie) Phillips of Salem, Virginia. Phillips retired from his law practice in June 2018 at the age of 80, and he has continued providing services with pro bono emeritus status in the Roanoke office of Blue Ridge Legal Services. His colleagues say during this time Phillips has single-handedly “flung open the doors of the courthouse for his over 1,500 low-income clients.”
- Karen R. King of New York. A partner at Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC, King was lauded for her longtime pro bono work, most recently for the Asian American Bar Association of New York to address anti-Asian hate and violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, and her work with Sanctuary for Families to assist survivors of gender-based violence.
- David Cross of Washington, D.C. Chair of the Antitrust Litigation Practice at Morrison Foerster, Cross maintains a robust pro bono practice focused on protecting civil rights and dedicates significant time to his mission of bringing much-needed attention to the struggles and social stigma associated with individuals with disabilities in the high-pressure world of the legal profession.
- Ned Pillersdorf of Prestonsburg, Kentucky. Pillersdorf helped recruit a network to represent former clients of a lawyer who perpetuated a disability fraud leading to more than 2,000 hearings and 250 federal court cases. As a result of these volunteer efforts, the Social Security Administration’s mass hearings were declared unconstitutional and hundreds had benefits reinstated.
The law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, which is based in Seattle, was recognized for its innovative approach to pro bono practice and its extensive work reimagining pro bono partnerships with in-house legal departments. The firm has helped over 120 in-house legal departments either engage in pro bono work or launch their own in-house pro bono programs, and it also developed a first-of-its-kind digital platform to assist.