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July 10, 2023 Government and Public Sector Lawyers

ABA honors 2023 public service award recipients

Developing alternatives to prosecution, creating a mobile legal services program to better reach survivors of natural disasters and a commitment to improving the legal profession are some of the accomplishments recognized by the American Bar Association Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division through its 2023 awards.

The ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division will honor several member leaders with awards during the 2023 ABA Annual Meeting in Denver.

The ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division will honor several member leaders with awards during the 2023 ABA Annual Meeting in Denver.

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The awards will be presented at the Grand Hyatt Denver on Friday, Aug. 4, during the ABA Annual Meeting in Denver. Winners are selected on the basis of their professional accomplishments and their role in ensuring access to justice.

The Dorsey Award, which honors an outstanding public defender or legal aid lawyer, will go to Lisa Schreibersdorf, the founder and executive director of Brooklyn Defender Services. She has worked throughout her career to develop alternatives to prosecution; address racial inequities in the legal system; and advocate for reforms in bail, discovery and sentencing. Schreibersdorf established a walk-in community office to provide information and referrals, advice and counsel and know-your-rights workshops. During COVID, she created a Client Essentials Program to provide clients with items such as food, cell phones and warm clothing. Most recently, Schreibersdorf has fought for increased funding for public defenders.

The Hodson Award, which recognizes an exceptional government or public sector law office, will go to Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. The organization created several programs to serve its clients more effectively. The Disaster Legal Services Unit provides mobile legal assistance to survivors of natural disasters, the Home Preservation Project addresses eviction and rental assistance and the Pro Se Assistance Program helps those who do not have legal representation. LANWT also created multiple medical/legal partnerships that embed lawyers in health care settings. When issues such as illegal eviction are detected by clinical staff, patients are referred directly for legal services.

The Nelson Award, which recognizes superior, sustained contributions to the ABA by an individual public lawyer, will go to ABA President-elect Mary Smith, the first Native American woman to serve at the highest level of the association’s leadership. She is an independent board member and former head of the Indian Health Service, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Previously she served on the senior team of the Civil Division at the U.S. Department of Justice and was general counsel at the Illinois Department of Insurance. Earlier in her career, Smith served in the White House as associate counsel to the president and associate director of policy planning. She was secretary of the ABA from 2018-20 and served on the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. She has held leadership positions in both the Section of Litigation and the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice. Smith is a member of the House of Delegates and also served as an ABA representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

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