From the President

From the President

Honoring Justice Marshall and His Inspiration for Pro Bono Service

By Robert J. Anello

AnelloThis year while we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Fed­eral Bar Foundation, and its com­mitment to the administration of justice and the study of law, the Federal Bar Council is planning the inaugural presentation of the Thurgood Marshall Award for Ex­ceptional Pro Bono Service. The award in Justice Marshall’s name is being established by the Federal Bar Council to encourage attor­neys and their firms to devote time to pro bono work. The award will recognize lawyers who have gone above and beyond in making an extraordinary contribution in the area of pro bono service. Named after perhaps the most inspiration­al of service-minded jurists, the Thurgood Marshall Award for Ex­ceptional Pro Bono Service distin­guishes those attorneys who per­sistently dedicate time to meet the needs of vulnerable communities, have a vision for creative ways in which to provide pro bono ser­vice, and inspire and mentor fel­low lawyers to volunteer their pro­fessional expertise to help others.

The Federal Bar Council did not act lightly in invoking Justice Marshall’s name for this purpose. Instead, we hoped to set this pro bono award apart from others be­stowed in our field by embracing the path blazed by the Supreme Court’s 96th justice, its first Afri­can-American justice, and one of the Second Circuit’s own. Justice Marshall had a close association with our organization. During his tenure on the nation’s high­est court, where he was the Cir­cuit Justice of the Second Circuit, Thurgood Marshall attended nu­merous Federal Bar Council Win­ter Bench and Bar Conferences.

The award in Justice Marshall’s name is being established by the Federal Bar Council to encourage attorneys and their firms to devote time to pro bono work.

Early Career

Thurgood Marshall spent his early career working for the public good as head of the Legal Defense and Education Fund of the NAACP. He held this posi­tion at a time when the NAACP was held in low regard by some. He earned a meager living and juggled hundreds of cases while traveling to areas of the country that did not welcome a black man advocating for civil rights. De­spite countless roadblocks that would discourage even the hearti­est among us, Thurgood Marshall deployed the Constitution to tear down the notion of “separate but equal,” amassing a near flawless record before the Supreme Court, including the landmark decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.

Working with other future federal judges Constance Baker Motley and Robert C. Carter, Justice Marshall used the legal system to dismantle government-sanctioned discrimination. The Supreme Court’s holding 60 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education declaring unconstitu­tional state laws that established separate public education for black and white students paved the way for integration. Just as this decision inspired and buoyed the civil rights movement, Justice Marshall’s efforts have inspired countless other attorneys to pub­lic service and pro bono work.

A Second Circuit Judge

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy named Thurgood Mar­shall to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Justice Marshall endured a year-long confirmation process during which his credentials and intel­lect were challenged by South­ern senators. Standing firm in the face of these attacks, Justice Marshall went on to serve as a Second Circuit Judge for four years, issuing more than 100 de­cisions – none of which ever was reversed by the Supreme Court. His colleague on the Second Cir­cuit, Judge Irving R. Kaufman, once stated that Marshall’s opin­ions “bore eloquent testimony to his concern for the dignity and inviolability of the individual.” (Charles L. Zelden, “Thurgood Marshall: Race, Rights, and the Struggle for a More Perfect Union,” Routledge (2013).)

On the Supreme Court

After later serving as the So­licitor General for two years under President Lyndon B. Johnson, dur­ing which time he won 14 of the 19 cases argued before the High Court, Thurgood Marshall was nominated in 1967 to serve on the

U.S. Supreme Court by President Johnson. During his tenure on the Court, Justice Marshall continued to advocate for those without a voice, insisting that the Constitu­tion be applied equally to all citi­zens regardless of race, gender, or socio-economic status. Birthed in the era of racial discrimination, Marshall’s sensitivity to and work on behalf of individual rights is unparalleled.

The FBC’s Marshall Award

With great pride the Federal Bar Council annually will pres­ent the Thurgood Marshall Award for Exceptional Pro Bono Service to recognize lawyers in private practice who demonstrate exem­plary commitment to pro bono legal services, and who provide or facilitate the provision of pro bono services in federal courts or agencies within the Second Circuit. We look forward to cel­ebrating and supporting the con­tinued service to those in need by lawyers practicing within the Second Circuit in the same vein championed by Justice Thurgood Marshall so many years ago.

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