Contact: Kerri Axelrod
Washington, DC—The American Association for Justice (AAJ) gathered in Philadelphia, PA, the birthplace of America, last week to recognize extraordinary contributions to the civil justice system. The five-day convention culminated with an awards ceremony to honor individuals who have worked to protect the constitutional right of all Americans to a trial by jury.
The Steven J. Sharp Public Service Award is presented annually to those attorneys and clients whose cases tell the story of the American civil justice and help educate policy makers and the public about the importance of consumers’ rights. This year, attorneys Jeff Anderson, a partner at Jeff Anderson & Associates, P.A. in St. Paul, MN and Ray Boucher, a partner at Kiesel, Boucher & Larson LLP in Los Angeles, CA were recognized along with their client Manny Vega.
As a victim of sexual abuse at the hand of a clergyman, Manny Vega sought the legal counsel of Jeff Anderson and Ray Boucher, two extraordinary attorneys who have led the fight to protect survivors of sexual abuse. When Manny came forward, he was 35 years old, and the statute of limitations prevented him from seeking justice for his specific case. However, Manny spoke out and continued to work with other altar boys who had been abused to show lawmakers how legislation to limit access to the courts deprived people like him of justice. Manny successful lobbied the California Legislature to pass a law that lifted the statute of limitations in molestation lawsuits for one year. Manny’s courage along with tenacity of Jeff and Ray have transformed a system that allowed victims of sex abuse to go without justice and helped thousands of other survivors have access to the courts.
The inaugural Pro Bono Award recognized Andrew J. Maloney, a partner at Kreindler & Kreindler in New York, NY. Maloney recently won a five-year fight with the U.S. Department of Justice to have volunteer fireman and emergency medical technician (EMT) Glenn Winuk, who died in the World Trade Center attacks, rightly acknowledged as a rescue worker under the Federal Safety Officer's Benefits Act.
A long-time volunteer fireman and EMT in Long Island, on September 11, 2001, Glenn was a partner in the Holland & Knight law firm, two blocks away from the World Trade Center. When the attacks occurred, Glenn ran toward the World Trade Center, produced his Jericho Fire Dept. credentials and entered the South Tower. Sadly, Glenn was killed when the Tower collapsed and his body was found several months later with a stethoscope on, surgical gloves and a paramedic bag by his side. The Department of Justice refused to recognize that Glenn was a rescue worker because his Jericho volunteer status had changed from 19 years of active membership to an associate member shortly before September 11. Maloney worked to have Glenn recognized as a rescue worker so that Glenn would be eligible to receive the Medal of Valor and his family could recover the payment due to police officers, firefighters, and other government workers killed in the line of duty.
Additional Award Recipients
Harry Philo Award
Jim Kitchens, a partner at Kitchens and Ellis in Jackson, MS, was awarded the Harry Philo Award in recognition for his outstanding contribution to the safety and protection of American consumers during a legal career that spans four decades.
AAJ Hall of Fame
The 2008 inductees into the AAJ Hall of Fame are Bill Colson and Walter Niblock. Bill Colson founder of Colson Hicks Eidson law firm in Coral Gables, FL and Walter Niblock of The Niblock Law Firm in Fayetteville, AR, are both receiving the award posthumously. The Hall of Fame honor is given in recognition of outstanding integrity, upstanding character, and dedication to AAJ and to the overall public welfare of all Americans.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Fred Baron of Baron and Blue in Dallas, TX received the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of nearly 40 years of unwavering dedication to the practice and principles of law and the American civil justice system, and public service at the highest level. As a prominent attorney representing victims of exposure to hazardous substances, Fred has made an indelible mark in the civil justice arena and for trial lawyers in the political arena.
AAJ Distinguished Service Award
Mary Alice McLarty president at The McLarty Firm, P.C. in Dallas, TX, Don Beskind a partner at Twiggs, Beskind, Strickland & Rabenau, P.A in Raleigh, NC, Rhonda Hill Wilson of Rhonda Hill Wilson, P.C. in Philadelphia, PA, and Larry Tawwater of The Tawwater Law Firm, P.L.L.C. in Oklahoma, OK were honored with AAJ Distinguished Service Awards. These four distinguished attorneys were honored for their public education and political outreach efforts.
Leonard M. Ring Champion of Justice Award
Tireless advocate for justice, Linda Miller Atkinson, a partner at Atkinson Petruska Kozma & Hart in Northwoods, MI received the Leonard M. Ring Champion of Justice Award. A person whose life and career epitomizes a true champion of justice, Linda was honored for her lifelong devotion to human and civil rights.
The David S. Shrager President’s Award
The David S. Shrager President’s Award was given to Howard Twiggs a partner at Twiggs, Beskind, Strickland & Rabenau, P.A. in Raleigh, NC. Howard was recognized for his stewardship on behalf of the injured, disabled, and mentally ill in the North Carolina House of Representatives and for his dedication to representing injury victims for nearly 30 years.