ABA diversity commission to honor four recipients of Spirit of Excellence Award

The American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession has selected four recipients for its 2016 Spirit of Excellence Award for their commitment to racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession. The awards will be presented during a ceremony on Feb. 6, 2016, at the ABA Midyear Meeting in San Diego, Calif.

The Spirit of Excellence Award celebrates the efforts and accomplishments of lawyers who work to promote a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession. Awards are presented to lawyers who excel in their professional settings; who personify excellence on the national, state, or local level; and who have demonstrated a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession.

"One of the ABA's pre-eminent goals is eliminating bias and enhancing diversity in the association, the legal profession and the justice system. These four Spirit of Excellence Award recipients symbolize this goal as they have worked tirelessly and selflessly to provide opportunities for others while distinguishing themselves in the legal profession," Section Chair Will Gunn said.

The award luncheon ceremony will be held Feb. 6 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego.

The 2016 award recipients are:

- Hugo Chaviano has served as the director of the Illinois Department of Labor since March 2015. He previously served as a senior partner for Sanchez Daniels & Hoffman LLP in Chicago, where his practice focused on the representation of Fortune 500 companies, large financial institutions, and others in civil litigation on complex business and legal issues at the national and international levels. Chaviano has become a leader among Hispanic lawyers within the U.S. and across Latin America. He served as secretary general of the Inter-American Bar Association as well as president of the Hispanic National Bar Association and the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement. He has been named one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States by Hispanic Business Magazine. Chaviano has also been listed by various publications for the past several years as one of Illinois Super Lawyers and Chicago Top Rated Lawyers.

- Sarah Deer has been a professor of law at William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul, Minn., since 2008. Her scholarship focuses on the intersection of tribal law and victims' rights. She is a Justice for the Prairie Island Indian Community Court of Appeals and an appellate judge for the White Earth Nation Court of Appeals. Deer first worked to address violence against women beginning when she was an undergraduate in 1993. She volunteered as a rape crisis advocate while working toward her B.A. in Women's Studies and Philosophy from the University of Kansas. She later attended law school so that she could address the unique legal issues facing Native rape survivors, and received her J.D. with a Tribal Lawyer Certificate from the University of Kansas School of Law.

- JoAnne A. Epps has served as dean of Temple Law School since 2008 and a member of the faculty since 1985. She is the author and co-author of several books and articles on Evidence and Trial Advocacy. In March 2015, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter appointed Epps to chair a newly created Police Community Oversight Board. In July, the National Association of Women Lawyers presented her with the M. Ashley Dickerson Award for her work toward diversity in the legal profession. Last year, Epps was awarded the Justice Sonia Sotomayor Diversity Award by the Philadelphia Bar Association and in 2009 received the Association's Sandra Day O'Connor Award for her efforts to advance women in the profession and the community. A three-time honoree by Lawyers of Color Magazine as one of the 100 most influential Black Lawyers in the country, Epps was named by National Jurist Magazine in 2013 and 2014 as one of the 25 most influential people in legal education.

- Victor M. Marquez is principal at The Marquez Law Group in San Francisco. He is a former president of the Hispanic National Bar Association (2007-2008), the first openly gay person to lead the organization. He led the HNBA in developing the Public Interest Law Track and restarting the Voting Rights Section. In helping to diversify the legal profession, Marquez has a strong track record of working with the Asian Bar, the National Bar Association, the Hispanic Bar as well as the LGBT Bar. He serves as one of 13 commissioners on the American Bar Association Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Commission (SOGI) and served as co-lead on SOGI's inaugural LGBT Legislative Advocacy Day on the Hill last May. He has been recognized as One of the Most Influential San Francisco Bay Area Latinos by the S.F. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and One of the Most Influential Hispanics in America by Hispanic Business Magazine.

The mission of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession is to promote racial and ethnic diversity and inclusion within the legal profession. The commission serves as a catalyst for change, so that the profession may more accurately reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of society and better serve society. The commission promotes the recruitment, hiring, promotion and advancement of attorneys of color and works to ensure equal membership and employment opportunities for diverse lawyers in the ABA. The commission accomplishes all this through many initiatives, activities and programs, including the annual Spirit of Excellence Award.

Published: Tue, Oct 27, 2015

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