ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division announces awards

The American Bar Association Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division has chosen three recipients to receive its 2016 Dorsey, Hodson and Nelson Awards.  The annual awards are for outstanding work in the government and public sector.

The awards will be presented at the General E. E. Anderson Awards Reception on Friday, Aug. 5, from 3:30 - 5 p.m. at the Westin St. Francis during the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

The Dorsey Award honors an outstanding public defender or legal aid lawyer. The Hodson Award recognizes an outstanding government or public sector law office. The Nelson Award recognizes the outstanding contributions to the ABA by an individual government or public sector lawyer.

Joan M. Burke, GPSLD chair, says of this year’s winners: ““There is no higher calling than public service. We are so pleased to recognize members in the legal community who are stellar examples of this great commitment to public service.”

The 2016 Dorsey Award recipient:

Kevin D. O’Connell is the legal director of New York County Defender Services. Upon graduating from Boston University School of Law, O’Connell accepted a position with the Legal Aid Society of New York’s Criminal Defense Division. After only two years, he was promoted to the Major Offense Bureau of the Brooklyn Office, the youngest ever to achieve that distinction. In 1997, he helped to found a new office in Manhattan, the New York County Defender Services and since that time he has served as its legal director. During his tenure, O’Connell has taught hundreds of public defenders how to analyze the strengths of a case, negotiate with prosecutors and hone trial skills.  However, he always gives special emphasis to teaching young lawyers how to litigate ethically and with an abiding compassion for indigent clients. Long before “holistic defense” entered the legal lexicon, O’Connell was practicing and teaching the tenets of that approach.

The 2016 Hodson Award recipient:

United States Agency for International Development, Office of the General Counsel (USAID – GC.) USAID-GC plays a key role in providing urgently needed humanitarian assistance in Syria and Iraq by ensuring that it reaches the intended beneficiaries. Providing guidance on legal issues related to terrorist financing sanctions is a vital element of the process. USAID-GC lawyers also stepped to the forefront of the Ebola crisis to implement innovative solutions, such as a presidential memorandum to invoke a rarely used legal authority to indemnify contractors for certain Ebola-related contract damages and claims. This extraordinary step facilitated the work of contractors who toiled in the dangerous and uncertain conditions of the affected West African countries. In addition, USAID-GC, has been a key legal advisor to the Power Africa Presidential Initiative. Due to their efforts working to leverage private sector investment and develop partnerships with other U.S. agencies and foreign governments, access to electricity in Africa has improved significantly.

The 2016 Nelson Award recipient:

Judge Edwin L. Felter, Jr. began his service to the ABA in 1995 by serving on the Executive Committee of the National Conference of the Administrative Law Judiciary. A devoted ABA member, he has contributed hundreds of volunteer hours to ensure that the law is applied ethically and fairly. Felter gave his time and talents generously to the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division .He served as a leader on its governing council from 2002-14.  Active in other ABA entities, Felter previously chaired the ABA’s National Conference of the Administrative Law Judiciary. He guided the passage of resolution 101B, supporting judicial independence and accountability, through the ABA House of Delegates. Another notable achievement was his work with the leadership of the Judicial Division and others to achieve consensus on modifications to the Judicial Disqualification Proposal of the Standing Committee on Judicial Independence.

The GPSLD’s National Awards are designed to recognize the extraordinary achievements of government lawyers and to inform the general public about the outstanding work performed and the positive impact made by our nation’s public lawyers. Winners are selected on the basis of their professional accomplishments and their role in ensuring access to justice.

The 14,220 member ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division provides programs, publications, and online resources specifically designed for government, public sector and military lawyers, as well as interested law students.


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