Turner among 2023 Spirit of Excellence Award honorees

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Reginald M. Turner and Chief Judge Roger Gregory of the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals are among four honorees announced Tuesday as recipients of the 2023 Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.

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

The 2023 awards will be presented during a ceremony Feb. 4 at the ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans.

“On behalf of the commission, it is a great honor to announce our 2023 Spirit of Excellence honorees,” Commission Chair Michelle Behnke said. “These outstanding individuals are an inspiration to all and show that we can all make a difference. The awards ceremony should be spirited, as this will be our first in-person luncheon in two years.  We have an exciting program planned, featuring this year’s award recipients as well as the 2021 and 2022 recipients.”

The 2023 award recipients are:

• Reginald M. Turner is immediate past president of the ABA, serving from 2021 to 2022. He is a lawyer with Clark Hill in Detroit, where he is an accomplished litigator, government affairs advocate and strategic adviser. Turner is also past president of the National Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan. He is former chair of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, where he developed policies and procedures that enhanced the commission and its work.

• Goodwin H. Liu joined the California Supreme Court in 2011, appointed by Governor Jerry Brown and retained by voters in 2014. Before joining the court, Liu was a professor and associate dean at the University of California Berkeley School of Law. He is the son of Taiwanese immigrants, grew up in Sacramento, California, is a Rhodes Scholar and helped launch the AmeriCorps national service program. He teaches constitutional law as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. 

• Roger Gregory was the first Black judge on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. He was nominated to the court by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and President George W. Bush in 2001, and has served as chief judge since 2016. Gregory has worked with the ABA Appellate Judges Education Institute on Diversity and Inclusion and the National Judicial College to help diversify the judiciary and the legal profession. Before joining the appeals court, Gregory worked for law firms in Richmond, Virginia.

• Diandra Benally is the first female general counsel of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, a former special assistant U.S. attorney and former staff attorney with the Navajo Nation Department of Justice. She has led the National Native American Bar Association Foundation, the Native American Bar Association of Arizona and the Navajo Nation Bar Association. To increase the number of Native American students in colleges and law schools, she helped start a mentoring program and personally mentors students herself.

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 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 this through many initiatives, activities and programs, including the annual Spirit of Excellence Award.  


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