Year in Review

Meet 14 ABA members who inspired us in 2020

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Throughout the year, the ABA Journal profiles exceptional ABA members in its Members Who Inspire series. In 2020, we featured attorneys from across the country whose important and influential work includes using visual storytelling for legal advocacy, bringing attention to the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women, and combating racial injustice and inequity.

Assistant public defender: ‘I just personally like to give back’

LaToya Bell, an assistant public defender in Houston County in Georgia, handles as many as 200 to 250 cases involving misdemeanors and traffic offenses in state court. She also played a significant role in launching the first drug court in the county and establishing a wills clinic that prepares estate planning documents for local first responders and veterans.

Lawyer launches cafe that employs individuals with disabilities

Vinson & Elkins counsel Noelle Alix teamed up with longtime friend Kim Morrison in 2018 to open BeanZ & Co. and provide jobs to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Avon, Connecticut. Both Alix and Morrison have adult daughters with Down syndrome and watched them struggle to get job interviews and offers.

Robert Saunooke champions Native American issues in his career and in the ABA

As president of the National Native American Bar Association, Robert Saunooke rode his Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special motorcycle more than 70,000 miles, visiting at least 50 tribes and raising awareness on issues that affect indigenous people. “The stories of regular American people and Native tribes are amazing,” he says. “We have so much more in common than we allow ourselves to believe.”

Attorney uses photography and storytelling for legal empowerment

Seattle attorney and artist Deborah Espinosa created Living with Conviction: Sentenced to Debt for Life in Washington State, a series of recorded interviews and photographs that demonstrate how Washington’s court-imposed debt—and its interest rate—impact formerly incarcerated individuals’ efforts to successfully reenter society.

A love of dolphins sparked lawyer’s 30-year crusade to improve well-being of animals

James F. Gesualdi was only a year into his practice of law in 1989 when a trip to a dolphin sanctuary changed the course of his career—and his entire life. The Islip, New York, lawyer works closely with zoological associations and aquariums and tries to build consensus between all of the groups that have concerns about the well-being of animals.

Lawyer certified as emergency medical technician calls on his experience during COVID-19 crisis

Christopher Jennison is an employment and labor counsel with the Federal Aviation Administration, but spent countless hours in the spring helping the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad in Maryland respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. A longtime emergency medical technician, he also coordinated with local businesses to arrange lunch and dinner for his fellow frontline responders.

Men of Color Project co-chairs lead conversations on racial injustice

Jerome Crawford and Michael Luong Nguyen realized as co-chairs of the ABA’s Men of Color Project—an initiative within the Young Lawyers Division that aims to address the lack of diversity and advancement of men of color in the legal profession—that they could play an important role in the ongoing conversation about racial equality and police reform.

Two young Native American lawyers call for action on missing and murdered indigenous women

At the midyear meeting in February, Lauren van Schilfgaarde and Heather Torres introduced the ABA to the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women by sharing stories of those who suffered. Their stories resonated with the House of Delegates, which overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging federal, state, local, territorial and tribal governments to prioritize responding to the crisis.

First Black Oregon Supreme Court justice blazes a trail for lawyers—and students

“This is going to be a place where students know they are enough, and they can build from that and grow from that,” Oregon Supreme Court Justice Adrienne Nelson said at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Adrienne C. Nelson High School in Happy Valley, a suburb of Portland. The school honors Nelson, the first African American to sit on Oregon’s highest court or any of its appellate courts.

NAPABA president Bonnie Lee Wolf’s efforts against anti-Asian discrimination draw support of ABA, other groups

As COVID-19 spread across the country, Bonnie Lee Wolf noticed increasing incidents of discrimination against people of Asian descent. As president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, she asked leaders of other national bar associations to stand with her in a video denouncing racism and calling for unity. It was viewed nearly 13,000 times by mid-September.

Years of service: Mark Daniel Maloney reflects on journey with Rotary International

A series of events led Mark Daniel Maloney from the Midwest to the South, and then all around the world. The attorney, who grew up on a farm in Illinois and built his practice in Alabama, recently served as president of Rotary International, a global network of 1.2 million business and community leaders that focuses on key initiatives, including promoting peace, supporting education and fighting polio.

Laura Farber gives her all to both local and national causes like the Tournament of Roses

After more than 25 years of service, Laura Farber became the first Latina and third woman to serve as president of the Tournament of Roses. In addition to volunteering in her local community in California, she has been a longtime leader in the ABA and became co-chair of the Coordinating Group on Practice Forward to help meet members’ needs during the pandemic.

See also:

ABA Journal: “Meet 11 ABA members who inspired us in 2019”

Members Who Inspire is an ABA Journal series profiling exceptional ABA members. If you know members who do unique and important work, you can nominate them for this series by emailing [email protected].

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