Benitez Sworn In as President at Annual Awards Dinner

June 18, 2014

43rd D.C. Bar President Brigida Benitez is sworn in by Chief Judge Eric WashingtonOn June 17 Brigida Benitez, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, was sworn in as the 43rd president of the D.C. Bar during its 2014 Celebration of Leadership. The evening’s events also included the presentation of awards to distinguished individuals and programs in the legal community.

In her opening remarks as president, Benitez stated the theme for her presidential term. “The D.C. Bar’s core mission is to enhance access to justice, improve the legal system, and empower lawyers to achieve excellence,” Benitez said. “So my theme for the coming year is ‘commitment to service.’”

Benitez plans to continue to promote the Bar’s service to the community through its support for pro bono services and access to justice and to implement a strategic planning process for the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program. In addition, she will encourage mentors and role models for young lawyers to aid in the development of future leaders. Benitez also pledged her support for the John Payton Leadership Academy, reflecting on the impact that Payton, a former Bar president, had on her as a mentor and friend. Benitez also will revisit the Bar’s strategic plan to review the Bar’s progress after its first strategic plan was implemented five years ago.

The evening also featured the presentation of the Bar’s annual awards recognizing individuals for their excellence in and commitment to the legal community. U.S. Air Force Colonel Tonya Hagmaier was presented the 2014 Beatrice Rosenberg Award for Excellence in Government Service. Hagmaier has been on active duty since 1986 and has dedicated a significant amount of her time and energy to public service, serving as a mentor and example to many of the personnel she supervises.

During her remarks after receiving the Rosenberg Award, Hagmaier shared that she has benefitted from her work with the Bar and its members for over 25 years. She also expressed her gratitude for the opportunity she has had in serving her country while working with many dedicated men and women. “Beatrice Rosenberg established the art of service,” Hagmaier said. “For me to have been selected for an award that honors her is beyond anything I could have imagined.”

Brooksley Born, a retired partner of Arnold & Porter LLP, was presented with the Justice Thurgood Marshall Award for her excellence and achievement in, as well as commitment to, the fields of civil rights and individual liberties. Throughout her career, Born has worked to open the legal profession to women and to encourage their participation and involvement in the leadership of the profession.

“Looking back over a career of 50 years in the legal profession, the work that’s been the most rewarding to me has been my pro bono and public service [work],” Born said. “During my career, the efforts of lawyers have contributed so significantly to social justice, to the civil rights movement, to the expansion of women’s rights and opportunities, to the rights of the LGBT community, to equal rights for the poor or the disabled, and many other disadvantaged groups.”

Born also acknowledged her concern over the rising inequality in income and wealth in the United States and called on her colleagues and members of the legal profession to consider and combat growing inequality, which she called a “growing threat to equal opportunity and equal treatment.”

The Bar also presented awards to D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson and V. David Zvenyach, the Council’s general counsel, for the Exceptional Service Award; to the D.C. Bar Antitrust and Consumer Law Section for Section of the Year; to Kurt Jacobs of Sidley Austin LLP and Allen Snyder of the Children’s Law Center as Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyers of the Year; to Arnold & Porter LLP for Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year; to the D.C. Bar Legal Ethics Committee and the Family-Based Immigration Law Book Project for Bar Projects of the Year; and to the Limited Scope Working Group for the Frederick B. Abramson Award.