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FDIC Wins Federal Agency Pro Bono Leadership Award

By Rebecca Troth

November 6, 2019

John C Cruden Pro Bono Award
Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (third from left) and Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (third from right) with FDIC attorneys (from left to right) Gina Stuart, Ben Krowicki, Josephine Bahn, Nick Kazmerski, and Harrel Pettway.  

On October 30 the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) received the 2019 John C. Cruden Federal Agency Pro Bono Leadership Award for its innovative and successful approaches to promoting pro bono work. Cruden, president of the D.C. Bar from 2005 to 2006, played a pivotal role in expanding the Federal Government Pro Bono Program during his term. 

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Chief Judge Beryl Howell presented the award during the Federal Government Pro Bono Recognition Ceremony at the U.S. Courthouse. 

The FDIC has been a long-time champion of pro bono efforts — for example, FDIC personnel have staffed the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Advice & Referral Clinic four times each year for over a decade — but in the past few years, the agency, under the leadership of Rich Foley, has promoted pro bono creatively and effectively in-house. 

In May, the agency’s Legal Division Conference, attended by FDIC attorneys from all over the country, included a panel presentation devoted to pro bono. The FDIC added a pro bono session to its Honors Attorney Program orientation and hosted pro bono open houses during Pro Bono Week. The agency also regularly features pro bono in its legal division and agency-wide newsletters. 

As a significant sign of agency support, the FDIC general counsel approved the use of training funds for pro bono training, recognizing how the agency benefits from the legal skills developed through pro bono training and service. This year, the agency also created regional office pro bono coordinators, making volunteer opportunities increasingly available and accessible to FDIC attorneys around the country. 

Building on its in-house efforts, the FDIC has been a significant contributor to the Federal Government Pro Bono Program. The agency recently hosted both a domestic violence legal training and an interagency pro bono meeting, and it supported other agencies developing their own pro bono programs. 

In addition to Chief Judge Howell, speakers at the award ceremony included Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Judge Christopher Cooper of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who is the liaison to the D.C. Circuit Judicial Conference Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services. All expressed the courts’ deep appreciation of federal government attorneys’ pro bono service. 

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Laura F. Klein, chair of the Federal Government Pro Bono Program, also spoke about the enormous pro bono contributions of federal government lawyers. She expressed her hope that those agencies that have been less involved with the Federal Government Pro Bono Program will consider changes to agency policies that have inhibited attorneys’ efforts to volunteer.