Highlights From the 2018 Celebration of Leadership

By Jeffery Leon

June 14, 2018

Esther H. Lim being sworn in as the D.C. Bar's 47th President
Photo Credit: Patrice Gilbert

The Washington legal community came together on June 12 for the 2018 Celebration of Leadership: The D.C. Bar Awards Dinner and Annual Meeting at the Mayflower Hotel, where Esther H. Lim, 47th president of the D.C. Bar, received the ceremonial gavel of leadership from her predecessor, Patrick McGlone. Below are some of the evening’s highlights.

Presidents’ Reception
Hosted by past presidents of the D.C. Bar, the annual reception takes place before the Celebration of Leadership and is held to welcome the Bar’s incoming president and to raise funds in support of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center. Money raised from the reception provides for nearly one-third of the Pro Bono Center’s budget.

The reception opened with welcome remarks from Pro Bono Center Pro Bono Committee chair Amy Bess, who highlighted the Center’s 40th anniversary.

Supported entirely by voluntary contributions, the Pro Bono Center is the largest provider of pro bono legal services in the District of Columbia. In 2017 the Pro Bono Center served over 17,000 individuals, including nearly 6,000 pro se litigants at D.C. Superior Court.

This year’s reception raised $1,067,000 in contributions, the largest in the Pro Bono Center’s history.

Pro Bono Awards
D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center Executive Director Rebecca Troth announced Jones Day as the 2018 Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year for dedicating 10.5 percent of its billable hours in the past year to pro bono work. Jones Day was the first firm to staff the Pro Bono Center’s Advice & Referral Clinic, and continues to staff it 20 years later, and has staffed the Landlord Tenant Resource Center for over a decade.

Troth also announced the two recipients of the Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year award: Rosa J. Evergreen of Arnold & Porter LLP and Stanley E. Woodward Jr. of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.

Evergreen was honored for her dedication to pro bono service throughout her career, being a regular volunteer at the Landlord Tenant Resource Center. In 2017 she helped residents of a property run by a notorious slumlord to receive compensation and a guarantee of safe and stable housing.

Woodward has dedicated nearly 2,500 hours toward pro bono service since 2010, focusing on housing rights. Last year, he led teams of more than 68 lawyers and staff from Akin Gump in helping tenants stay in their homes and addressing housing code violations.

Outstanding Individuals and Projects
Following the Presidents’ Reception, attendees gathered for the annual dinner and the presentation of the Bar’s awards.
  • Community of the Year (tie): District of Columbia Affairs Community and Law Practice Management Community
  • Voluntary Bar of the Year: Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia
  • Frederick B. Abramson Award: D.C. Bar Global Legal Practice Task Force


The Bar also presented its prestigious Justice Thurgood Marshall Award to Angela J. Davis, a professor of criminal law at American University Washington College of Law, and its Beatrice Rosenberg Award for Excellence in Government Service to John A. Casciotti, senior associate deputy general counsel for personnel and health policy at the U.S. Department of Defense.

Davis was honored for her commitment toward pursuing equal justice for all and fighting against abuse of prosecutorial power.

“We are in difficult times; our criminal justice system is broken is so many ways,” Davis said in her remarks. “But I have hope in the people who are out here doing great work to reform the system. Keep doing the work, keep fighting. We can work together to create a criminal justice system that is fair and just for everyone.”

At the Department of Defense, Casciotti has contributed significantly to a vital new regulatory framework for approving advancements in battlefield medicine and responses to chemical and biological attacks. He also has been instrumental in reforming health care policy for wounded soldiers and veterans.

“For a lot of us that were children of the ’60s, two seeds were planted: the importance of public service and doing it in service of the rule of law,” Cascioitti said after accepting the award. “And for me, those two seeds have sprung into a career that has been like hitting the daily double.”

Esther Lim Is Sworn in as President
Joined by her daughters Hana and Nora, Esther H. Lim, a partner at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP, was installed as the 47th of the D.C. Bar. D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby delivered the oath of office to Lim.

In a stirring introduction, Legal Services Corporation (LSC) president James Sandman traced Lim’s life story, from her family’s arrival in America in the early 1980s to meeting a caring teacher who taught her and her family English, to a later chance encounter with an attorney that helped launch Lim’s legal career at Finnegan.

In her remarks, Lim said she will work to create a special D.C. Bar task force to explore increasing pro bono and community service participation. As her first presidential action, Lim selected LSC general counsel and former D.C. Bar president Ronald Flagg as chair of the task force.

Lim also vowed to work toward providing more mentoring opportunities at the Bar, particularly for first-generation attorneys who do not have access to mentors.

“Tonight, as we celebrate the leadership of our Bar, let us reaffirm our commitment to equal access to the law and equal justice under law,” Lim said.