WLC’s Smith Garners 2017 Brennan Award

By Tracy Schorn

April 6, 2017

Jonathan Smith, Photo courtesy of Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs The D.C. Bar has named Jonathan M. Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, as the 2017 recipient of its William J. Brennan Jr. Award in recognition of Smith’s work toward furthering the public interest and equal justice for all Americans.

The award will be presented on June 14 at the Celebration of Leadership: The D.C. Bar Awards Dinner and Annual Meeting at the Mayflower Hotel, located at 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW.

“I am deeply humbled by the receipt of this award. Recognition from the D.C. Bar is particularly meaningful given the Bar’s deep commitment to equal justice and support of the struggle for equality of opportunity,” Smith said.

The Brennan Award was established in 1993 and is presented biennially (alternating with the Justice Thurgood Marshall Award) to a D.C. Bar member who has demonstrated excellence and achievement in, and commitment to, the field of civil rights and individual liberties.

Prior to joining the Washington Lawyers’ Committee in 2016 as its executive director, Smith was the associate dean of experiential and clinical programs at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. Smith was also the chief of the special litigation section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 2010 to 2015. The section was responsible for pattern or practice investigations of civil rights violations by law enforcement, correctional, juvenile justice, and mental health and developmental disability agencies. Under his leadership, the section conducted the civil investigation of the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, following the death of Michael Brown.

Smith also was previously the executive director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia; the Public Justice Center in Baltimore, Maryland; and the D.C. Prisoners’ Legal Services Project. In each of these positions, in addition to providing program leadership, he has handled individual, class action and impact litigation, and engaged in legislative advocacy and institutional reform efforts. He started his career as an associate to Virginia civil rights lawyer Victor Glasberg and is a graduate of Antioch Law School.

“I have had the tremendous honor to have had a career filled with dedicated colleagues and courageous clients, and this award belongs as much to them as to me,” Smith said.