Yesterday, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (WLC) hosted the annual Wiley A. Branton Awards Luncheon at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington, D.C. The luncheon marked the 45th anniversary of the event.

The Wiley A. Branton Awards Luncheon is an annual event hosted by the WLC that honor law firms, lawyers and diverse other individuals for their work as it relates to civil rights issues. The luncheon’s namesake, Wiley A. Branton, was a remarkable civil rights attorney who worked to ensure equality during a time when segregation was still very much a part of American life, and civil rights leaders and advocates were demonized. Later in his career, Branton served as the Dean of Howard Law School and was Co-Chair of the WLC in 1987 and 1988.

Bruce Hubbard, a career employee of the U.S. Postal Service, was awarded the  2013 Alfred McKenzie Award.  Granted annually in recognition of dedication and courage in producing significant civil rights victories, the Alfred McKenzie Award was awarded to Hubbard for his work on behalf of the Deaf and hard of hearing.  Following the 2001 anthrax crisis, Hubbard represented himself and a class of fellow Deaf and hard of hearing workers challenging the U.S. Postal Service for failing to provide legally mandated sign language interpreters. Working primarily with the civil rights –minded law firm, and frequent ERC partner, Covington and Burling LLP, Hubbard maintains and active presence in the prolonged proceedings.

Following a brief lunch, there was a video presentation that highlighted the work of civil rights-minded law firm, Dickstein Shapiro LLP. Under the guidance Sidney Dickstein, the firm has been recognized for its work with D.C. Public Schools and for their work with the WLC’s D.C. Public School Partnership Program. Dickstein Shapiro holds biweekly meetings with students to discuss current affairs, provides mentors to students, and provides coaches for the D.C.-wide High School Mock Trial tournament. For this incredible work, both Sidney Dickstein and Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, were awarded the 2013 Vincent Reed Award, which honors individuals who devote their time to providing equal education opportunities for all students.

To close the afternoon, two recipients were awarded the 2013 Wiley Branton Award. This award is bestowed upon those in the legal community “whose careers embody a deep and abiding commitment to civil rights advocacy.”

Judge Ricardo M. Urbina graduated Georgetown Law in 1970. After a brief stint as a public defender, he joined the faculty at Howard Law School in 1974. In 1981, he was appointed to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and in 1994 President Clinton appointed Urbina to the United States District Court. In his time with the U.S. District Court, Judge Urbina has been an advocate for the Latino community, and has worked extensively with the WLC to help reform the criminal justice system. In his acceptance of the award, Judge Urbina stated, “working with [Wiley Branton] turned me on to his genius, and to get an award in his name is one of the greatest honors of my life.”

Judge John M. Ferren has been committed to the work of the WLC since 1971, when he became a member of the Committee’s Executive Committee. While a partner at Hogan and Hartson (now Hogan Lovells US LLP), Judge Ferren worked on programs dedicated to fair employment and criminal justice reform.  During his judgeship in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Judge Ferren initiated and chaired a Judicial Conference Committee on Civil Legal Services to recruit lawyers for pro bono legal service.

The ERC would like to congratulate all the award recipients, as well as the WLC, and thank them for their continued dedication and advocacy to advancing civil rights for all.

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