Join us on Wednesday, May 29th as we celebrate and honor the commitment of our award winners and their organizations at our 2024 Wiley A. Branton Awards Luncheon!

Wiley A. Branton Awards Luncheon
May 29, 2024
Networking 11:30 am | Program & Lunch: 12:00–1:30 pm

JW Marriott
1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005

The Wiley A. Branton Award Recipient

Vanita Gupta

Headshot photo of Vanita Gupta

Recognized as one of the nation’s leading civil rights lawyers, Vanita Gupta has devoted her entire career to civil rights work.  She recently served as Associate Attorney General between April 2021 and February 2024. leading the Justice Department (“DOJ”) work on building police-community trust, increasing support for gun violence survivors, promoting economic opportunity, and expanding community violence intervention programs.

Between 2014 and 2017, Gupta served as Acting Assistant Attorney General and Head of CRD. As the chief civil rights prosecutor, Gupta oversaw investigations of the Ferguson, Baltimore, and Chicago police departments.

In addition to her distinguished DOJ record, Gupta served as the President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation’s largest coalition of non-partisan civil rights organizations.

Gupta previously directed the Center for Justice at the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”), creating and leading a campaign aimed at ending mass incarceration while keeping communities safe.  She secured a landmark settlement on behalf of immigrant children detained at the Hutto (Texas) family detention facility.

Gupta began her legal career as an attorney at the Legal Defense Fund where she successfully led the effort to overturn the wrongful drug convictions of 38 individuals in Tulia (Texas) and helped to negotiate a $6 million settlement on their behalf.

To read more about the Wiley A. Branton Award, click here. 

 


The Rod Boggs Award Recipient

George Ruttinger

Throughout a distinguished career in private practice at Crowell & Moring LLP, George Ruttinger has demonstrated a rare talent for combining a highly successful career as a litigator with an exceptional commitment to civil rights and pro bono service. At Crowell & Moring, where George served as Chair of the Pro Bono Committee for many years, he has long been recognized as a guiding influence in building one of the finest law firm pro bono programs in the country.

George’s association with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee began nearly four decades ago when he successfully represented plaintiffs in combatting lending discrimination and racial redlining. During the 1990s, George played a vital role in a landmark Committee case challenging a large car rental franchise’s refusal to rent cars to Black customers.

In 1996, George was named General Counsel for the Fair Housing Council, now the Equal Rights Center. In the same year, George joined the Board of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee—a post which he continues to serve with devotion to this day—and was elected to the position of Co-Chair in 2009. In 2011, he was named a champion of the “profession’s core values through public service, pro bono efforts and advocacy for civil liberties” by the National Law Journal. He continues to fight for housing justice alongside the Committee in recent years.

George was the recipient of the 2011 Wiley A. Branton Award for his outstanding commitment to civil rights and his dedicated leadership as a Board Co-Chair at the Committee.

To read more about The Rod Boggs Award, click here. 

 


Corporate Citizen Leadership Award Recipient

BDO USA

BDO USA, recognized as a premier accounting, tax, and advisory organization, is a member of the Corporate Advisory Board of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee (WLC). BDO has made many contributions to the WLC including litigation support, forensic accounting, risk management, and tax services. The firm’s social impact strategy empowers its professionals to give back to their communities using their knowledge, experience, and pro bono time. BDO’s success is inseparable from the communities it serves, and its core purpose is to help people thrive, every day.

The Corporate Citizen Leadership Award is newly established in 2024 to recognize a corporate leader with a strong commitment to civil rights and racial justice. This award recognizes that the cause of racial justice requires a whole-of-society strategy including corporations and businesses.

 


The Alfred McKenzie Award

The Alfred McKenzie Award was established in 1994 to recognize Washington Lawyers’ Committee clients whose dedication and courage have produced civil rights victories of particular significance. It takes its name from a man whose efforts as a Committee plaintiff helped to change an institution. To read more about The Alfred McKenzie Award, click here.

 


The Outstanding Achievement Awards

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee partners with the private bar and nonprofits to provide legal assistance to individuals and communities who experience violations of their civil rights.  Each year, area lawyers and law firms contribute thousands of hours of their time on cases and projects. During the Wiley A. Branton Awards Luncheon, the Committee recognizes these important law firm and advocacy organization partnerships through Outstanding Achievement Awards.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
Covington & Burling LLP
Daniel Valencia, DLA Piper LLP
Mayer Brown
Paul Hastings LLP
Stan Zirkin and Angela Sanyal
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Wiley A. Branton was a tireless advocate for civil rights and equal justice throughout his entire career—as a private practitioner in Arkansas, a leader of federal agencies in Washington, and a Dean of the Howard University School of Law. The Wiley A. Branton Award is annually bestowed upon members of the legal community whose careers embody a deep and abiding commitment to civil rights and economic justice advocacy.

wiley branton
Wiley A. Branton, Sr.

Dean Branton started his career in private practice in Arkansas in the 1950’s, representing African-American criminal defendants in often racially charged prosecutions. Working with Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP, he took on some of the most significant civil rights cases in the South, including the representation of the Freedom Riders in Mississippi, who were arrested for desegregating public transportation and public accommodations.

Among his most notable cases was the litigation that desegregated the Little Rock public schools. It was Dean Branton’s injunction that led to President Eisenhower calling out federal troops to escort African-American students to school. From 1962 to 1965, he led the Voter Education Project in Atlanta. During the three years he was at the helm, the project registered more than 600,000 African Americans to vote.

President Lyndon Johnson appointed Dean Branton to lead the President’s Council on Equal Opportunity and then to work on the implementation of the Civil Rights Act as special assistant to the United States Attorney General. In 1967, he became executive director of the United Planning Organization, the District of Columbia’s anti-poverty agency. Two years later, he directed the social action program of the Alliance for Labor Action.

From 1978 to 1983, Mr. Branton was dean of Howard University Law School. During his tenure at Howard, he dedicated himself to the training of the next generation of civil rights advocates.

Following Dean Branton’s death in 1988, his friend Justice Thurgood Marshall remembered him as a great man who “believed in people and believed in what was right.’’

Wiley Branton was an inspiration to everyone who had the privilege of knowing and working with him. He personified the legal profession’s ideal of pro bono service that is at the heart of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee’s missionThe Wiley A. Branton Award was first bestowed by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee in 1989. It takes its name from Wiley A. Branton, Sr., an extraordinary man whose life embodied civil rights advocacy of the highest order.

CLICK HERE FOR PREVIOUS AWARD RECIPIENTS 

Thank You to Our 2024 Branton Awards Sponsors


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