Representative Joseph Kennedy (Massachusetts-4th) will receive
the American Bar Association (ABA) Justice Award for his work in
Congress to ensure access to justice. He will receive the honor
during the ABA Awards Dinner at the Women's Museum in Washington on
Congressman Kennedy was nominated for the award by the
Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA) and the Boston Bar Association
(BBA) in recognition of his strong advocacy and support for the
civil justice system and his efforts to eliminate
At the federal level, Kennedy has been a leading advocate for
adequate appropriations to the Legal Services Corporation, to help
meet the tremendous unmet need for legal representation of the
indigent across the nation. According to BBA's Investing In Justice
report, 64% of qualified applicants must be turned away by
legal-services providers in Massachusetts for lack of funding, and
Rep. Kennedy regularly cites both that figure and the corresponding
national estimate of 80 percent.
"From his work as a volunteer legal aid attorney to his
nationwide advocacy for legal aid support, Congressman Kennedy has
been a champion for the people in our communities who need it
most," said MBA President Jeffrey N. Catalano. "We are incredibly
proud to see such a distinguished son of Massachusetts recognized
by the ABA for his inspiring leadership and commitment to equal
justice for all."
"In addition to being one of the leading voices on Capitol Hill
for access to justice, Rep. Kennedy has also been outspoken on the
elimination of discrimination," said BBA President Carol Starkey of
Conn Kavanaugh. "The background, the commitment, and the passion
that Rep. Kennedy brings to these vitally important issues make him
especially suited for the ABA's Justice Award."
Rep. Kennedy established the first-ever Congressional Access to
Legal Services Caucus, under the bipartisan leadership of himself
and his co-chair, Rep. Susan Brooks (Indiana-5th). Speaking at the
White House this past spring, he told an audience of administration
officials, state Supreme Court justices, civil legal aid advocates
and Fortune 500 leaders, - Our justice system - both civil and
criminal - is our nation's ultimate equalizer where money and power
should hold no influence. But for our most vulnerable citizens,
lack of access to civil legal aid has denied true access to the
laws intended to guarantee them justice. That's why it's time to
reverse the trend of dangerous cuts to legal aid programs and make
good on the promise of equal justice under the law."
He also introduced the Do No Harm Act to help restore the
delicate balance between religious liberty and equal protection. In
an opinion piece on the Huffington Post co-authored with a House
colleague, he wrote: "As men of faith, the ability to freely and
fully exercise sincerely-held religious beliefs in this country is
a liberty we cherish. But there is a difference between exercising
religious beliefs and imposing them on others. Our Constitution
fiercely protects the former and expressly prohibits the latter.
The Do No Harm Act reestablishes that fundamental distinction and
confirms what generations of civic history, constitutional law and
American experience have proved true: if civil and legal rights
exist only in the absence of a neighbor's religious objection, then
they are not rights but empty promises."
In addition to Congressman Kennedy, the ABA will also honor
Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and
Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX).