Diversity Committee to Present Annual Awards
by Kara I. Smith
OBA Diversity Conference
Oct. 24 • 9 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Jim Thorpe Event Center, Oklahoma City
The Diversity Committee, with the support of OBA President Jim Stuart, will again be recognizing individuals and organizations that promote diversity efforts and call attention to the need for tolerance and diversity awareness.
With the sponsorship of the OBA/CLE Department, the committee is set to host its second annual Diversity Awards Luncheon and CLE. The event will feature Travis A. Williams, a young attorney featured in the HBO documentary film Gideon’s Army, who has worked as a public defender for more than five years. Gideon’s Army follows a group of young public defenders in the Deep South who contend with low pay, long hours and staggering caseloads to represent the poor. Mr. Williams will be the keynote presenter at the CLE where he will dive deep into the discussion of the deficiencies of the American criminal justice system and what it takes to maintain the passion and commitment to be a public defender.
Following his presentation, Mr. Williams will participate in a panel discussion focusing on the Oklahoma perspective on these topics. Also participating are Susan Otto,federal public defender for the Western District of Oklahoma; James Rowan,Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney and past assistant public defender in Oklahoma County; and Sharon Holmes, Tulsa criminal defense attorney and past Tulsa County assistant district attorney.
The event will conclude with the Diversity Awards Luncheon beginning at noon. Six individuals and organizations will be honored with Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Diversity Awards in recognition of their efforts in promoting diversity in Oklahoma.
This event will be held Oct. 24 at the Jim Thorpe Association and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame Event Center, 4040 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City. Registration opens at 8:30 a.m., and the conference begins at 9 a.m. Cost for the CLE and the luncheon is $120; attending the luncheon only is $40. An extra $25 will be added beginning Oct. 18.
Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Diversity Award Recipients
Member of the Judiciary:
Justice Tom Colbert
On Jan. 1, 2013, Justice Tom Colbert made Oklahoma history by becoming the first African-American to serve as chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. He also holds the distinction of being the first African-American vice-chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the first African-American to serve on the court. Before his ascension to the high court, he was the first African-American to serve on the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals and was also elected by his fellow judges to serve as chief judge of that court. He is a frequent speaker to all levels of education. He also participates in a summer reading program for children as well as a mentoring program for young men that includes track and field instruction.
Melvin C. Hall
Melvin C. Hall of Oklahoma City is a shareholder with the Riggs Abney Law Firm and has dedicated his career to the study, education and protection of human rights. He concentrates his practice on employment law and federal civil litigation. In addition to his law practice, Mr. Hall is a frequent speaker and lecturer on employment law and civil rights issues. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma teaching classes regarding employment law and the civil rights movement. He has received numerous awards and honors, including the A.C.Hamlin Tribute of Appreciation and Commendation from the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus. The University of Oklahoma and Langston University have created scholarships in his name that are awarded annually to students who exemplify leadership and aspire to become lawyers. He has received the Trailblazers Award from the University of Oklahoma Black Alumni Society and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Langston University.
Danny C. Williams Sr.
Danny C. Williams Sr. is the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma. He was nominated by President Barack Obama on March 29, 2012, to serve as the top federal law enforcement official in the Northern District. Mr. Williams is committed to the creation of a vibrant, diverse working environment. He has been honored by the Black Lawyer’s Association, the University of Tulsa and a number of other organizations for his accomplishments and the new vigor and enthusiasm he has brought to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. His uncle, Judge Carlos Chappelle, first persuaded him to come to Tulsa and attend the University of Tulsa Law School. Though he was discouraged by the display of pictures of all law students — which exhibited a lack of diversity amongst his peers — Mr.Williams persevered. And not only did he make his way through law school, he prospered, making lifelong connections and bringing the kind of diversity he wanted to see to the legal community in Tulsa.
The Fellers Snider law firm, with offices in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, has demonstrated a commitment to cultivating a workplace that promotes diversity and inclusion. The law firm believes diversity in backgrounds, experiences and ideas enrich its workplace experience and enhances the quality of the professional services it provides to its clients. By recruiting, retaining, developing and promoting a diverse group of lawyers and staff, the firm advances the interests of its clients, practice and the legal profession. It is dedicated to providing opportunities wherein attorneys and staff can reach their fullest potential.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Family Violence Prevention Program
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Family Violence Prevention Program is recognized because it is an extraordinary group dedicated to working around the clock to assist any victim of family violence within their jurisdiction. They are available 24 hours a day, providing services such as relocation and transportation assistance, assistance filing protective orders and providing legal representation when necessary. They provide equipment and training to law enforcement to better enable them to respond to and investigate crimes. The program also focuses on education and prevention of domestic violence through awareness programs in schools. Program staffers recently participated in efforts to advocate the passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. This act strengthens the protection provided to women who are victims of domestic violence. In addition to support rallies, the group organized a 36-mile relay run to urge Congress to renegotiate provisions in order to add protection for minority victims.
Oklahoma Policy Institute
Oklahoma Policy Institute (OK Policy) is anon-partisan think tank that was launched in early 2008. It grew out of work previously conducted out of the public policy department of Community Action Project of Tulsa County. OK Policy promotes adequate, fair and fiscally responsible funding of public services and expanded opportunity for all Oklahomans by providing timely and credible information, analysis and ideas. It is the mission of OK Policy Institute to promote prosperity for all Oklahomans no matter their background or socioeconomic status. OK Policy focuses on five policy areas – immigration, education, budget and taxes, asset opportunity, healthcare and criminal justice reform.