ABA Confers Highest Honor on Former Congressman, the Rev. Robert F. Drinan, Georgetown Law Professor
CHICAGO, June 28, 2004 — The American Bar Association today announced it will present the 2004 ABA Medal, the association’s highest honor, to the Rev. Robert F. Drinan, S.J., a former congressman, law school dean, ethicist and human rights activist.
ABA President Dennis W. Archer will present the medal at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 9 during the opening session of the association’s House of Delegates during the 2004 ABA Annual Meeting in Atlanta.
“In an amazing career that has spanned more than half a century, Father Drinan has never faltered in his extraordinary humanitarian efforts and support for justice under the law. He has demonstrated to lawyers what it means to be committed to public service and to countless law students what is embodied in the highest dedication to ethical, moral legal practice. By his standards of leadership, he contributes to the luster and dignity of our award,” said Archer in announcing the selection.
The ABA medal recognizes exceptionally distinguished service to the cause of American jurisprudence.
In nominating Drinan, admirers described him as “an eloquent and effective advocate for the most downtrodden in society,” someone “active in so many areas on the law and human rights that there is not enough space to catalog them,” and such a “towering figure in the academic, professional, clerical and public service fields” that he “is the stuff of which legends are made.” They noted the ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities created the Robert F. Drinan Distinguished Service Award in 2001, recognizing his leadership in protecting and advancing human rights, civil liberties and social justice.
Drinan represented the Fourth District of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1971 to 1981, and was a member of House committees on the Judiciary, Internal Security, and Government Operations and of the House Select Committee on Aging. He chaired the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice of the House Judiciary Committee, and was a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic Study Group of the Environmental Study Conference and the Steering Committee of Members of Congress for Peace Through Law. As a congressman, he traveled in congressional delegations and on human rights missions around the world, and he has subsequently served as an election observer in Armenia and Panama.
Drinan has been a professor at Georgetown University Law Center since 1981. He began teaching at Boston College Law School, where he became a professor in 1966 and also served as dean. He has been a visiting professor or guest lecturer at universities and law schools internationally and across the U.S.
He is as prolific author, and his eleventh book, “Can God and Caesar Coexist Balancing Religious Freedom and International Law,” is due to be published in August by Yale University Press. His previous books all have dealt with major public policy issues. He is the recipient of 21 honorary doctoral degrees.
In the ABA, Drinan is among a very few people ever to serve as chair of two distinct substantive legal sections: the Section of Family Law in 1966-67 and the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities in 1990-91. He also is a past chair of the association’s Standing Committee on Professionalism and Standing Committee on World Order Under Law, and a former member of the association’s policy-making House of Delegates.
In other law-related organizations, he has been vice president of the Massachusetts Bar Association and chair of its Committee on the Administration of Justice, chair of the Boston Bar Association Committee on Family Law, chair of the Massachusetts Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and a member of the National Executive Committee of the American Judicature Society and of the Executive Committee of the Association of American Law Schools.
Drinan’s public service has taken him to leadership roles in many other organizations. He is a member of the National Governing Board for Common Cause and the National Council for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, and the Board of Directors of People for the American Way, and a past president of Americans for Democratic Action.
He was a founder and member of the Board of Directors of the Lawyers Alliance for Nuclear Arms Control, and a member of the boards of directors for Bread for the World, the Council for a Livable World Educational Fund and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and an advisor to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Commission.
He served on the Advisory Committee to the U.S. National Archives and the Advisory Board of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews. He was vice chairman of the National Advisory Council for the American Civil Liberties Union and is a member of the Helsinki Watch Committee.
Drinan chaired the International Committee for the Release of Anatoly Scharansky and Peace PAC, is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Bar Foundation, and was a founder of the National Interreligious Task Force on Soviet Jewry. He is a past board member of the National Board of Trustees of the National Conference of Christians and Jews and a member of the American Law Institute
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.