Legal Aid’s 2020 Servant of Justice Awards Dinner, planned for April, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We plan to honor our 2020 Servant of Justice honorees, John Heintz of Blank Rome and Avis Buchanan of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, at a virtual event this coming April. We are extremely grateful for the law firms, corporate partners, and individuals who converted their sponsorships to direct donations. In part because of this, Legal Aid was not forced to cut staff or services as our client community has borne the brunt of the pandemic’s impact in DC.
Since 1990, the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia has presented the Servant of Justice Award to individuals or organizations who have demonstrated faithful dedication and remarkable achievement in ensuring that all persons have equal and meaningful access to justice.
John Heintz is a litigator and partner in Blank Rome’s policyholder-only insurance recovery practice. Mr. Heintz, who is well regarded across the insurance market for his significant experience handling complex coverage litigation, has made pro bono work a central part of his career for 40 years. In Wai v. Allstate, for example, he helped win a ruling on “insurance redlining” at the DC Circuit that commercial insurance companies could not force landlords to purchase costlier insurance policies just because they rented homes to people with disabilities. Later he and his colleagues won a ruling that fair housing organizations had stated a disparate impact claim under the FHA for redlining in the homeowners insurance market in National Fair Housing Alliance v. Prudential. He served as a fellow at the Neighborhood Legal Services Program in the 1970s, and has served on Legal Aid’s Board of Trustees since 2009. At Blank Rome, he has taken on several pro bono cases in partnership with Legal Aid, and mentored associates on dozens more.
Avis E. Buchanan has served as Director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) since 2004. She previously served at PDS in the roles of deputy director, staff attorney, and intern investigator. She also worked at the Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs as an attorney and later as director of its equal employment opportunity project. Ms. Buchanan has dedicated her career to criminal defense, and litigating individual and class action employment and public accommodations cases. She is the recipient of numerous awards, most recently the 2018 Celebration of Service Award from Rising for Justice, the 2016 Thurgood Marshall Award from the DC Bar, and the 2014 President’s Award for Public Service from the Washington Council of Lawyers.