Maureen Thornton Syracuse '74 Receives Honor from D.C. Bar

The D.C. Bar has selected Maureen Thornton Syracuse as recipient of its William J. Brennan, Jr. Award, recognizing her career contributions to providing access to justice for individuals of limited financial means. The biennial award, which recognizes an individual D.C. Bar member for exceptional work towards furthering the public interest and equal justice, was presented today at the D.C. Bar’s Celebration of Leadership at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. 

For the last 19 years, Ms. Syracuse has served as executive director of the D.C. Bar’s Pro Bono Program where she has transformed the ways in which members of the District of Columbia’s legal profession respond to those most in need of and least able to obtain access to justice. Through her visionary leadership, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program vastly expanded the opportunities for members to respond to the changing needs in the community.

“Under Maureen’s leadership, the Pro Bono Program has transitioned from a lawyer referral service to an award-winning, nationally renowned program,” said D.C. Bar President Ronald S. Flagg, who presented the award. “Our Pro Bono Program has evolved into one of the largest facilitators of pro bono legal services in the District of Columbia, providing information, brief services, and representation to nearly 20,000 members of our community and hundreds of nonprofit organizations and small businesses each year.”

With Syracuse’s guidance, the Pro Bono Program launched the Advocacy & Justice Clinic that provides representation in poverty law cases; the Advice & Referral Clinic that offers brief services in the Shaw and Anacostia Neighborhoods; the Immigration Clinic based in Columbia Heights; the Pro-Se-Plus Divorce and Custody Clinics; four court-based projects—Landlord Tenant Resource Center, Probate Resource Center, Consumer Law Resource Center, and Tax Sale Resource Center; and the Community Economic Development Project in which business and transactional attorneys serve as pro bono counsel to community-based nonprofits, tenant associations, and small disadvantaged businesses.

She receives this honor as she prepares to retire.

 “I am deeply humbled by this award. To receive this incredible honor from the D.C. Bar, my professional home for 19 years, means more to me than you can imagine. I am very proud of what we have accomplished at the Pro Bono Program during my tenure. We have formed wonderful collaborations with our courts and other legal services providers. We have engaged thousands of pro bono lawyers from all practice settings, volunteering all over the city – at clinics in our office, or out in the neighborhoods, or at resource centers at Superior Court. We touch the lives of thousands of people and nonprofits each year and I am confident we will continue to press for access to justice whenever and wherever the needs exist.”