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Fellows Awards

Nominations are Now Closed for 2023 Fellows Awards

ABF Fellows Nomination Form

Outstanding Service Award

The Fellows shall, on an annual basis, select a Fellow for the Outstanding Service Award, who has, in his or her professional career, adhered for more than thirty years* to the highest principles and traditions of the legal profession and to the service of the public.

*Prior to 2006, the Outstanding Service Award required fifty years of service.

Outstanding Scholar Award

The Fellows shall, on an annual basis, select a person, not necessarily a Fellow, for the Outstanding Scholar Award, who has engaged in outstanding scholarship in the law or in government.

Outstanding State Chair Award

The Fellows Officers shall, on an annual basis, select a current State Chair for the Outstanding State Chair Award, who has demonstrated a dedication to the work of the Foundation and the mission of the Fellows through exceptional efforts on behalf of the Fellows at the state level.

Other Fellows Awards

The Fellows shall, from time to time, select a Fellow to receive a special award in recognition of a lifetime of sustained and significant professional achievement and public service including Distinguished Life Fellow Award and Distinguished Career In Memorium Award.

For a full list of all previous award winners click here. 


We are pleased to announce the 2023 Fellows Awards honorees. The 67th Annual Fellows Awards Banquet was held in February 2023 at the ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans, LA.

Outstanding Service Award  -- Professor Norma Cantú, University of Texas at Austin School of Law

Professor Norma V. Cantú, a civil rights litigator, was the lead or co-lead on cases such as Edgewood v. Texas Education Agency and Gomez v. Illinois Board of Education.

She started her first teaching job in Brownsville, TX at the age of 19 and graduated Harvard Law School at age 22.  At the Texas Attorney General’s Office, she was a part of small but mighty investigation team on nursing home abuses of the elderly. She worked 13 years for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).  Licensed by the Texas and California bars, she served in various legal capacities, from litigator to regional administrator to national director of educational programs. 

In 1993, she was nominated by President Clinton-- and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate --as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Department of Education.

  From 2002 to present, she has been a full professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Texas at Austin where she also teaches disability law at the School of Law.   Professor Norma Cantú has been a department chair twice. She has chaired numerous dissertation committees, and has volunteered with numerous academic, legal, and community organizations.  She loves teaching and has taught in-person through the Pandemic, with accommodations online for safety of the students.

In November 2020, Professor Cantú took a partial leave of absence from UT to serve on the Biden-Harris Transition Team.  In January 2021, she returned to her faculty position, only to take a partial leave of absence again from February 2021 to December 2022 to accept a part-time White House appointment --as the first Latina to serve as Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.  In 2022, the eight Commissioners celebrated the 65th anniversary as an independent, bi-partisan, fact-finding federal agency.

Outstanding Scholar Award -- Professor Kaaryn S. Gustafson & Professor Mario BarnesUniversity of California Irvine School of Law

Professor Kaaryn Gustafson joined University of California, Irvine School of Law in 2014 after teaching for a decade at the University of Connecticut School of Law. Gustafson holds an A.B. magna cum laude in Sociology from Harvard University, a J.D. from Berkeley Law, and a Ph.D. in Jurisprudence & Social Policy from University of California, Berkeley. As a law student, she served on the boards of the Berkeley Women’s Law Journal (now the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice) and the African-American Law and Policy Report (now the Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy).  She also served as the first named plaintiff in Gustafson v. Regents of the University of California, a class action lawsuit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The settlement agreement in that act still serves as guidance for universities in serving students with disabilities.

 Professor Gustafson’s scholarly work is interdisciplinary. Her early research focused on the expanding administrative overlap between the welfare and criminal justice systems, as well as the experiences of those individuals and families caught in those systems. Her current research explores the role of law in crafting categories of racial difference and racial inequality. She has recently developed new courses as part of UCI Law’s curriculum on race and indigeneity.

She is the Co-Director (with Mario Barnes) of the Center on Law, Equality and Race, and the Associate Dean of Academic Community Engagement. Gustafson is also of one of five inaugural Inclusive Excellence Term Chair Professors at UC Irvine.

She is the winner of the Law & Society Association Herbert Jacob Book Prize (2012) and the AALS Derrick A. Bell, Jr. Award (2009). Gustafson is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. She is also a longstanding member of the Law & Society Association, where she has served as a trustee and as Secretary.

Mario L. Barnes, Professor of Law, returned to UCI Law in spring 2022 after serving as the Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law from 2018 to 2021.

Prof. Barnes is a nationally recognized scholar for his research on the legal and social implications of race and gender, primarily in the areas of employment, education, criminal and military law. He is one of the leaders within the school of academics seeking to build stronger connections between empirical studies and Critical Race Theory. He writes and teaches in the areas of criminal law, constitutional law, national security law, and race and the law.

At UCI Law, Prof. Barnes previously served as Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and as the first Dean for Research and Faculty Development. He is currently Co-Director of the Center on Law, Equality and Race (CLEAR).  Before joining UCI Law, he was a faculty member at the University of Miami School of Law.

Prior to his academic career, Prof. Barnes spent 12 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy, including service as a prosecutor, defense counsel, special assistant U.S. attorney, and on the commission that investigated the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. His reserve assignments included the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command in San Diego, the Navy Inspector General's Office in Washington, D.C. and U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, FL. He retired from the Navy in 2013, after 23 years of combined active and reserve service.

Prof. Barnes earned his bachelor’s degree (1990) and a J.D. from UC Berkeley (1995), where he was Managing Editor and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the African-American Law & Policy Report (now Berkeley Journal of African-American Law and Policy). He earned an LL.M. from the University of Wisconsin (2004), where he was a William H. Hastie Teaching Fellow.

Prof. Barnes is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, an elected member of the American Law Institute, and a Distinguished Fellow of the National Institute of Military Justice. He received the AALS Clyde Ferguson Award in 2015 and was honored with the AALS Derrick A. Bell Jr. Award in 2008. 


Outstanding State Chair Award -- Andrew M. Schpak, Oregon

Andrew Schpak is the Co-Managing Partner at Barran Liebman LLP, a 25-attorney management-side employment, labor, and employee benefits law firm. There, he has been exclusively representing management in employment litigation and providing advice in employment matters for over eighteen years. He works with prominent Oregon companies, government entities, and non-profits, navigating complex employment laws and crafting strategies and solutions for their success.

As a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and Chair of the Oregon Chapter of the Fellows, Andrew is dedicated to the Foundation and its work.  He previously served as the ABA YLD Liaison to the ABF Board for a five year term and chaired the Board’s Institutional Relations Committee. 

Andrew represents District 19 (Oregon, South Carolina, and Iowa) on the ABA Board of Governors and is serving his second consecutive term as Chair of the Board’s Finance Committee and as a member of the Executive Committee. He previously served as President of the Multnomah Bar Association (MBA) and led both the ABA Young Lawyers Division (YLD) and the MBA Young Lawyers Section. He serves as Treasurer of the Campaign for Equal Justice Board of Directors and as Chair of its Finance Committee and Co-Chair of the Large Firm Partners Committee.  He also serves as Co-Chair of the Board and as a member of the Executive, Governance, and Development Committees of Transition Projects, Inc., which provides an outlet for him to fulfill his passion for helping people transition from homelessness to housing. 

Andrew graduated from Reed College and received his J.D. from Cornell Law School. He is admitted to practice in Oregon and Washington state and federal courts and is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources by the Human Resources Certification Institute and as a Senior Certified Professional by the Society for Human Resources Management.

Distinguished Life Fellow Award -- Carolyn Witherspoon

Carolyn Witherspoon is a Director of Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus, a majority female-owned firm in Little Rock, Arkansas. In practice since 1978, Carolyn primarily represents public and private employers in defending employment-related matters. She’s also supported and founded organizations that serve women, including the first domestic violence shelter in Little Rock.

Carolyn is a groundbreaking female leader in Arkansas, proudly serving as the first female president of the Pulaski County & Arkansas Bar Associations, and the William R. Overton Inn of Court.

Community service is extremely important to Carolyn–she served on the Arkansas Real Estate Commission as its first Public Commissioner; the Little Rock Sister Cities Commission; as president of the Arkansas Association of Women Lawyers; on the Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault Organization board; as president of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas & Arkansas Women Executives; on the Arkansas Women’s Leadership Forum; and on the Little Rock Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. Carolyn currently serves on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors and has chaired the Personnel Committee.  She is involved with VOCALS (Volunteer Organization, Center for Arkansas Legal Services).

Nationally, Carolyn has served the American Bar Association, including the House of Delegates; the House of Delegates Steering Committee of the Nominating Committee; chaired the Commission on Interests on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts; and chaired the Arkansas Fellows of the American Bar Foundation. She was active in the NCBP and a member of its Executive Counsel. She was appointed by the governor to the Commission for Uniform State Laws.  Carolyn serves as a member of the American Law Institute and was an Executive Committee member for the Transportation Lawyers Association and member of the American Employment Law Counsel. She is a fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Law.

Internationally, Carolyn has served as an arbitrator for the Court of Arbitration for Sport, FINRA, the UFC. She is a member of the prestigious Union Internationale des Advocats, recognized before the United Nations.

Carolyn has received professional recognition by Chambers USA, MidSouth Super Lawyers, and the Arkansas Business “Arkansas 250” where she was recognized as a “Living Legend” in 2021. In 2019, Carolyn was inducted into the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2020, Carolyn received recognition from Legal Services Corporation for her commitment to providing equal access to justice through her pro bono work with the Center for Arkansas Legal Service.

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