2011 Arthur Liman Public Interest Awards Honor Eric Grossman, All of Us or None

It was a night of record-breaking and recognition as supporters of the Legal Action Center gathered at the Tribeca Rooftop for the 2011 Arthur Liman Public Interest Awards Benefit.

The Oct. 25 event honored the contributions of Eric F. Grossman, Managing Director and Global Head of Legal at Morgan Stanley, and All of Us or None, a national grassroots organization based in San Francisco.

With generous gifts from the Liman Foundation and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, the Honorary Chair, the event raised $571,025 to support LAC's critical work, making it "our most successful event ever," said Board Member and Benefit Co-Chair Brad S. Karp, who is Partner and Chair at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. It also brought in more than 370 guests for a new record in attendance.

"This extraordinary success in these challenging times is testament to the support and generosity of all of you and of the Legal Action Center's Board of Directors, and also to the great work of the Center's staff," said LAC Board Chairman Daniel K. Mayers, introducing LAC Director and President Paul Samuels. From litigation to protect the rights of people with criminal records to policy work to ensure that implementation of healthcare reform maximizes care for addiction and mental health, LAC's work has touched thousands of people, Mr. Samuels said.

In a special tribute, LAC Senior Vice President Katie O'Neill led a memorial to LAC paralegal Susan Hallett, who died in January. Both in her time at LAC and before, Susan exemplified the words of wisdom she'd lent to "My Sister's Keeper: A Book for Women Returning Home from Prison or Jail": "My advice to everybody is to reach out and get help. Then reach out and help somebody behind you."

In her ten years as a paralegal, Susan "embodied what LAC was all about," Ms. O'Neill said. "She gave us true understanding."

Introducing the first award of the night, Roberta Meyers-Peeples, Director of the National H.I.R.E. Network, expounded on the commitment of All of Us or None, a civil rights movement by current and formerly incarcerated people, their families and allies to fight discrimination faced by people with conviction histories.

From left, Hamidiya Cooks of All of Us or None; Lewis Liman; Linda Evans
of All of Us or None; LAC Director and President Paul Samuels; Eric F. Grossman, Managing Director and Global Head of Legal at Morgan Stanley;
and Board Members Stephen M. Cutler and Brad S. Karp.

The group's members, Ms. Meyers-Peeples said, had worked beyond their own interests "to create a movement that was led by people who were directly affected."

Ms. Meyers-Peeples described how Linda Evans of All of Us or None had first approached her in March 2005 with the concept that would become the "Ban the Box" movement. Her initial reaction, she said, was that it was a great idea, but not likely to be achieved in her own lifetime. Undeterred, "All of Us or None quietly started a sweeping movement from the west coast to the east coast," she said, showing advocates that "everyone has a voice and has the power and authority to change policies."

LAC Senior Vice President Katie O'Neill leading a memorial to
longtime LAC paralegal Susan Hallett, who died in January.

Ms. Evans and Hamidiya Cooks accepted the award on behalf of All of Us or None, with Ms. Evans thanking LAC "for continuing to support things that are right." Both women also spoke with great appreciation about LAC and HIRE's willingness to listen to "a community not used to being listened to."

Board Member Stephen M. Cutler, General Counsel at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Benefit Co-chair, introduced Eric Grossman, describing him as a well-liked man of humility who was "passionate about causes."

Indeed, Mr. Grossman accepted the honor with emotion, saying there was "nothing more humbling" than receiving an award named for Arthur Liman. He recalled sneaking away from his work at a law firm during his first summer of college in 1987 to watch the Iran-Contra hearings. At the time, he was unsure about what career to pursue, he said, and "Arthur Liman inspired me to go to law school."

Now, nearly three decades later, Mr. Liman's legacy lives on in the work of LAC and its honorees.

"I believe in second chances and redemption," Mr. Grossman said. "And this organization is all about second chances."