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Annual Awards & Scholarship Gala

Event Details

Since 1976, in honor of the significant contribution of Black attorneys dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, justice, equal opportunity and positive change, The Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, Inc. has held an annual dinner to celebrate up-and-coming law students, practicing attorneys and jurists who embody professionalism, dedication to the profession as well as a commitment to the Black Philadelphia legal community and public communities.

The Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia honors deserving local law students with Barristers’ Scholarships, and select awards are presented to outstanding legal professionals. The awards presented include: the J. Austin Norris Award, the Cecil B. Moore Award, and The Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. Award. Sign up to our newsletter for event updates — See below for current and past awards recipients.

2020 Award Recipients

Kenneth C. Frazier
Presidential Award of Courage
Kenneth C. Frazier

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Kenneth C. Frazier has served as the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Merck & Co., Inc. since 2011.

Under Ken’s leadership, Merck is delivering innovative lifesaving medicines and vaccines as well as long-term and sustainable value to its multiple stakeholders. Ken has substantially increased Merck’s investment in research, including early research, while refocusing the organization on the launch and growth of key products that provide benefit to society. He has also led the formation of philanthropic and other initiatives that build on Merck’s 125-year plus legacy.

Ken joined the company in 1992 and has held positions of increasing responsibility including General Counsel and President. Prior to joining Merck, Ken was a partner with the Philadelphia law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath. Ken’s contributions, especially in the legal, business and humanitarian fields, have been widely recognized. He sits on the boards of PhRMA, Weill Cornell Medicine, Exxon Mobil Corporation, and Cornerstone Christian Academy in Philadelphia, PA. He also is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, The Business Council, the Council of the American Law Institute, and the American Bar Association. Additionally, Ken is co-chair of the Legal Services Corporation’s Leaders Council.

Ken received his bachelor’s degree from The Pennsylvania State University and holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Richard Harris
J. Austin Norris Award
Richard Harris

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Richard counsels employers with regard to crisis management, litigation avoidance and assists employers in developing policies and programs in accordance with state and federal employment laws. His practice also includes conducting internal corporate investigations and work place harassment training. He is a member of the firm’s Board of Directors and has served as co-Chair of its Jury Trial Practice Group.

Richard’s trial practice experience is diverse and extensive and includes counseling and representing Fortune 500 companies in multi-state litigation in Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Americans with Disabilities Act as Amended (ADAA), race discrimination, wage and hour, harassment, retaliation and whistleblower litigation. He has tried more than 50 jury trials in state and federal court and is recognized as a leading authority on trial advocacy and is a frequent contributor to local and national media outlets. He has taught continuing legal education courses in trial advocacy and crisis management.

Richard’s professional and civic activities are as diverse as his law practice. He is on the Board of Trustees for the Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School, Enon Coulter Community Development Corporation and the Arden Theatre. He previously served on the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Board of Governors and the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Richard was an NCAA scholar-athlete in football during his undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland.

Hon. Frederica Massiah–Jackson
A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. Award
The Honorable Frederica Massiah–Jackson

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Honorable Frederica Massiah-Jackson was elected to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in 1983. She presides over medical malpractice and products liability cases, complex commercial litigation and personal injury matters. A graduate of Chestnut Hill College (A.B. 1971) and the University of Pennsylvania Law School (J.D. 1974), the judge practiced corporate and civil litigation with the law firm of Blank Rome before advancing to the bench. She also worked with the Senate of Pennsylvania as Chief Counsel for the Senate Insurance and Business Committee. Judge Massiah-Jackson was a Lecturer at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania from 1992 to 2002, where she taught Legal Studies and Business Law.

During her years as President Judge (2001-2006), the First Judicial District administered justice with a $110 million overall budget, 2500 employees and 130 judges. Judge Massiah-Jackson was an effective leader, engaging the Philadelphia courts with innovative management and advances in technology. Access to Justice was the hallmark of the FJD during those five years as she enhanced the public perception of judges and the organization. Among many projects, the President Judge Emeritus coordinated court employee appreciation events, increased the pay rates for court-appointed counsel fees, signed a Mitigation Protocol for representation in death penalty cases, opened an FJD Information Center, expanded our Judicial Education initiatives, and implemented programs to promote race and gender fairness within our courtrooms.

The Judge is one of several women whose contributions are highlighted in the 2020 book They Carried Us-The Social Impact of Philadelphia’s Black Women Leaders. She received the prestigious 2013 Alumni Award of Merit from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In 2011, Philadelphia’s Mural Arts program partnered with Universal Companies to include the judge on a mural entitled “The Faces That Shape Us”. Judge Massiah-Jackson received the 2010 NAACP’s Cecil B. Moore Award. In 2007, the judge’s portrait was presented to the courts and has been hung in the Ceremonial Courtroom of City Hall. In 2006, she was chosen by the Pennsylvania Commission for Women as one of 50 women of color role models profiled in the book Voices. In 2005, she co-hosted Philadelphia’s first Urban Courts Conference. She sits on the boards of Center for Literacy and Eagleville Hospital, and is a member of the Forum of Executive Women. She is a member and Past President of the Delaware Valley, Pa. Chapter of The Links, Inc. and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Judge Massiah-Jackson has received numerous awards and recognitions of service.

The Judge is the proud mother of Dr. Julia L. Jackson and Thomas H. Jackson, IV.

Cecil B. Moore Award
Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project

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Established in 2014 in Philadelphia, the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP) uses direct service and policy advocacy to transform the experiences of children prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system, and to ensure fair and thoughtful resentencing and reentry for individuals who were sentenced to life without parole as children (“juvenile lifers”). YSRP partners with court-involved youth and juvenile lifers, their families, and lawyers to develop holistic, humanizing narratives that mitigate the facts of each case; get cases transferred to the juvenile system or resentenced; and make crucial connections to community resources providing education, healthcare, housing, and employment. YSRP also provides trainings on mitigation, and recruits, trains and supervises students and other volunteers to assist in this work. YSRP’s ultimate goals are to keep children out of adult jails and prisons and to enhance the quality of representation juvenile lifers receive at resentencing, and as they prepare to reenter the community.

Past Award Recipients

J. Austin Norris Award

In recognition of J. Austin Norris’ focus on improving the position of Blacks in the Philadelphia legal community and community, the Barristers’ Association presents this award to an attorney of color who has demonstrated distinguished service to the Barristers’, the legal profession and the community at large.

Past recipients of this award include, but are not limited to:

Vernon L. Francis
Kenneth Murphy
The Honorable Curtis C. Carson, Jr.
The Honorable William F. Hall, Jr.
The Honorable Eugene H. Clarke, Jr
Cecil B. Moore (posthumously)
Susan Borden
The Honorable Robert N. C. Nix, Jr.
William T. Coleman
Ronald J. Harper
The Honorable Doris A. Smith-Ribner
Bernard Lee
Denise Smyler
Danielle Banks
Rhonda Hill Wilson
Scott Reid, Esquire
Prince Altee Thomas, Esquire

The Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. Award

Created in 1993 and first presented to The Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., this award celebrates Judge Higginbotham’s contributions to the legal profession and our society. The Barristers’ Association honors an individual who possesses the qualities that exemplify Judge Higginbotham’s career, professional excellence, scholarship and commitment to social justice.

Past recipients of this award include, but are not limited to:

The Honorable Gregory E. Smith
The Honorable Karen Simmons
The Honorable Robert N. C. Nix, Jr.
The Honorable Doris A. Smith-Ribner
Raymond A. Brown
Justice Juanita Kidd Stout
The Honorable Sheila Woods-Skipper
The Honorable Renee Hughes
The Honorable Petrese B. Tucker
The Honorable J. Curtis Joyner
The Honorable Kathryn Streeter–Lewis
The Honorable Lillian Harris Ransom

Cecil B. Moore Award

As an homage to Cecil B. Moore’s innumerable contributions to the Black community, the Barristers’ Association presents this award to an individual or organization who embodies selfless service to the community.

Past recipients of this award include, but are not limited to:

American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania
Thurgood Matthews
Black United Front
The Honorable David P. Richardson
Guardian Civic League
John Green
Dr. Bernard Watson
Rev. Dr. Leon Sullivan
Julius Winfield Erving, II
The Honorable Carol Ann Campbell
Roberta West
Harriet Tubman House
YMCA – West Philadelphia Branch
Leigh Skipper
Charles Cunningham
The Philadelphia NAACP
Michael Coard, Esq.
Pennsylvania Innocence Project

Inaugural JoAnne Epps Award

JoAnne A. Epps

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You can join a committee

The Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia engages its members with opportunities for professional development, performing community service, mentoring and networking with other legal professionals. If you are interested in getting event more involved with us, then Committee membership is for you! Join one of our working groups to take the lead…