Last October, the John and Terry Levin Center at Stanford Law School honored two exceptional lawyers last night for their remarkable achievements in public service.
The Honorable Myron H. Thompson, senior judge on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, received the National Public Service Award, while Brian L. Blalock, who is a staff attorney and director of the Youth Justice Project at Bay Area Legal Aid, was awarded the Miles L. Rubin Public Interest Award.
The National Public Service Award is awarded to attorneys whose public service work has had national impact, and the Miles L. Rubin Public Interest Award recognizes an alumnus/a whose outstanding work has advanced justice and social change in the lives of vulnerable populations on a community, national or international level. In particular, the Rubin Award is intended to highlight sustainable solutions to a societal problem.
“This year we recognize two heroes who have devoted their legal careers to improving the lives of others,” said M. Elizabeth Magill, dean and Richard E. Lang Professor of Law. “Their work is testimony for the proposition that lawyers can, and should, work to make the world a better place, and they are an inspiration to all of us.”
“Judge Thompson has served as a mentor to so many of our graduates committed to public service. It is an honor to bring him to campus to acknowledge his many accomplishments, including his role in developing our next generation of public interest leaders,” said Diane T. Chin, associate director of public service and public interest law at the law school. “And Brian Blalock, even as a student at the law school, taught as much as he learned, about compassionate, client-centered lawyering, focused on empowering young people. His amazing career was destined to be.”
National Public Service Award Recipient: Judge Myron H. Thompson
When Myron H. Thompson became assistant attorney general of Alabama in 1972, he was the first African-American employee of the state who was not a janitor or a teacher. When President Jimmy Carter nominated him and the Senate confirmed him to the federal bench in 1980, he was the youngest member of the federal judiciary (at age 33) and the second African-American appointed as a federal judge in Alabama. He served as Chief Judge of the court from 1991 until 1998, and took senior status in 2013.
A native of Alabama, Judge Thompson received his undergraduate and law degrees from Yale, and then returned to Alabama. Following two years as the state’s assistant attorney general, he became a partner in a private law firm from 1974 to 1980, where he practiced both criminal and civil law and performed public service legal work. He was a founding director and board chairman of the Alabama Legal Services Commission.
Judge Thompson has ruled in many notable cases. For example, he disallowed segregation of HIV-positive prisoners from other inmates, ruled in favor of desegregation of Alabama state troopers, held that the use of a hitching post in the Alabama prison system constituted cruel and unusual punishment, and eliminated at-large voting systems in Alabama for county commissioners and other local elections.
In 2013 he received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the National Bar Association’s Judicial Council in recognition of his “personal contributions and extraordinary commitment to the advancement of civil rights and for being a role model for members of the bench and bar.” His other awards include the Mark De Wolfe Howe Award from the Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review in 2005, the Judge Jane M. Bolin Service Award from the Yale Law School BLSA in 2008 and the Ernestine Sapp Justice Award from Thomas Goode Jones Law School in 2009.
Click here for the video presentation.