Press Releases

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Jan 13, 2006

Awards to be presented at capitol ceremony

NASHVILLE, Jan. 13, 2006 — Three attorneys who have contributed thousands of hours of their time to public service will be honored by the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) at its annual public service luncheon this Saturday, Jan. 14, at noon in the Tennessee State Capitol. Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr. will present the keynote address.

Each year, the TBA presents three public service awards during its Mid-Winter Leadership Conference in Nashville. This year’s award winners are David Esquivel of Nashville, Webb Brewer of Memphis and Betsy Prendergast of Memphis.

David Esquivel, an attorney with the law firm of Bass Berry & Sims, will receive the “Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award.” The award, which is named for former TBA President Harris A. Gilbert, recognizes an attorney in private practice who has demonstrated dedication to the development and delivery of legal services to the poor and performed significant pro bono service.

Esquivel was chosen for this honor for his work on behalf of five El Salvadorans who witnessed terrible atrocities by the Salvadoran army. On behalf of this group, Esquivel brought suit against Nicholas Carranza – a former colonel in the army now retired and living in Memphis. To date, Esquivel has donated 1,500 hours of his time preparing this complicated case; managing a team of lawyers, paralegals, law students and research librarians; and spending several weeks in trial.

Esquivel’s personal dedication to the case as well as his firm’s commitment of resources has proved a winning combination. Four of the five cases have concluded with unanimous jury verdicts finding Carranza liable for torture, extrajudicial killing and crimes against humanity. The fifth case is scheduled for retrial in February. David Esquivel will be recognized on Saturday for his vigorous pursuit of justice and for embodying the spirit of pro bono service.

Also on Saturday, Webb Brewer will receive the “Public Service Attorney of the Year Award,” which recognizes an attorney who has committed to a career in public service and, over the course of that career, has gone above and beyond the call of duty in representing indigent clients. Brewer has worked for Memphis Area Legal Services for 26 years, playing a major role in litigation that has set standards for child custody and disability rights. He also has made a particular mark in the area of safe and fair housing, helping to integrate public housing, improve the safety of low-income housing and launch the Memphis Fair Housing Center. Now as litigation director of the agency, Brewer currently spends much of his time battling predatory lending – cases where residents are in danger of losing their homes and savings to unsavory lenders.

The third award, the “Law Student Volunteer of the Year Award,” will be given to University of Memphis School of Law student Betsy Prendergast. The law student award recognizes the efforts of a Tennessee law school student who has provided outstanding volunteer service by working with an organization dedicated to legal representation of the indigent. As a first year law student, Prendergast began volunteering with the Memphis Community Legal Center; first as an administrative assistant and then as a legal researcher and member of the board. Her passion for public service also led her to join the law school’s Public Action Law Society, provide legal services to the elderly through the school’s Elder Law Clinic and develop educational programs to help Tennessee’s senior citizens understand a new state law governing health care decisions.

All awards will be presented at a lunch and ceremony on the second floor of the Tennessee State Capitol at noon on Saturday, Jan. 14.

Download a photo of David Esquivel

Download a photo of Webb Brewer

Download a photo of Betsy Prendergast