Honorees to be Recognized at Upcoming Awards Luncheon
NASHVILLE, Jan. 9, 2019 — Two distinguished Tennessee attorneys and a recent University of Tennessee College of Law graduate will be honored with the state’s top public service awards
at a ceremony this month. The awards will be presented by the Tennessee Bar Association at its 2019 Public Service Luncheon on Jan. 19 at the Downtown DoubleTree Hotel in Nashville. Held each year as part of the association’s Leadership Conference, the luncheon also will feature remarks by legal community leaders including TBA President Jason Pannu and past American Bar Association President Robert Grey, Jr who currently serves as president of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity.
Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year Award
The Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year will be awarded to Angie Bergman, who dedicated more than 425 hours of pro bono representation on behalf of a single client who argued he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial due to the overwhelming caseload of the public defenders assigned to him. She took on his case and brought exposure to the lack of funding the Metro Nashville Public Defenders Office, and how that underfunding leads to underrepresentation.
Former Metro Public Defender Dawn Deaner noted that while working on the case, Bergman had to digest years of scholarship on indigent defense issues in just a few months, as well as study her client’s complex history in the legal system.
“Angie maintains a busy practice at the firm for paying clients, and she is the mother of young children,” said David R. Esquivel, Bergman’s Bass Berry & Sims colleague who nominated her for the award. “With the many responsibilities she balances, I especially admire her sacrifice of hundreds of hours of advocacy in support of pro bono impact litigation that shined a light on a fundamental issue of justice in our state – the lack of adequate funding of public criminal defense.”
Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year Award
Adrienne Kittos, an attorney with Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON), is this year’s Public Service Attorney of the Year. Kittos earned the recognition for her dedication fighting for immigrants under extraordinary circumstances.
“Adrienne has tremendous humility and grace, always shying from the spotlight and staying laser- focused on the needs of the clients before her,” said Spring Miller, Assistant Dean for Public Interest at Vanderbilt Law. “She has secured immigration protections and lawful permanent resident status for hundreds of victims of criminal activity and domestic violence, ensuring that those individuals and their families have the opportunity to live safe, healthy lives in the U.S.”
Kittos has worked with JFON for nine years and was the organization’s first full-time attorney on staff, and has seen it grow exponentially, even as immigration becomes an increasingly contentious political issue. In addition to the representation she offers, she also works in the community as an advocate and an educator on issues related to immigrant families.
Law Student Volunteer of the Year Award
Amber Vargas will be recognized as this year’s Law Student Volunteer of the Year, for her tireless effort on behalf of victims of domestic violence.
Vargas, a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, began as a volunteer during her undergraduate years at a shelter for domestic violence victims in Blount County. She moved on to helping represent similar families during an internship at Legal Aid of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands (LAS), the organization which hired her upon graduation. During her internship, she distinguished herself through her prodigious ability to connect with clients and make them feel comfortable and safe.
“Amber has always been able to look at a person and see where they are — emotionally, mentally and physically — and just relate to the person, make them feel safe, and make them feel like they have opportunities to be away from their abuser,” said Rachel Moses, an LAS attorney who mentored Vargas. “I feel like I was a better attorney because I had Amber on my side. We’re blessed to have her.”