Sign up to stay connected
Get the top stories of the day around the DMV.
The chief of the District’s trial court and the former attorney general for the city were honored for their work in the legal profession by the predominantly Black legal organization Washington Bar Association (WBA).
D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Anita Josey-Herring and Karl A. Racine, who served as the District’s first elected attorney general from 2015-2023, jointly received the Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion of Merit for contributions they have made throughout their legal careers. The pair received their honor—in the form of medallions—at the WBA and Washington Bar Association Educational Foundation, Inc., Annual Law Day Dinner that took place at the Watergate Hotel in Northwest on May 6.
The WBA was founded in 1925 because Black attorneys weren’t allowed to participate in the activities of the bar association. One of the co-founders was Charles Hamilton Houston, the first Black to serve on the Harvard Law Review and served as the dean of the Howard University Law School, where one of his pupils was future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African American appointed to that position.
Each year, the WBA honors attorneys and judges for their accomplishments and awards scholarships to promising African American law students. The president of the WBA is Dionna Marie Lewis.
The awards were presented to the pair by D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby. In receiving her award, Josey-Herring talked about her efforts to improve the court system for people who need to utilize it.
“I became chief judge at a difficult time, during the pandemic,” she said. “Before the pandemic, we had 10,000 people a day at the courthouse. We had to switch from people coming down to the courthouse to conduct business to doing it virtually.”
Josey-Herring said presently anyone who needs to come to court can do so virtually as an option or opt to come in person. She said substantive matters must be done in person.
Josey-Herring said she has a picture of Houston in her chambers.
Racine talked about the influence his mother had on his career and life. He said while as attorney general, he talked about Houston and his legal philosophy nearly every day while serving in the office. He said the Houstonian principles are needed as African Americans continue to face challenges to full equality.
“Every time we make progress as a people, we should anticipate a backlash,” Racine said. “We should prepare for it. There are still dark forces still against Blacks today.”
The winners of the Charles Hamilton Houston Scholarships were Howard University second-year students Crystal Bush, who won $3,500 and first-year Nigel Johnson, who got $5,000.
Johnson thanked the WBA Foundation for his scholarship and noted that his great-grandfather was Dr. Mordecai Johnson, the first Black president of Howard University.