Richard J. Davis Honored by State Bar with Root/Stimson Award
MONDAY, JUNE 20, 2016
State Bar President Claire Gutekunst and Mr. Davis

Richard J. Davis, chairman of The Legal Aid Society who has been devoted to public service and the provision of legal representation to all people, received the Root/Stimson Award from the New York State Bar Association.

Mr. Davis has chaired Legal Aid’s board since 2011 and was a major architect of the Society’s 2004-2005 restructuring plan. He joined Legal Aid’s board in 1986 and served as a vice president from 1987 to 1992, returning to the board in 2000.

Mr. Davis, a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP for 30 years before turning to private practice four years ago, was presented with the award at the organization’s House of Delegates meeting on June 18 in Cooperstown.

The award, named for distinguished lawyers Elihu Root and Henry Stimson, “honors an attorney for exemplary community service.”

Explaining his long-held interest in public service, Mr. Davis said he believed that “critical to any functioning democracy is that its citizens believe that they have a stake in society, and that the system is a fair one that works for them, no matter their race, religion, ethnic background, economic status or sexual orientation. It is when people feel that they are left out of the system that we are most at risk as a country.”

As a result, said Mr. Davis, “we need to be vigilant as we perform the difficult task of balancing the ever present need for strong police departments to protect us with the need to protect the freedoms, which define us, why we need a legal system which provides representation to the needy, and not just in criminal cases, why we need a political system which reflects the views of our citizens, and not just the views of those who can afford large contributions and legions of lobbyists, and why we must work towards improving our public parks so that they can make our cities and counties more livable for all its citizens.”

In his civic engagement, “I have, in my own small way, sought to advance these goals,” Mr. Davis said.

State Bar President Claire Gutekunst called Mr. Davis “a wonderful example of a lawyer using his skills and expertise to make a difference in his community. Through his innovative leadership on multiple boards and commissions, Richard Davis has helped shape and advance their missions while also making the community a better place for everyone.”

Mr. Davis is the second member of The Legal Aid Society to receive the prestigious award. Archibald Murray, the Society’s Attorney-in-Chief from 1975 to 1994, was presented with the award in 2000.

Mr. Davis’ career has included an extensive range of public service. For example, he served as assistant secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement and Operations, where he oversaw the freeze of Iranian assets and imposition of other sanctions as a result of hostages seized during the Carter Administration. Mr. Davis was also a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, as well as an assistant special prosecutor in the Watergate Special Prosecution Force.

Mr. Davis, who graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University School of Law, has also served as chair of the Mayor’s Commission to Combat Police Corruption, as well as Citizens Union, the Randall’s Island Park Alliance and the New York City Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Council. Mr. Davis has also been a member of the New York City Campaign Finance Board and a board member for various charities.