David B. Isbell – Selective Curriculum Vitae
1956 Graduated from Yale Law School, where I had been Articles and
Book Review Editor of the Yale Law Journal. (Also the leader of an
informal singing group called the Oversextette, since regrettably
Fall 1956 Did a three-month lecture tour of India for USIA.
Feb 1957 Joined Covington & Burling as an associate.
Fall 1959 Left Covington for what was meant to be a three-month leave of
absence to do a pilot study for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Before the three months elapsed, was promoted to Assistant
Director, and remained in that position until September 1961, when
the Commission’s current term expired and the Commission issued
a five-volume report on the status of Civil Rights in America – a
report for which I served as editor-in-chief as well as one of its
a uthors.
Sept 1961 Returned to Covington.
DC: 2115069-1
Became active in the local affiliate of the ACLU, first as a volunteer
lawyer and then as a board member. Served on that board until
Joined the board of directors of Southeast Neighborhood House, a
settlement house in Anacostia which soon became an active
participant in the Federal Poverty Program. Remained active on
that Board until, six or seven years later, it was decided that all the
members of the Board should be neighborhood residents.
Started teaching a seminar in civil liberties law at the University of
Virginia School of Law. The seminar had been started by Charlie
Horsky, on the Dean’s invitation, in the mid-50’s, but when Charlie
went to the White House as President Kennedy’s advisor on
National Capital Area affairs, he suggested me as his successor,
and the Law School, happily, accepted his suggestion. I have
taught that seminar every year since then.
Elected as National Capital Area affiliate’s representative on the
National Board of the ACLU. Served on that Board, first as affiliate
representative and thereafter as a member elected at large, until
C-11965 Became a partner in Covington & Burling.
1965 or ’66 Drafted the Firm’s first formal policy on public service, and was
appointed the first chair of Firm’s Public Service Committee. The
policy rested on three stated premises, namely, (a) that public
service is an integral part of the practice of law; (b) that every firm
lawyer should have the opportunity to engage in whatever sort of
public service project he or she found interesting; and (c) that the
firm had the same interest and responsibility for the public service
projects involving the practice of law in which its lawyers engaged
as it had in their remunerative work (so that pro bono cases must
be cleared for conflicts, the firm’s name should appear on briefs
filed in pro bono cases, and a partner should be in charge of every
pro bono representation).
1972-73 Served as chairman of the ACLU affiliate.
1975-76 Served as chairman of the D.C. Bar Committee to Consider
Possible Bar Support for Public Interest Activities.
1974-80 Served as a member of the D.C. Bar Legal Ethics Committee.
1978 Elected to the D.C. Bar Board of Governors.
1971 Elected to second term on D.C. Board of Governors
1982 Won election as President-Elect of D.C. Bar.
1983-84 Served as President of D.C. Bar. The accomplishments of that
year that I’m proudest of were getting the IOL TA program adopted
by the D.C. Court of Appeals; suggesting to the Court the adoption
of the provision for licensing of Special Legal Consultants;
supporting the CJA bar in its campaign to have CJA fees raised to
the Federal level; and appointing the Committee, chaired by Bob
Jordan, that studied the Model Rules of Professional recently
adopted by the ABA and recommended the adoption of a modified
version thereof to replace the D.C. Code of Professional
1982- 96 Member of the ABA House of Delegates, initially ex-officio (as an
officer of the D.C. Bar), and then as an elected delegate of the D.C.
1990-93 Member, D.C. Bar Foundation Board, 1990; Vice President 1992;
President 1993.
Served as a member of the D.C. Bar Committee on Referendum
Member, Special ASA Committee on Ancillary Businesses (an
issue about which the Litigation Section of the ASA was much
agitated, and which ultimately resulted in what is now Model Rule
Chair, D.C. Bar Admission Rules Study Committee. This
Committee’s report received the Bar’s Best Project Award for 1987-
Member of the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and
Professional Responsibility, and from 1991 to 1994, Chair of same.
During my time as chair, the committee issued some 26 Formal
Opinions – a rate of production unequaled since or before, at least
in recent years – including several Formal Opinions whose rulings
have since been incorporated in the Model Rules. During that time,
the Committee also proposed several changes to the Model Rules
that were adopted by the House of Delegates.
Undertook on behalf of the Firm to prepare a summary of the
District of Columbia Law of Lawyering, to be included in the Cornell
Legal Information lnslitute’s newly established American Legal
Ethics Library, on the Web. The first edition of the D.C. portion of
this work was completed, under my direction, and posted on the
Web as part of the American Legal Ethics Library, in February
1998. Thereafter, I updated the D.C. Summary and, at Cornell’s
request, added a summary of Federal and District of Columbia law
regulations governing conflicts affecting government employees,
future, current and former, and completed this update in December,
1999. In 2002 I persuaded the D.C. Bar to put on its website both a
link to the D.C. Summary in the American Legal Ethics Library on
the Web and in addition a winzip(?) copy of the whole work. I
completed a second update of the D.C. Summary in May 2004, and
this was also provided to the D.C. Bar for posting on its website. In
2003, the D.C. Bar presented me an award for “exceptional
personal service to the the membership,” in recognition of this work.
C-31992-2005 Board member and treasurer of the Disability Rights Council, an
offshoot of the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and
Urban Affairs. My wife Florence B. Isbell and I were the plaintiffs in
the DRC’s first case, a lawsuit (quickly and satisfactorily settled)
under the Americans with Disabilities Act requiring movie theatres
to install assisted listening devices for the hearing-impaired. (The
DRC was merged into the Equal Rights Center in 2005.)
1992-2005 Founding chair of the Executive Board of the Veterans Consortium
Pro Bono Program, which, during these years, recruited more than
1,900 volunteer lawyers, gave them training in veterans law and
placed with them more than 2,400 appellants before the U.S. Court
of Appeals for Veterans Claims who would otherwise have been
without counsel. In recognition of this service I was presented a
Distinguished Service Award by that Court in 1994, and in 1999 the
Harry A Schweikert, Jr. Award by the Paralyzed Veterans of
America, “in recognition of his successes in promoting a positive
awareness of the needs and contributions of disabled individuals.”
In 2007, the Pro Bono Program set up an internship in veterans law
named after me and funded by contributions made to the Program
of fees received under the Equal Access to Justice Act by lawyers
and firms that had undertaken successful representations under the
1995-98 Co-Chair, D.C. Bar Task Force on the Workplace Experience of
Gay and Lesbian Lawyers. The Report of this Task Force was the
recipient of the Bar’s 1999-2000 Frederick B. Abramson Award.
1996 Commenced teaching the required course in Professional
Responsibility at Georgetown University Law Center. Still doing so,
in the Spring semester, while also continuing to teach the Civil
Liberties seminar at the University of Virginia in the Fall semester.
2006 Received from the District of Columbia Bar the Thurgood Marshall
Award, “in recognition of his exemplary legal career dedicated to
service in the public interest which has made a significant
difference in the quality of American justice.”
Other Awards {Not necessarily deserved)
1988 ACLU-NCA Henry W. Edgerton Civil Liberties Award, for
“Extraordinary leadership and devotion to civil liberties.”
1991 NLADA Award “For significant contributions to civil liberties, civil
rights and advocacy for poor people.”
1995 Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia Servant of Justice
Award, “For unswerving dedication and achievement in providing
access for all persons, regardless of income, to representation
before the District of Columbia courts.”
2001 Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs,
Wiley A. Branton Award (together with Florence B. Isbell, who did
deserve it), “for their lifetime commitment to the cause of Civil
2009 Georgetown University Legal Center’s Charles Fahy Distinguished
Adjunct Professor Award.