Category Archives: Diversity Conference News

Introducing Shelia Costin, Diversity Conference Chair 2020-2021

By: Chris Fortier

On June 20, 2020, Shelia Costin was sworn in (virtually) as the 2020-2021 Chair of the Diversity Conference. As we progress through the year, let’s take a moment to get to know our chair for this bar year.

1) Tell us a little about yourself, where did you grow up, and how you came to where you are today.

I was born and raised in Altamont, NY, a small village outside of Albany. I received my bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University. After spending four years on the Canadian border, I headed south to thaw out and received my law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. I practice in Alexandria, Virginia, with the firm of Holmes Costin & Marcus. My practice is focused on fiduciary litigation, commercial litigation, and adult guardianships, and conservatorships.

2) How did you come to the Diversity Conference?

I became involved with the Diversity Conference prior to its adoption as a conference because I wanted to be involved with an organization whose goal is to promote diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. I was also drawn by the sense of community that I felt. The attorneys involved are incredibly talented and I find that I look forward to each board meeting. I also enjoy working on the numerous programs and forums that the Diversity Conference has to offer all Virginia lawyers.

3) I know you have done a lot with our Annual Meeting program. What is the most unique aspect of putting together such a high-profile program?

I am a bit of a law nerd and working with committee members and speakers to help an idea grow into a program is exciting. We all learn about topics not central to our practice areas when we attend CLEs but I get to learn so much more when I am involved in putting the program together.

4) What is your vision for the Diversity Conference for the year and long term?

This is an opportune time to be involved with the Diversity Conference. This year, the Diversity Conference will host a series of town halls to discuss the issues that are on all of our minds. In addition, I look forward to advancing our proposal to list bias elimination training as an approved form of Ethics CLE for all VSB members. I also look forward to getting to know and working with more of our members throughout the Commonwealth.

Chris Fortier is a member of the Board of Governors for the Diversity Conference and the Multimedia Editor for Invictus. Anything expressed here is the sole opinion of the author and do not reflect the views of the Social Security Administration or the Federal Government.

New Members Join the Board of Governors

On June 26, 2020, our Board rotated membership. Carole Capsalis, Providence Napoleon, and Latoya Asia all rotated off the Board after years of distinguished service. All three served as chairs of the Diversity Conference in consecutive terms. Chairs oversee the meetings of the Board, run the day-to-day business of the Conference, and represent the Conference to the Virginia State Bar Council and Executive Committee. We will miss their wisdom, enthusiasm, and dedication to the Conference but we thank them for their leadership during critical times for the Conference and the Virginia State Bar.

Rotating in to begin three year terms are three exceptional attorneys and volunteers.  We look forward to working with them over the next three years.

Brian Wesley, Esq.

Brian Wesley, Esq., of Richmond, is with Thornton and Wesley, PLLC. Brian’s service with the Virginia State Bar began with the Young Lawyers Conference, chairing the Minority Prelaw Conférences in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia. He served on the Board and was President of the YLC during the 2018-2019 bar year.  He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the Howard University School of Law.

Debra Powers, Esq.

Debra Powers, Esq., of Fairfax, is a partner at Taylor Hugley Powers, PLLC. She has a distinguished career of service to the bar, serving as chair of the Family Law Section with the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, past president of the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Virginia Women Attorneys Association, and six years of service on the Virginia State Bar’s Disciplinary Committee. Ms. Powers is admitted in Virginia and Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of the University of Richmond and the University of Virginia School of Law.

Marcus Scriven, Esq.

W. Marcus Scriven, Esq., of Virginia Beach, is a solo practitioner who started his career in San Francisco.  Mr. Scriven has a long record of bar and community service, earning numerous awards over the course of his career. He also serves on the executive board with the Virginia State Bar’s Conference of Local and Specialty Bar Associations. Mr. Scriven is admitted in Virginia, California, South Carolina, Washington, DC, and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a graduate of Virginia Union University and the Golden Gate University School of Law.

Please provide a warm welcome to our new board members and a major thank you to our outgoing board members.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

ICYMI: Diversity Conference Statement on Death of George Floyd

VSB Annual Meeting mentors and mentees during the 2018 Annual Meeting.

On June 18, the Diversity Conference issued a statement on Facebook and Twitter regarding the death of George Floyd and the events resulting from his death.

In the last few weeks, our collective conscience has awoken to the reality of inequality. We are dealing with the resulting pain, anger, and unrest that has come to light after generations of this reality not being fully addressed. As an arm of the Virginia State Bar and the Supreme Court of Virginia, we cannot take positions on political or ideological issues and we understand the reasons for this prohibition.

As VSB President Byrum stated in her note, “lawyers have been an essential part of the public dialogue; and we must continue to defend and protect citizens’ rights, and, particularly, to speak for those who have no voice, or have been denied it.”

We are committed to providing a public forum for that dialogue. Watch this space in the coming weeks as we, joining with the Virginia State Bar Young Lawyers Conference and the Virginia State Bar Conference of Local and Specialty Bars, provide regional and statewide forums allowing lawyers and the public to discuss the issues of the day. These forums will educate lawyers on the perspectives in the conversation, train them to the constitutional issues that we encounter, and build plans of action to improve society and bring its benefits to the many.

There is a lot of work ahead but we are committed to finding solutions and creating a path forward that betters society for all. We look forward to the journey.

Town Halls Furthering Dialogue

By Brian Wesley

We promised a forum for lawyers and the public to have a constructive dialogue in our June 19, 2020 statement. The Diversity Conference formed a Town Hall Committee to create programs and opportunities for lawyers to discuss the effects of our changing understanding of our reality.

Named Time to Talk Town Halls, this series of collaborative virtual town halls was sponsored by the Young Lawyers Conference and the Diversity Conference of the Virginia State Bar. These town halls featured presentations by various subject-matter panelists followed by a Question & Answer forum for participant engagement.

Long standing but under the radar issues have come to the light and the events of the last six weeks remind us as lawyers that access to justice for all Virginians and the rule of law are of paramount importance.  Given the need to address these issues, the Conferences have teamed up to discuss the legal implications surrounding a number of these interrelated topics.

In our first town hall on July 23, Perceptions and Realities of Policing, the panel explored topics including but not limited to: Section 1983 civil rights actions; the doctrine on qualified immunity and instances of excessive use of force; the removal of statues and monuments; and, 1st Amendment protection of protesters afforded under the U.S. Constitution.

Our second town hall on August 20, Free Speech, Statues, and Ongoing Protests, included analysis of free speech and property law concepts that have arisen with the removal of monuments in Richmond and Norfolk. The panel discussed the idea of government speech and whether putting up or removing a statue constitutes compelling speech, asking if the government compels or prevents free speech with action or inaction? The panel went over the history of how the monuments in Richmond and Norfolk arose and the recent history of how they have come down. The panel also covered the property issues and how free speech and real property law intersect.

For the most up-to-date information on the Young Lawyers Conference & Diversity Conference:

                Young Lawyers Conference                                Diversity Conference

Newsletter:        Docket Call                                                Invictus

Social Media:         Facebook        Twitter                                        Facebook  Twitter

Web:                VSB Website                                                VSB Website

Brian Wesley, Esq. is an attorney with the Richmond law firm Thornton and Wesley and current member of the Board of Governors with the Diversity Conference. He is a past President of the Young Lawyers Conference.

Photo by Antonio Jamal Roberson on Pexels.com

Doris Henderson Causey Receives the Clarence M. Dunnaville Jr. Award

Doris Henderson Causey, managing attorney of the Richmond office of the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, has been awarded the Clarence M. Dunnaville Jr. Achievement Award, sponsored by the Diversity Conference of the Virginia State Bar. The award honors a lawyer who exemplifies “…the conference’s goal of fostering, encouraging, and facilitating diversity and inclusion in the bar, the judiciary, and the legal profession.”

In 2017, Causey made legal history in the Commonwealth when she was inducted as the Virginia State Bar’s first African American president, and first president from the legal aid community.

Throughout her legal career, Causey has made service a priority, both in her profession and for the legal community. Causey has provided many years of service on the VSB’s Executive Committee and Bar Council, as well as on the Old Dominion Bar Association’s Executive Committee, and as secretary of both the Old Dominion Bar and of the Hill Tucker Bar, Richmond Chapter.

At the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, Causey works to meet the needs of the underserved, delivering quality legal services to low income individuals and communities, while advocating for the protection of civil and human rights in the Commonwealth.

In her nomination letter, Carole H. Capsalis of Caulkins & Bruce, PC in Arlington noted, “In her year of service as the 80th president of the Virginia State Bar, Doris worked tirelessly to promote the needs of the legal aid community, promoted diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and in the selection of Virginia attorneys to serve on Bar council, committees and local bar. She helped raise awareness of the access to justice gap, and promoted availability of legal services to all, and especially those whose incomes fall below the poverty line.”

The award, named after Clarence Dunnaville, the noted Virginia attorney, civil rights pioneer, legal reformer, author, and justice activist, will be presented by the Diversity Conference at the Annual Forum on Diversity, currently scheduled for the fall of 2020.

Write for Invictus

Add to the Diversity Conference – Write for Invictus!

Photo by Elisa Xyz under a CC0 Public License.

Do you want to contribute to the Diversity Conference?  Are you interested in expanding the bar’s understanding of diversity and assisting them make more inclusive and welcoming practices for their colleagues and clients?  Consider writing for Invictus, the Diversity Conference’s newsletter.

We are accepting article ideas and have a simple avenue for submission.  Our online form is easy to fill out, and asks the questions to help guide you through the drafting, editing, and publication phases.

Our Plans for 2019-2020

The editors are planning two additional issues for the 2019-2020 bar year.  In our first issue, we covered the Forum for Diversity and Inclusion, providing you with the panels that invoked much constructive discussion.  Our second issue covered Diversity Conference activities as well as profiling a Brave Little Virginian.

We will use our third issue to profile how legal tech is expanding access to justice for underserved populations. The issue will also provide some tips and tricks to use tech to your advantage in law practice.

Our final issue of 2019-2020 will focus on well-being. There has been significant activity in this field over the past couple of years. We will profile leaders who have been taking on innovative approaches and provide practical tips to ease stress and improve your health.

We will continue to cover Diversity Conference events and participation at Virginia State Bar events. We hope that you enjoy reading about the Conference’s activities and even may want to assist us with covering the events.

As we continue through the year, we will still take articles that fall outside of these issue themes.  Once you submit your idea, we will work with you to ensure the best place for your submission.

Want to Write?

We welcome your contributions, via article, photo essay, or video.  Submit your ideas to this form. We then provide an easy to follow guideline that quickly outlines our expectations.  Our guidelines include contact information for the Editorial Board. When you are ready to submit, you click on the submit link in the guidelines.  Your article is instantly uploaded and the Editorial Board instantly knows about your submission.

The whole process was designed to provide you more control of the writing process.  You are able to design everything about your article from the headline and byline to the finishing touches including photos, videos, and callout quotes to emphasize your point. The Editorial Board wants to be transparent with authors and this method provides the best way to accomplish such transparency.

Are you interested in working with us?  Submit your ideas here.  We look forward to working with you!

Pre-Law Institute Wins National Award

Pre-Law Institute Wins National Award

The Oliver Hill/Samuel Tucker Pre-Law Institute won first place in the 2019 Embracing Diversity Challenge hosted by the American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyers Division.

Named for legendary civil rights attorneys Oliver Hill and Samuel Tucker, the institute reaches future lawyers at an early age to provide them with exposure and opportunity to explore the legal profession, all at no cost to the participants.

Founded by the VSB Young Lawyers Conference and now co-sponsored by the VSB’s Diversity Conference, the Hill/Tucker Institute introduces minority high school students to the legal profession with a week of mock classes and seminars on career opportunities in the law, test taking strategies, and the college admissions process. Networking with lawyers and judges, as well as a mock trial, round out the week of activities on a college campus.  

The institute is funded through the Diversity Conference and through generous yearly grants from the Virginia Law Foundation.

The ABA Young Lawyers Division’s Embracing Diversity Challenge recognizes and awards top young lawyer organization programs that increase diversity in the legal profession. Programs developed by young lawyer groups across the country were showcased at the 2019 ABA Young Lawyers Division Spring Conference in Washington, D.C., and received grants.

This is the second award that the VSB has won in this competition, winning a third-place award for the Logsdon Mentorship Network in 2016. This is the first overall first place award that a Virginia bar has taken in this competition.

Wesley Allen and Courtney Frazier, chairs of the Hill/Tucker Institute, stated:

We are thrilled to learn of this honor. This award further enables the institute to scale its footprint, reach and ultimately serve a broader constituent base, and further bolster the diversity in the pipeline to the legal profession. We encourage other bar associations who are considering establishing such a program to contact us, as we can think of no greater privilege than to touch the lives of the next generation of lawyers.

Hill/Tucker Institute Chairs Wesley Allen (far left) and Courtney Frazier (second from left) and Diversity Conference Board Member Chris Fortier (center) accepting the Embracing Diversity Challenge grant at the Library of Congress on May 3, 2019, from Paula Martucci of Walmart (second from right), and ABA Young Lawyers Division Chair Tommy Preston (far right).

HuYoung is the 2019 Recipient of the Dunnaville Award

Congratulations to Michael HuYoung, a former chair of the Diversity Conference.

Congratulations to Michael HuYoung of Barnes & Diehl in Richmond on his selection as the winner of the Dunnaville Award. Mr. HuYoung was one of the original members of the Virginia State Bar’s Diversity Task Force, the group that laid the groundwork to establish the Diversity Conference. Mr. HuYoung was the second chair of the Diversity Conference and participated in many activities that built upon and solidified the achievements of the inaugural Board of Governors. After his year as chair, he continued to support and lead the Diversity Conference, serving on its Board of Governors for two terms, and helped to create the Law Student Mentor/Mentee program at the VSB Annual Meeting. Mr. HuYoung continues to tirelessly promote the mission of the Diversity Conference and is a leader and mentor for diversity and inclusion within the Virginia’s legal profession and the public it serves.    

According to nominator (and Immediate Past Chair) Carole Capsalis:

Throughout his legal career, Michael has devoted his time, energy and leadership to make significant, demonstrable, and outstanding contributions to fostering, encouraging, and facilitating diversity and inclusion in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In addition to serving on the Diversity Task Force, Michael followed Judge Capsalis as the second chair of the Diversity Conference and was a very involved and active board member of the Diversity Conference from 2010 to 2016. As the second chair of the Diversity Conference, Michael’s herculean efforts shepherded the new conference through the unchartered waters of an unfunded conference.

Mr. HuYoung has served on many boards and given much time to pro bono work in addition to teaching continuing education courses and authoring articles emphasizing the importance of diversity in the legal profession. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Richmond School of Law.

The Clarence M. Dunnaville Jr. Achievement Award, sponsored by the Diversity Conference of the Virginia State Bar, honors a member of the Virginia State Bar for setting an example that fellow members can emulate to meet the conference’s goal of fostering, encouraging, and facilitating diversity and inclusion in the bar, the judiciary, and the legal profession. The award commemorates the life of Clarence M. Dunnaville Jr. and his unceasing devotion to improving diversity and equality in our commonwealth. The inaugural award was presented to Clarence M. Dunnaville Jr. in 2012.

Winners of this award demonstrate:

  • Significant, demonstrable, and outstanding contribution to fostering, encouraging, or facilitating diversity and inclusion in the Commonwealth of Virginia;
  • Demonstrated dedication to raising issues of diversity and protecting civil and human rights in the Commonwealth of Virginia; and/or
  • Participation in corporate and/or community events that promote mutual respect, acceptance, cooperation or tolerance in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Judge Shah Elected to the Bench

Congratulations Judge Shah!

Former Diversity Conference Chair Judge Rupen Shah was elected to the Augusta County District Court and began his six year term on February 1. Here, he is photographed with former Virginia State Bar President Ed Weiner.  Judge Shah served as president of the Augusta County Bar Association and was recognized by the Virginia State Bar as a local leader of the year 2009.

Mentor Program Thank Yous

The Virginia State Bar Annual Meeting will include more law students as part of our 2nd Annual Mentor-Mentee program. We are proud to bring the benefits of the Annual Meeting to students from each of Virginia’s eight law schools.

The law students participate in the Annual Meeting’s CLE programs, networking events, and other fun activities in Virginia Beach. While at the Annual Meeting, the law students will learn about the bar’s activities and how it promotes the practice of law.

We thank our mentors in advance for taking the time to mentor the law students. Click here to meet the law students and their mentors.

We also thank our sponsors: Candace Blydenburgh, Andrea Bridgeman, Peter Burnett, Latoya Capers, Sheila Costin, Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson, Michael HuYoung, Linda Lambert, Providence Napoleon, Luis Perez, Rupen Shah, Virginia Diversity Foundation, Virginia Women Attorneys Association – Northern Virginia Chapter, Maura & Ed Weiner, and the Zavos Juncker Law Group.

If you are coming to the Annual Meeting on June 16 through June 18 in Virginia Beach, take a moment and introduce yourself to the law students. You will not regret it!

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