News and Information
February 25, 2011

Gail Starling Marshall Is 2011 Powell Pro Bono Award Designee


Gail Starling Marshall, a former Virginia deputy attorney general who has provided pro bono legal services to the poor and disenfranchised throughout her career, has been named the 2011 recipient of the Lewis F. Powell Jr. Pro Bono Award by the Virginia State Bar.

The award is bestowed by the VSB’s Committee on Access to Legal Services to recognize dedication to development and delivery of uncompensated legal services that benefit poor and underserved persons in Virginia. The award is named for a U.S. Supreme Court associate justice from Richmond who throughout his career encouraged pro bono service by attorneys.

Marshall “literally has represented paupers and governors,” Robert Lee, executive director of the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center, wrote in a nomination letter.

From her platforms as a teacher at the University of Virginia School of Law, as a big-firm lawyer in Washington, D.C., as deputy attorney general under Mary Sue Terry, as town attorney for the Town of Orange, and as a solo practitioner in the Orange County town of Rapidan, she has represented paying clients at the highest levels of the private and public sectors, and she has “provided those unable to afford an attorney with the kinds of everyday representation that can change lives,” Lee wrote.

Through the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, Marshall volunteered with a project that is challenging Virginia’s parole system as it applies to offenders who have been convicted of violent crimes, and another project that addresses treatment of inmates in Virginia prisons. Her contributions have ranged from interviewing inmates to helping develop and refine trial strategies.

In addition to direct pro bono representations, she has served on civic and nonprofit boards and helped develop state policy and legislation on justice issues.

As deputy attorney general, her review of death penalty cases led her to question the guilt of Earl Washington Jr. Her flagging of the case for further investigation led to commutation nine days before his scheduled execution, and eventually led to a pardon. Washington is now a free man.

Lee wrote that Marshall “assumed legal responsibility for the concerns of her neighbors and hometown.”

The award will be presented April 12 at 7 pm at the historic Hanover County Courthouse, in a ceremony sponsored by the Access to Legal Services Committee. The courthouse was the site where, in 1763, Patrick Henry argued the Parson’s Cause — a case that exemplifies a lawyer’s role in representing unpopular or unappealing causes. Marshall will be presented with a print of a 19th-century painting that memorializes the case. Her daughter Starling Marshall will accept the award on her behalf as she will be unavailable on that date.

Updated: Feb 28, 2011