Catholic University law school Professor Michael McGonnigal was among three individuals honored on Oct. 6 with a Pro Bono Legal Service Award from the John Carroll Society, a spiritual, intellectual, social and charitable organization for Washington-area Catholic professionals.
McGonnigal received his award at a brunch at the Capital Hilton hotel following the 61st Red Mass for justices, judges, diplomats, lawyers and government officials.
As longtime supervising attorney of the Columbus School of Law’s Advocacy for the Elderly Clinic, McGonnigal teaches his students how to represent senior citizens in family law, consumer, landlord-tenant and other civil law matters. McGonnigal accepts an average of 10 to 15 pro bono clients each year from the Archdiocesan Legal Network, which each year offers free legal assistance to nearly 3,000 individuals, all of whom are below the poverty line.
McGonnigal also conducts seminars on wills and probate for the Legal Network, and has urged his colleagues who supervise legal clinics at The Catholic University of America to accept pro bono cases from the Legal Network as well.
“For years I have been telling people that my clients teach the course and I get the paycheck. Now I can tell them that my students do the lawyering and I get the award,” said McGonnigal.
He continued, “It was a thrill for me, my wife, Grace, and my sons, Aaron and Igor, to be handed the award by Cardinal Wuerl. When my sons saw all the security at the Red Mass, they said, ‘We didn’t realize we were going to a real event.’”
At least two CUA Law alumni have also been honored with a Pro Bono Legal Service Award from the John Carroll Society: Michael F. Curtin, 1965, a longtime member of the Law School’s Board of Visitors; and Brian Stolarz, 1998.
The Red Mass is celebrated annually at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, traditionally on the Sunday before the first Monday in October, which marks the opening of the Supreme Court’s annual term. Its purpose is to invoke God’s blessings on those responsible for the administration of justice as well as on all public officials.