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At Red Mass brunch, John Carroll Society presents 2023 Pro Bono Legal Service Awards

In his homily at the Oct. 1 Red Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Washington Auxiliary Bishop Juan Esposito encouraged who work in legal professions to follow St. Paul’s advice to early Christians, and look out for the interests of others. 

At the Mass where God’s blessings and guidance are sought for those who work in the administration of justice, Bishop Esposito – the Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington who has degrees in both civil and canon law – offered special thanks to “legal professionals (who) take on pro bono clients and causes, clearly putting the interests of others ahead of oneself.” 

The bishop added, “to the many here who engage in such work, and on behalf of those whom you serve so selflessly, I express my profound gratitude and admiration.”

After the 71st annual Red Mass in Washington sponsored by the John Carroll Society, that group held a brunch at the Capital Hilton where it honored three attorneys and one law firm for their volunteer work with Catholic Charities’ Legal Network of the Archdiocese of Washington. The John Carroll Society, which has about 1,000 members from many different professions, assists the archbishop of Washington in works of charity and community projects.

“We are called to be servant leaders,” said Dr. Eileen Moore, the president of the John Carroll Society who is an internal medicine physician at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. She praised members of the John Carroll Society, including that morning’s honorees, for making a difference in the lives of others by serving those in need.

At the brunch, the John Carroll Society presented 2023 Pro Bono Legal Service Awards to attorneys Miguel Eaton, Robert F. Shaffer and Patrick J. Kennedy, and to the law firm of Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP, for their volunteer work with Catholic Charities Legal Network.

Founded in 1989 as the Archdiocesan Legal Network by Cardinal James Hickey, then the archbishop of Washington, the Catholic Charities Legal Network served 1,693 low income residents throughout the District of Columbia and Maryland in fiscal year 2022-23. During that time frame, the network’s 600 volunteer attorneys and 45 participating large and small law firms provided more than 2,532 hours of pro bono service valued at more than $1.8 million.

James D. Bishop, Esq., the director of Catholic Charities Legal Network, noted that volunteer corps of individual lawyers and law firms represent low-income clients in civil law matters, conduct client intake, and present law seminars to area residents, including to church groups, senior citizen associations and community organizations. The civil law areas covered by the network include consumer debt and bankruptcy; employment; family law including child custody and domestic violence cases; landlord-tenant and housing issues; Social Security, disability and other public benefits; and estate planning including wills, advanced health care directives and power of attorney.

In an interview with the Catholic Standard, James Bishop expressed gratitude to the network’s volunteer attorneys and law firms. “If it weren’t for the Legal Network, many low-income individuals and families could not receive access to first-rate legal representation,” he said.

Bishop added that the Red Mass brunch has provided Catholic Charities Legal Network “with an annual opportunity to highlight and recognize our outstanding volunteers for their pro bono legal services to those who are most vulnerable in our community.”

He said the 2023 Pro Bono Legal Service Award recipients were recognized “for providing outstanding services to our clients, and we applaud them for their long-term commitment to Catholic Charities Legal Network.”

The following biographical information on the honorees is excerpted from information provided by the John Carroll Society.

Miguel Eaton, Esq., a partner in the Washington offices of the Jones Day law firm, has been an active member of Catholic Charities Legal Network’s Advisory Council since October 2019. He has accepted pro bono cases from the Legal Network to assist clients in civil law matters. He also recruited financial supporters for Catholic Charities Legal Network’s Annual Golf Tournament.

As a veteran and former member of the U.S. Marines, Eaton has been concerned about veterans who are unable to access pro bono legal services in such areas as government benefits, consumer/debts and bankruptcy, and family law matters. As a result, he encouraged his law firm to establish the Vet Lex Program. Vet Lex is a web-based shared platform composed of established legal services programs, such as Catholic Charities Legal Network, which consults with veterans, places their pro bono cases with volunteer attorneys, and makes appropriate referrals to legal and social services organizations. This program has helped the Legal Network to provide its services to deserving veterans and their families in need of pro bono legal services. 

Eaton – who is a graduate of Duke University (J.D. 2006) and the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis (B.S., Mechanical Engineering 1996) – served in the United States Marine Corps from 1996 to 2002, and 2003 to 2004. He is a member of the D.C. and Maryland bars and is admitted to the federal courts in both jurisdictions. 

Robert F. Shaffer, Esq., a partner in the O’Melveny & Myers LLP law firm in Washington, began volunteering with Catholic Charities Legal Network while a law student at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. He continued his volunteer efforts with the Legal Network when he began working as a lawyer and then partner at the Finnegan law firm in Washington, where he assisted the director with evaluating Legal Network pro bono clients who had intellectual property matters.

Shaffer – who has continued to assist Catholic Charities with pro bono client concerns at his current firm, O’Melveny & Myers, LLP – is currently a member of Catholic Charities Legal Network’s Advisory Council. He also volunteers as the co-chairperson of the Legal Network’s Golf Tournament Committee. In 2023, he was responsible for recruiting many volunteers and potential donors for the Legal Network’s 20th Annual Golf Tournament, which has grossed more than $100,000 in pledges and contributions.

Shaffer received his Juris Doctor degree, magna cum laude, from the George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School in 2000. He received a Master of Science degree in Physiology/Biophysics from Virginia Commonwealth School of Medicine in 1996 and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgetown University in 1992. He graduated in the class of 1988 from Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda.

A licensed member of the D.C. and Virginia Bars, Shaffer is also admitted to the United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Patrick J. Kennedy, Esq., has been a loyal volunteer with Catholic Charities Legal Network for more than 10 years. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and while Mr. Kennedy was employed at the United States Department of Homeland Security, he assisted the Legal Network with in-person client intake as well as helped staff with difficult client matters. Now since Kennedy has retired from the federal government, he still assists the Legal Network with client intake and administrative matters. He has volunteered for several years with the network’s annual golf tournaments. In addition to being a valued volunteer with the Legal Network, Kennedy has been an annual financial sponsor of the network.

Kennedy, who is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Georgetown, received his undergraduate and Master of Divinity degrees from the University of Notre Dame. He earned a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Virginia and his law degree from George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia School of Law.

Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP actively conducts second stage client intake for Catholic Charities Legal Network each month. The firm also recruits additional volunteers so that the Legal Network can open more intake appointments to serve potential clients. The law firm’s volunteers have also accepted pro bono cases from Catholic Charities Legal Network.

Thomas J. Kelly, Senior Counsel at the firm, is also an active member on Catholic Charities Legal Network’s Advisory Counsel. He had the firm sponsor the Legal Network’s volunteer recognition reception in 2022. The firm has been a major sponsor of the program’s golf tournament as well as a financial sponsor of its outreach.

Also at the Red Mass Brunch, Msgr. Peter Vaghi, the John Carroll Society’s longtime chaplain and the pastor of the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, invited people to attend the First Thursday Fellowship at his parish’s rectory meeting room. The series on “Prayer: The Perennial Challenge of Listening and Speaking to God,” begins on Oct. 5, and continues on Nov. 2, Dec. 7, Feb. 1, March 7, April 4, May 2 and June 6. Each session begins with a 7:15 a.m. talk, followed by opportunities to receive the sacrament of Confession at 7:45 a.m., and then Mass at 8:15 a.m.

Other upcoming events sponsored by the John Carroll Society include a fall retreat on Nov. 4 at 9 a.m. at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg led by Msgr. Andrew Baker, the seminary’s rector, on the theme, “The Joy and Hope of the Gospel in Professional Life.” On Dec. 2, the society’s annual St. Nicholas Mass and Gift Drive begins with  a 5 p.m. Mass at the Church of  the Little Flower. On Jan. 7, 2024, the society’s Mass for the Feast of the Epiphany will be celebrated at St. Patrick Church in Washington at 10 a.m. by Father Patrick Lewis, that parish’s pastor. Marie Nolan, the Dean of The Catholic University School of Nursing, will speak at the Epiphany brunch. The Rose Mass for people working in health care and related fields will be celebrated on March 10 at the Church of the Little Flower, and the society’s 37th Annual Dinner on April 13 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington will honor Patrick Kelly, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.

For more information, visit the John Carroll Society’s website at