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Bar News - April 19, 2013

Bar Foundation News: Bar Foundation Announces Award Winners

Claire Ebel

Dan Feltes
The NH Bar Foundation has announced it will present the Frank Rowe Kenison award for contribution to our justice system and improvement of residentsí lives to Claire Ebel, the recently retired executive director of the NH Civil Liberties Union.

Dan Feltes, staff attorney at NH Legal Assistance since 2006, will receive the Robert E. Kirby award. Presented to an attorney 35 years old or younger, the Kirby award recognizes excellent advocacy, civility, professionalism and good humor. Feltes, 34, of Concord, said he was honored to receive the award and tries to exhibit the qualities it celebrates. "I strive to engage in good humor, but Iím not always successful," he said.

Feltes has appeared twice at the NH Supreme Court in difficult cases involving local welfare programs and was successful in persuading the Court to issue opinions that created new precedent. He also has advocated for low-income and elderly consumers at the NH Public Utilities Commission and has developed a strong network of contacts at the State House. Additionally, Feltes led efforts to provide new services for veterans at NHLA.

"Civility and not taking yourself too seriously when dealing with very serious issues that affect peopleís lives is helpful, I think, both in terms of reaching good resolutions and working with people," he said.

Ebel, who worked 30 years as a stalwart defender of civil rights in New Hampshire, is known and admired by many across the state for her concise and strategic arguments that were usually sprinkled with humor. Director of the NH chapter of the ACLU since 1982, Ebel has devoted much of her life to passionately fighting against abuses of power and attempts to restrict the rights of New Hampshire citizens.

Ebelís knowledge, effectiveness and distinct style contributed to her selection for the 2013 Kenison Award, which recognizes a person or group making "substantial contributions to the betterment of New Hampshire citizens through the administration of justice, the legal profession, or the advancement of legal thought." Ebel was humbled to receive an award named for Justice Kenison, who served as chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court from 1952 to 1977.

"I really do feel unworthy of this award," she said. "To be given an award named for Justice Kenison Ė thatís extraordinary."

NH Bar President Larry Vogelman said Ebel has fought tirelessly to defend civil liberties in New Hampshire and that working with her since 1994 has been a privilege.

"Although not a lawyer, she is someone many of us go to if we have a question, particularly about pending legislation," Vogelman said in an email. "The best indication of how much she is respected is how many legislators, regardless of their party affiliation, have uttered the words, ĎIíll go ask Claire.í"

Prior to her work in New Hampshire, Ebel worked as an economist for the US Commerce Department in Washington, DC, for county government in Tippecanoe County, Ind., and for state government in Hawaii and in New Hampshire. She also taught economics at a prep school in Hawaii.

Now that sheís retired, Ebel said she plans to spend her time in the garden, reading for pleasure and walking every day with her beloved Newfoundland, Lambo. She also hopes to take a trip to Ireland.

The Bar Foundation awards will be presented at the Bar Foundationís Annual Event on May 14. Contact Mary White for tickets.

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