At Red Mass Brunch, Local Legal Professionals Honored for Volunteer Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Several local attorneys and two Washington, D.C., law firms received this year’s Pro Bono Legal Service Awards for outstanding volunteer legal service to low-income individuals in the Washington region. The honorees received their awards on Sunday, Oct. 6, at a brunch that followed the annual Red Mass for justices, judges, diplomats, lawyers and government officials. Monsignor Peter J. Vaghi, chaplain of the society, also received a surprise award for his service to the Legal Network.

The awards are given out each year by the John Carroll Society, a Washington area organization that provides spiritual, intellectual, charitable and social opportunities for Catholic professionals and business men and women in service to the Archbishop of Washington.

The honorees are all volunteers with the Catholic Charities Legal Network. Through the generosity of volunteer attorneys, the Legal Network offered free legal assistance at several locations in the District of Columbia and suburban Maryland in the 2018-2109 fiscal year to more than 3,500 individuals, all of whom are below the poverty line. In addition, the network offers free legal education seminars to the community. More than 700 individual attorneys and more than 45 law firms volunteered numerous pro bono hours; the estimated value of these hours is more than $3 million.

This year’s Pro Bono Legal Service Awards honorees:

Deacon Darryl Kelley, Esq.

Deacon Darryl Kelley has accepted approximately 10 pro bono cases from Catholic Charities Legal Network in less than two years in areas such as family law and bankruptcy. After his diaconate ordination this past June at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Deacon Kelly chose to be assigned to the Legal Network as his charitable service assignment. He is a deacon at Saint Philip’s the Apostle Parish in Camp Springs, and he and his wife Evelyn are proud parents of three grown children. He was also a Maryland State Delegate for the 26th legislative district. Deacon Kelley, a licensed attorney in the District of Columbia and Maryland, routinely agrees to accept pro bono cases from the Legal Network while managing a general law practice with his wife, who is also an attorney. Deacon Kelley is a graduate of the University of Maryland Carey School of Law, and he received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia.

Andrew P. Larsen, Esq.

Mr. Larsen has been conducting in-person client intake for the Legal Network since 2017. He also assists the program’s director with evaluating the program’s more difficult cases for legal merit and proper disposition. He frequently devotes time each week to assisting the Legal Network and its clients.

Mr. Larsen grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and is a graduate of Gonzaga College High School (Class of 2001), and he received his undergraduate degree from Ursinus College. He received his law degree from Washington and Lee University School of Law, and is licensed in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Mr. Larsen is employed as a lawyer at the United States Department of Commerce. Andrew and his wife Rita Marie are parishioners at St. Augustine Parish in Washington.

Carolyn D. Ruyak, Esq.

Ms. Ruyak was initially recruited to the Legal Network by her father-in-law Robert F. Ruyak, Esq., a former and initial member of the Legal Network’s Advisory Council. Ms. Ruyak worked as a staff attorney at the Legal Network from 2006 to 2009. After leaving the Legal Network to pursue a full-time role as a wife and mother of three children, Ms. Ruyak has continued to volunteer at the Legal Network to conduct in-person intake with the program’s Spanish-speaking individuals. She has done an outstanding job in assisting the program to help these individuals obtain access to first-rate pro bono services. Ms. Ruyak received her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University, and is a graduate of the University of California’s Hastings College of Law. Ms. Ruyak is a licensed attorney in the District of Columbia and Maryland. She and her husband Robert and their three children are parishioners of the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Maryland.

Monsignor Peter J. Vaghi

Monsignor Peter J. Vaghi has been an active supporter and member of the Legal Network’s Advisory Council since the Legal Network was established by His Eminence James Cardinal Hickey, a former Cardinal of the Archdiocese of Washington. Msgr. Vaghi, who had left his position as an attorney at Sidley Austin LLP, created the Legal Network’s Advisory Council in 1989. Since then, hundreds of lawyers and law firms have been involved with the program to promote access to first-rate pro bono legal services for low-income and homeless individuals residing throughout the Archdiocese of Washington. The Legal Network has received many awards over the years, such as the Justice Potter Stewart Award from the Council for Court Excellence in 2001 and the DC Bar Foundation’s Jarrett Scoutt Prize, which was awarded to the program’s director in 2014. Msgr. Vaghi has personally recruited many outstanding lawyers and law firms to participate in the Legal Network. As a result, more than 10,000 clients have been served over the past 30 years.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP

The Legal Network has had a longstanding association with the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, since the Network formed in 1989. Over the past 30 years, the firm has accepted pro bono cases from the Legal Network on a variety of civil law matters. The Legal Network Advisory Council’s first Chairperson, the late Milan C. Miskovsky, Esq., served on the Council for more than 10 years. Presently, James P. Gillespie, Esq. is Chairperson of the Advisory Council. In addition, Bridget K. O’Connor, Esq., another partner at the firm, is also serving on the Advisory Council. Thomas D. Yannucci, Esq., Partner, is a past member of the Legal Network’s Advisory Council. Attorneys from the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP volunteer to conduct in-person intake once a month for Legal Network. The firm has also supported the Legal Network’s annual golf tournament, which is the program’s major fundraiser, for the past 16 years. Kirkland & Ellis LLP attorneys have also recently begun volunteering with telephone intake once a month. James P. Gillespie, Partner, and Bridget K. O’Conner, Partner, are the current contacts at Kirkland & Ellis LLP concerning the firm’s association with the Legal Network.

Sidley Austin LLP

The Legal Network is grateful to Sidley Austin LLP for being a major financial supporter of its Msgr. Peter J. Vaghi Endowment. Msgr. Vaghi, formerly an attorney at Sidley Austin, LLP, collaborated with Cardinal Hickey to establish the Legal Network in 1989. Terence M. Hynes, Esq., Senior Counsel at Sidley Austin LLP, was formerly on Catholic Charities Legal Network’s Advisory Council from 2010-2012. In the fall of 2017 and 2018, Sidley Austin LLP loaned a new associate attorney to volunteer with the Legal Network for three-month periods. Both newly-minted attorneys did an outstanding job working with the staff, volunteers, and clients on the program’s pro bono cases. The Legal Network greatly appreciates Sidley Austin LLP’s strong support over the past 30 years.