Thomas M. Susman, ’67, the director of the American Bar Association’s Government Affairs Office, received the James Madison Award for his promotion of public access to government information and the advancement of freedom of expression on March 13, 2009.
Given by the American Library Association, the award is presented annually on the anniversary of Madison’s birthday, which is also Freedom of Information Day. Susman was presented with the award during the Freedom Forum’s eleventh annual National FOI Day Conference at the Newseum’s Knight Conference Center, in Washington, D.C.
“Tom has stood shoulder to shoulder with our nation’s
librarians in our efforts to make government information
available to the public and our long, historic fights
to protect library patrons’ privacy,” ALA President Jim
Rettig said in a press release.
Susman, who practiced law with Washington, D.C., firm Ropes & Gray for twenty-seven years before becoming director of the ABA, has long shown a commitment to defending public access to government meetings, public records, and court proceedings and to furthering issues of human liberty. Along with his work in defending and advancing the public’s “right to know,” his legislative practice at Ropes & Gray involved work in homeland security, energy, tax code amendments, regulatory reform, intellectual property protection, environmental protection, Native American issues, and antitrust law reform.
Before joining Ropes & Gray, Susman served for more than eleven years as chief counsel to the Senate Subcommittee on Administrative Practice and Procedure, the General Counsel to Antitrust Subcommittee, and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Susman has been a trustee and chair of the National Judicial College, a member of the board of the National Conference on Citizenship, and president of the D.C. Public Library Foundation. He also teaches lobbying and the legislative process at the American University and Washington College of Law and has testified before Congress and consulted with the governments of Shanghai, China, and Peru on open government laws. Susman was editor in chief of the Texas Law Review while attending UT Law.
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the 1989 winner of the award, hailed the award, saying that “Tom Susman has seen the importance of the public’s ‘right to know’ both from inside and outside the realm of policymaking.”