Tom Susman and Freedom Forum’s Ken Paulson
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thomas M. Susman, director of the American Bar Association’s Government Affairs Office, received on March 13 the annual James Madison Award for his work in championing the public’s right to know, capping off the annual Freedom of Information Day program at the Newseum.
The American Library Association presented the Madison Award, named in honor of President James Madison, during the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center’s 11th Annual National FOI Day Conference. The award was established by the ALA in 1986 to honor individuals or groups who have championed, protected and promoted public access to government on the national level.
The honor is presented annually to mark the anniversary of Madison’s birth.
ALA President Jim Rettig said Susman, who practiced with the D.C. law firm Ropes & Gray for 27 years before being named to his current position at the ABA in 2008, has shown a long commitment to the importance of open access to government information. “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,” Rettig said in an announcement by the library association.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the 1989 winner of the James Madison Award, said in remarks to the ALA that Susman, who is also a member of the National FOIA Hall of Fame, has been a steady defender the public’s “right to know … both from inside and outside the realm of policymaking. He has also seen the fragility of laws like the Freedom of Information Act, especially when agencies drag their feet. Tom has always been a dependable ally in the struggle to keep the flame alive.”