Richard K. Gilbert

Richard K. Gilbert was a champion of legal justice who believed that lawyers must not only help individual clients, but also help society at large by changing laws for the better. His teachings about what makes good policy and how to go about making it happen led DC Justice Lab founder and executive director Patrice Sulton to create the policy advocacy competition in Rich’s name, as an opportunity for the next generation of attorneys to learn the skills he taught her and others.

For 40 years, Rich was a sole practitioner in D.C., specializing in criminal defense. His love of the drama and challenges of trial law was bolstered by his passionate belief that every client deserved a vigorous defender. 


Rich was remarkably active within the legal community. He was a founding member of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, served on its board of directors, chaired its student groups committee, and advised its student group at Georgetown University Law Center. As an adjunct professor, he taught a course on wrongful convictions at the Washington College of Law at American University. He served on the board of directors of the Council for Court Excellence and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He also served as president of the DC Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, chairing its legislative committee. In that capacity, Rich routinely testified before the DC Council on legislation affecting criminal justice, including the first statute nationwide that required the recording of police interrogations in their entirety. Rich was an active member of the Redbook Committee, which drafts the standard jury instructions used in local and federal courts.


The Gilbert Policy Advocacy Competition honors Rich’s passion and his mentorship of younger lawyers to become change agents.