Alumni Changemakers: Judge J.P. Howard

To honor our 40 years, we're celebrating our most valuable resource - our alumni - through 40 profiles highlighting their leadership. Alumnus JP Howard completed the Junior Summer Institute at Berkeley University in 2005.

Making Decisions that Uphold Justice 

J.P. Howard embodies the values of commitment to the rule of law, integrity, and leadership. Judge Howard received his B.A. from Howard University, where, in addition to the PPIA, he was a fellow in the 4th annual Harvard/Princeton Public Policy and Leadership Conference, the Florida State University College of Law Summer for Undergraduates, and other programs. He also served on the Howard University Board of Trustees and several executive committees and task forces. An honors student, Judge Howard was nominated by the Political Science Department Chair and served as a Howard University Leadership Intern to the late Senator Harry Reid. He took a leading role in the student response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

After graduating, Judge Howard was a Bill Emerson Congressional Hunger Fellow. Hosted by the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana, he traveled across the state of Louisiana, meeting with local leaders, collecting disaster response data, and assisting in mapping food access. He then worked with the National Conference of State Legislatures on its Immigrant Policy Project and conducted health and human services research, participating in the Food Research and Action Center’s 2007 conference.

“The PPIA opened doors for me—my exposure to professors, deans, administrators, and the community fueled a small fire of interest in law and policy into a roaring blaze. I made lifelong friends and met mentors whose generosity with their time and wisdom continues to make all the difference. The PPIA also enhanced my profile as I pursued educational and career opportunities.

The Fellowship has shown up time and time again in my life. A law professor I worked for was a Sloan Fellow. I currently lead the judicial division of a bar organization headed by a law school classmate, who I discovered was also a PPIA fellow as she spoke to our interns. I continually find other fellows where the work is important. I encourage mentees to apply: the PPIA is a formative opportunity which elevates those with the good fortune to experience it.”

He received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, where he was one of the early Opportunity Scholars, a program funding students with high merit and serious need. Active in the Black Law Students Association and Arabic Law Students Association, he also represented the law school in international moot competitions in Hong Kong and Vienna. During law school Judge Howard also began a career-long commitment to volunteering at local schools with the Street Law Program and spent significant time doing pro-bono work. He served as a research assistant to Professor Anthony Cook, a Sloan Fellow, working on community economic development issues, and worked in admissions.

During law school he was selected as a member of the inaugural class of Pro Bono Scholars at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP. As a pro bono scholar, he conducted legal and policy work at the Tahirih Justice Center, which helps immigrant women and their children who are victims of domestic violence, serious crime, trafficking, and seeking gender-based asylum. He then joined the pro bono practice at the firm, where he worked on a Supreme Court death penalty appeal, in addition to pro bono work helping veterans. He continued to take on significant pro bono work throughout his time at the firm.

While committed to mentoring in law school and reaching back, Judge Howard encountered many mentors who made a large difference for him. He gained valuable experience as a judicial clerk for Chief Judge David C. Simmons, of the D.C. Commission on Human Rights, before clerking for Judge Alexander Williams, Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. From there, he joined the D.C. Office of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP, where he served on the pro bono committee, before starting his own practice in Texas where he continued to take on pro bono work helping churches and individuals with disabilities.

Judge Howard first joined the bench in 2014 as an Administrative Law Judge at D.C. Commission on Human Rights where he heard discrimination claims related to employment, housing, education, and public accommodations. He then went on to work as an Administrative Law Judge at the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings where he heard claims from more than 40 District government agencies, boards, and commissions. In these positions Judge Howard was committed to providing access to justice and making sure that every party in front of him, especially those who could not afford representation, were heard. He deepened his volunteer involvement in the community, particularly with schools, and joined the Judge Robert R. Rigsby Law and Government Explorers Program for at-risk youth as a mentor.

Judge Howard was nominated to be an associate judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals by President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, before being sworn in by Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby on Feb 18, 2022. Judge Howard sits in one of nine judicial seats on the court, which is the District of Columbia’s highest court. He is the youngest judge ever appointed to the court.

Among a number of awards, Judge Howard was recognized by the American Bar Association as one of the top 40 young lawyers in America in 2017 and is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. In 2021 he was recognized in the National Bar Association’s 40 under 40 and individually recognized for service. Judge Howard currently serves as the Chair of the Washington Bar Association Judicial Council. He co-chairs the WBA Judicial Council’s Summer Judicial Internship Program, which aims to provide opportunities for diverse students to work with judges. He is a past president of the D.C. Association of the Administrative Law Judiciary and also serves as an adjunct faculty member at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Judge Howard strives to provide opportunity through his law clerk and intern hiring. Attorneys who serve as judicial law clerks gain training and experience, as important drivers of court work, who are deeply valued in the legal profession. The many clerks (more than twenty) who have worked with Judge Howard since he first took the bench have brought their diverse perspectives to bear for the benefit of the courts and have gone on to serve their communities in private, government, and public interest work with the experience they gained.

Thank you, Judge Howard, for committing so deeply to the structures which maintain and uphold the law, through your devotion to equality and justice. 

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