This award is presented by the Foundation of the American College of Trial Lawyers and was established in 1980 to honor a lawyer or judge who has made a significant contribution to the improvement of the litigation process. The person selected might be a trial practitioner, a judge, a teacher, a writer, a legislator, an administrator, or initiator of organizations or programs, or some other person whose work has been substantively significant or who has inaugurated or advanced significant programs. Samuel E. Gates was a President-Elect of the College who died shortly before he was to be sworn in. In Gates' memory, the College created the award in his name. The award is funded by Gates' old firm, Debevoise and Plimpton of New York City. Gates was recognized as a pioneer in the field of aviation law, playing a major role in shaping the laws and international conventions that govern airline flights, and in representing domestic and international airlines.