NLADA AND THE ROBERT J. KUTAK FOUNDATION NAME 2009 WINNERS OF ESTEEMED KUTAK-DODDS PRIZES
Julie E. Levin Receives the Civil Award & Danalynn Recer the Defender Award
WASHINGTON, DC, April 3, 2009 — In recognition of the efforts they make to ensure equal justice for all people, regardless of ability to pay, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) is pleased to announce that Julie E. Levin, managing attorney of Central Office of Legal Aid of Western Missouri in Kansas City, MO, and Danalynn Recer, executive director of the Gulf Region Advocacy Center in Houston, TX and counsel for the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program, are this year’s winners of the prestigious Kutak-Dodds Prizes. Jointly sponsored by NLADA and the Robert J. Kutak Foundation, each prize carries a cash award of $10,000. The winners will receive their awards during the NLADA Exemplar Awards Dinner at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC, on June 3, 2009.
The annual presentation of the Kutak-Dodds Prizes strives to honor the accomplishments of civil legal aid attorneys, public defenders and public interest advocates who, through the practice of law, are contributing in a significant way to the enhancement of human dignity and quality of life of those persons unable to afford legal representation.
“Julie Levin and Danalynn Recer exemplify what it means to be dedicated stewards and unwavering leaders in bringing legal assistance to those in need,” said Jo-Ann Wallace, NLADA president and CEO. “Levin’s work in Kansas City has been a beacon of hope for those in the public housing system and an example of positive change for those in need across the nation. Her efforts to provide clean, safe housing and fair employment rights for thousands of low-income families has time and time again succeeded in improving the lives of her clients and for those facing similar situations in the near term. Recer’s dedicated efforts toward improving the standards of defending capital punishment cases has not only helped provide clients with a fair and appropriate defense but has also served to bring a new awareness to the issue. She has acted as attorney, advocate, investigator and leader in improving the prospects of those facing the possibility of death.”
Julie Levin has spent her entire career advocating for and representing Legal Aid of Western Missouri’s (LAWMo) clients. Levin joined LAWMo’s south office as a staff attorney right after graduating from the University of Kansas Law School in 1977, she served in that position until becoming an attorney with LAWMo’s Housing Litigation Unit in 1979 and has served as managing attorney for the organization’s central office since 1982. In her work, she has made major strives for low-income housing in Kansas City, including in Tinsley v. Kemp, which resulted in the Housing Authority of Kansas City being placed in receivership and their thousands of housing units being completely revitalized, which has resulted in lower vacancy and crime rates in the public housing communities. She has been able to have a broader impact by taking her experience in Kansas City and participating in leadership activities on national and regional housing task forces. She has also been active in employment law, including arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Wimberly v. Labor and Industrial Relations Commission of Missouri, involving unemployment benefits for mothers who take maternity leave but are terminated before returning to work. While the case received an unfavorable verdict, she was still able to get the Missouri legislature to change the law to correct the issue.
“Through her innovation and determined litigation and advocacy, Ms. Levin has realized her vision of improving public housing in Kansas City and, in doing so, has brought dignity and quality to the lives of tens of thousands of people in need in the Kansas City area,” Gregg Lombardi, executive director of Legal Aid of Western Missouri, wrote in his nomination letter.
Danalynn Recer has spent the last 18 years improving the standard of capital case defense by successfully defending capital clients across the South. Starting as a volunteer with the Texas Resource Center (TRC) in 1991 then serving as a mitigation investigator while in law school, Recer has participated in death penalty defense at every level, from historical research to defending at trial. Following her time at TRC she served as staff counsel for the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center (LCAC), consulting counsel for the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana and counsel for the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program. She is also the founder and executive director of the Gulf Region Advocacy Center, where she has provided free capital defense representation in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and elsewhere. Her work has included focus on Harris County, Texas, the county with the highest number of capital cases in the country. In her career she has helped dozens of clients avoid the death sentence and has improved the quality of service many additional defendants have received.
“Danalynn, with her courage, energy and ingenuity, has saved many lives over the years and her vision in establishing GRACE, which some thought to be an act of folly, has brought fundamental systemic change to the most stubbornly lethal jurisdiction in the United States,” said her nominator Stephen Bright, president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights.
For more information on the Kutak-Dodds Prizes, contact Tiffany Payne, director of development, at (202) 452-0620, ext. 232.
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Established in 1989 and presented each year at the NLADA Exemplar Awards Dinner in Washington, DC, the Kutak-Dodds Prizes are jointly sponsored by NLADA and the Robert J. Kutak Foundation. The award is named for the late Robert J. Kutak, a member of the first Legal Services Corporation board and the late Kenneth R. Dodds, former partner in the Omaha office of Kutak Rock. Kutak dedicated his career to public service and legal education, and Dodds was well known for his life-long interest in providing legal services to the disadvantaged.
The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), founded in 1911, is the oldest and largest national, nonprofit membership organization devoting all of its resources to advocating for equal access to justice for all Americans. NLADA champions effective legal assistance for people who cannot afford counsel, serves as a collective voice for both civil legal services and public defense services throughout the nation and provides a wide range of services and benefits to its individual and organizational members.