NLADA ANNOUNCES WINNERS OF THE PRESTIGIOUS 2012 KUTAK-DODDS PRIZES
Abigail Turner, Legal Aid Justice Center, VA and Kim Dvorchak, Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition to be Honored at NLADA Exemplar Award Dinner
WASHINGTON, DC, April 27, 2012 — A champion litigator with a distinguished 35-year career serving low-income clients in states across the country and a tireless crusader dedicated to improving the quality of juvenile defense and the treatment of youth in Colorado’s juvenile justice system have been selected as this year’s recipients of the prestigious Kutak-Dodds Prizes, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) announced today.
The annual prizes are sponsored jointly by NLADA and the Robert J. Kutak Foundation and carry a $10,000 cash award in recognition of civil legal aid attorneys, public defenders and public interest advocates who best exemplify how the legal profession can enhance the human dignity and quality of life of those persons unable to afford legal representation. The awards will be presented on June 6 at the NLADA Exemplar Award Dinner at The Fairmont Hotel in Washington, DC.
Abigail Turner, litigation director for the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, VA is the Kutak-Dodds Prize awardee for civil legal services; and Kim Dvorchak, founder of the Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition, is the Kutak-Dodds Prize awardee for defender legal services.
“Both Abigail and Kim have remarkable stories of dedication and success in delivering justice to people in need from across the country,” said Jo-Ann Wallace, NLADA president and CEO. “As NLADA celebrates its centennial, we are especially proud to acknowledge two shining stars of our profession, who have fought with courage and commitment to accumulate a long record of accomplishments and a legacy in civil and public defense.”
Abigail Turner has spent 35 years focused on civil rights and redressing poverty. As a newly minted attorney in 1975, Turner joined the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, DC, working as counsel in national litigation concerning race discrimination in the expenditure of federal revenue sharing funds. She continued her civil rights focus as a staff attorney with the Legal Services Corporation of Alabama and in 1989 assumed the position of Litigation Director at New Hampshire Legal Assistance. Since then, Turner has racked up victories on behalf of civil rights groups and low-income clients in Massachusetts, Minnesota and Charlottesville, VA, earning her a bevy of awards such as the 2006 recipient of the Hennepin County Pro Bono Publico Public Sector Award, the 2006 Working Class Hero Award from the Jobs Now Coalition, and the 2003 Minnesota Legal Services Pillar of Justice Award. She has provided testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights during Oversight Hearing on Civil Rights Enforcement of the Department of Agriculture; the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution on the Extension of the Voting Rights Act (1982); and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights.
Most recently, Turner’s impact has been felt in a number of advocacy initiatives including the potential establishment of a Commission on Human Rights, Diversity and Race Relations. It approved by the city council, the Commission would investigate claims of racial discrimination, hold hearings, and impose penalties on offenders. In addition, Turner’s advocacy around and exposure of the deleterious mental health effects of isolation and solitary confinement of inmates has led to several high profile articles in the press. Her efforts support a move by the State of Virginia to reduce the number of inmates in solitary confinement.
“Abigail Turner enables us to push for solutions to some of the most pernicious problems of poverty,” stated Alex Gulotta, executive director of the Legal Aid Justice Center. In his nominating letter, Gulotta cited not only Turner’s skills as a litigation attorney, but her mentorship of younger attorneys. “For each case, Abigail partners with our newer and mid-level attorneys to put together legal initiatives and lawsuits. The mentorship she has provided has significantly increased the litigation capacity of the Legal Aid Justice Center ... She is a passionate and determined advocate for those whom she represents and a valued and respected mentor to all her colleagues.”
Kim Dvorchak began her legal career in 1996 as Colorado’s deputy state public defender, where she represented adults and juveniles accused of misdemeanors and felonies in county court, juvenile court, and district court. Prior to that, Dvorchak had already built an impressive pro bono resume while in law school at City University of New York School of Law, Queens, NY, where she spent a significant amount of time working on the ACLU National Prison Project, the Legal Aid Society of New York Prisoner’s Rights Project and Prisoner Legal Services. Dvorchak returned to New York for a five year stint in the criminal defense division of the Legal Aid Society, where she provided indigent defense in felony cases in trial court; was a member of the Juvenile Offender Unit representing 13-15 year old youth in adult court; and was a member of the hospital arraignment team representing injured and mentally ill clients at Bellevue Hospital.
Dvorchak returned in Colorado in 2004 and after six years as a solo practioner at The Dvorchak Law Office, P.C., founded the Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition (CJDC) in 2010, where she is currently the executive director.
A non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring excellence in juvenile defense and advocacy and justice for all children and youth in Colorado, Dvorchak strives to elevate the practice of juvenile defense and advocacy, by holding up juvenile defense as a skilled specialty practice, presenting continuing legal education seminars, developing resources and materials for juvenile defenders and advocates, and by supporting indigent defense through ongoing litigation support and assistance.
Dvorchak is the recipient of the Robert E. Shepherd Jr. Leadership Award for Excellence in Juvenile Defense (October 2009); received recognition at the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar annual awards dinner in May 2009 and shared the Gideon Award for preparing amicus brief pro bono on behalf of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar in Silva v. People. Asked to be described by a board member of the CJDC, that person said, “Kim Dvorchak has been the guiding force in reforming juvenile justice in Colorado. Under her leadership two major pieces of legislation will greatly improve the lives of children across the State. She is the rare attorney who has a multiplier effect, by teaching and inspiring so many juvenile justice advocates. She personally made me a better attorney by sharing her knowledge and compassion.” Turner’s nominator for the award, Lindy Frolich, director of the State of Colorado Office of the Alternate Defense Counsel, had this to say about her, “Kim has been a tireless member of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, was a member of the policy committee where she has assisted in drafting and lobbying numerous pieces of legislation including HP 08-1208 concerning limitations on direct file and HP 09-1321 concerning jailing juveniles. … For what Kim Dvorchak has unselfishly done and accomplished to elevate the standards of practice in Colorado, and her work to protect juveniles accused of crimes in spite of our Draconian laws, I simply cannot think of a more worthy and deserving recipient for the Kutak-Dodds Prize.”
For their extraordinary contributions to justice for all, NLADA is honored to present Abigail Turner and Kim Dvorchak with the 2012 Kutak-Dodds Prizes. For more information on the Kutak-Dodds Prizes or to attend the 2012 Exemplar Award Dinner, contact Deborah Dubois, vice president of development, marketing and communications, at (202) 452-0620, ext. 223 or email@example.com.
# # # 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.
National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) is America’s oldest and largest nonprofit association devoted to excellence in the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. For 100 years, NLADA has pioneered access to justice at the national, state and local level through the creation of our public defender system, development of nationally applicable standards for legal representation, groundbreaking legal legislation and the creation of important institutions such as the Legal Services Corporation. NLADA serves as the collective voice for our country’s civil legal aid and public defender services.