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Justice in Times of Challenge and Change

Hyatt Regency Colorado Convention Center, Denver, CO
November 18 - 21, 2009

"2009 Awardees Include Legal Aid and Public Defender Attorneys"

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) is pleased to announce that it will honor three equal justice heroes at the NLADA 2009 Annual Conference Awards Luncheon on Friday, November 20 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Denver, CO. The awards to be presented include the Reginald Heber Smith Award, the Clara Shortridge Foltz Award, and the Charles Dorsey Award.

Reginald Heber Smith Award

The 2009 recipient of the Reginald Heber Smith Award is Ann B. Lever, former director of Litigation at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri in St. Louis, MO. The Reginald Heber Smith Award recognizes the dedicated service and outstanding achievements of a civil legal aid attorney or indigent defense attorney while employed by an organization supporting such services. The “Reggie” is named for a former counsel at the Boston Legal Aid Society and the author of Justice and the Poor, published by the Carnegie Foundation in 1919. After 30 years of service as a civil legal aid attorney at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM), Ann B. Lever retired on September 4th of this year. Lever’s history as an innovative litigator put her at the forefront in preserving low-income housing, enforcing fair housing laws and helping clients gain access to health care, education, public benefits and immigration benefits. Her extraordinary commitment to her clients in whose name action was brought has impacted thousands of individuals inside and outside the eastern Missouri legal community.

Lever’s legal achievements began while interning at LSEM in 1978, when she drafted legislation that provided for court-issued Orders of Protection prohibiting persons from abusing another with whom they live; allowed the abuser to be excluded from the home; and permitted the court to address financial support issues. The proposed legislation became law in 1980 giving Missourians access to legal protection from domestic violence for the first time.

For the next 30 years, Lever’s legal achievements on behalf of low-income individuals continued to grow. In 1989, Lever successfully demonstrated that the restrictions on coverage for the drug Retrovir (AZT) violated federal law by denying medically necessary treatment. Thousands of lives were prolonged as a result of her success.

In 2006, Lever led an effort to file an Administrative Procedures Act Claim with the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, successfully challenging the government’s withholding of decisions on naturalization for 50 Bosnian refugees.

Clara Shortridge Foltz Award

The Michigan State Appellate Defenders Office has been named the winner of the 2009 Clara Shortridge Foltz Award. This award commends a public defender program or public defense delivery system for outstanding achievement in the provision of services to indigent defendants. The award, co-sponsored by NLADA and the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, is named for the founder of the nation’s public defender system.

The Michigan State Appellate Defenders Office (SADO) is led by Director James R. Neuhard, who will accept the award on its behalf. SADO is recognized for several landmark accomplishments related to the development and automation of a case weighting system that, under the control of the Appellate Defender Commission, automatically controls intake to the office. This development has allowed the office to meet and exceed the ABA Ten Principles of a Public D efense Delivery System.

In the spring of 2008, in response to the closing of the Detroit Crime Lab due to rampant testing errors in firearms cases and certification errors, SADO recruited law students to review pending cases, contact clients and select a group of cases to send for retesting. As a result, negotiations with the Chief Prosecutor and her staff were opened and an agreement reached that assured that tens of thousands of cases would be reviewed and retested by the State Police Crime Lab with no questions asked.

Additionally, SADO has been recognized as being at the forefront of automation for many years. The Criminal Defense Resource Center is one such example, whereby case summaries, briefs, sentencing manuals and a slew of other resources are captured in a comprehensive legal web site under SADO’s web site, allowing access to support for thousands of attorneys with limited resources.

Charles Dorsey Award

The 2009 Charles Dorsey Award recipients are Edgar Cahn and the late Jean Camper Cahn. This award recognizes an individual who has provided extraordinary and dedicated service to the equal justice community and to organizations that promote expanding and improving access to justice for low-income people. The award celebrates the accomplishments of the longtime executive director of the Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland, whose many national leadership roles included service as chair of the Project Advisory Group and as a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants.

Prior to the development of the legislation for the War on Poverty in 1964, Edgar and Jean Camper Cahn helped to implement the work of Community Progress Inc., developing the first neighborhood-based law firm in New Haven, CT as part of that program. As part of the War on Poverty, the Cahns conceived, designed, proposed and founded the National Legal Services Program, which served as the blueprint for the Legal Services Program. Later, both Cahns helped shape the Legal Services Corporation as consultants to the President’s Commission on Reorganization.

In 1972, through the efforts of the Cahns, Antioch School of Law in Washington, DC, was established as the first clinical law school in the nation broadening access to legal careers and providing free legal services to thousands of District residents. As co-deans of the law school, the Cahn’s pioneered legal programs for poor residents of the District, and, many years later, when the school fell on hard times, the Cahn’s returned to Washington to play crucial roles in mobilizing the community and securing support to launch the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law as a successor to the Antioch School of Law.

In 1980, Edgar Cahn developed the strategy of co-production to empower the poor with a tax-exempt currency initially called services credits and later renamed as Time Dollars. The currency equated one hour spent helping others or building community or fighting for justice with one time dollar, which could then be used to secure computers, food, or clothes for families.

Today, while continuing the work of Time Banking, Edgar Cahn has embarked on a civil rights initiative to address racial disparity by proposing to shift the focus from past to future by formally giving officials a future choice between continuing with present practices that often result in racially disparate impact, with validated, less expensive and replicable alternatives.

“The selfless commitment of each of our award winners has advanced justice for countless people over several decades,” said NLADA President & CEO Jo-Ann Wallace. “Their passionate commitment, zealous advocacy and visionary leadership represent the finest tradition of the equal justice community and hope for equality in the future.” .

(Read more about all of the NLADA Awards and view lists of past winners.)