2018 Annual Conference Awards

2018 Annual Conference Awards

Be sure to attend the Awards Luncheon on Friday, November 2 at 12 p.m. to join us in honoring these heroes of equal justice!


Arthur von Briesen Award

Allison Clayton

Allison Clayton is the deputy director of the Innocence Project of Texas and the adjunct professor of the Texas Tech School of Law’s Innocence Clinic. She additionally runs a private appellate and post-conviction practice. Lubbock, Texas, is Allison’s home, but she practices all over the State of Texas and the nation; she currently has cases pending at every level of the court system – from county courts all the way through the U.S. Supreme Court. She was also recently appointed as chair of the Amicus Committee for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. Allison steadfastly believes she was born to be an advocate for the poor and oppressed and a defender of the Constitution. For Allison, there is no such thing as free time, but when she steps away from work, Allison enjoys cooking, hiking, exercise, and most of all spending time with her husband and their daughter.


Denison Ray Award

Jonathan D. Asher

Jonathan D. Asher is the executive director of Colorado Legal Services. He was the executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Denver from December 1980 until October 1999, when the three federally funded programs in Colorado became a single, statewide program, Colorado Legal Services. He began his legal services career with Colorado Rural Legal Services in Greeley, Colorado, in l971. Jon is a member of the Colorado Access to Justice Commission and a member of the Colorado Bar Association’s Board of Governors. Jon earned his degrees from Harvard College and Harvard Law School.




Emery A. Brownell Award

Eve Abrams

Eve Abrams is a radio producer, writer, audio documentarian, and educator who produces the audio project Unprisoned, which tells stories at the intersection of the criminal legal system and human lives. Unprisoned has received a Gabriel Award, a New Orleans Press Club Award, and was a Peabody Finalist. Eve’s TED Talk, The Human Stories Behind Mass Incarceration, showcases New Orleanians she met while making the first season of Unprisoned. Abrams’s 2015 documentary, Along Saint Claude, received the Edward R. Murrow award and a New Orleans Press Club Award. Her radio stories can be heard on a host of national programs such as Morning Edition, The Tavis Smiley Show, and Reveal. Abrams is a 2017-2018 Robert Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Fellow. She has been a classroom teacher for 25 years.



Mary Ellen Hamilton Award

Harry Johnson 

Harry Johnson was born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1941 and graduated Spencer High School in 1959. He attended Purdue University’s Indianapolis campus from 1961-1963 and worked for United Carrier Corporation from 1965-2009. Harry is a lifetime member of NAACP, a member of the United Steel Workers Union, vice president of the Indiana chapter of APRI, second vice-president of the Central Indiana Chapter of CBTU, and treasurer of the National Organization of Client Advocates (NOCA). He is also a board member of Indiana Legal Services, Inc., and served two terms as president. Harry served two terms on the NLADA board of directors, served two terms on the NLADA Civil Council, served one term as chairperson of the NLADA Client Council, and served as the convener for the NLADA Client Section from 2001-2008. Harry served on the UNSWA Local 4315 Civil Rights Committee from 1969-1986. Harry is a member of Bethel AME Church and was a member of the trustee board from 1986-1990, the choir, the male chorus, and the Indiana AME lay male chorus. Harry is a softball player and was a commissioner in the Christian co-ed softball league. He is a member of the Robinson Community AME Church Softball Team. He also likes to bowl. Since he retired, Harry likes to plant his garden, fruit trees, and flowers and harvest his vegetables.

He is pictured with his son Jeremiah


New Leaders in Advocacy Award

Ashley Steele

Ashley Steele works as a post-conviction attorney and intern supervisor at the Texas Office of Capital and Forensic Writs (OCFW), a statewide public defender office that represents death-sentenced individuals in post-conviction proceedings. Before joining the OCFW, Ashley received a fellowship from the Yale Initiative for Public Interest Law to conduct a study of the quality of Texas capital direct appeals at Texas Defender Service, which contributed to a TDS report, Lethally Deficient. Ashley earned her law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 2014. She worked as a student attorney in the Capital Punishment, Criminal Defense, and Actual Innocence Clinics, and she received the Pro Bono Superstar Award and a William Wayne Justice Graduating Student Award in recognition of her 930 hours of pro bono legal work and public interest advocacy.


Pierce-Hickerson Award

James Keedy

Michigan Indian Legal Services’ (MILS) executive director, James (Jim) Keedy, is an attorney licensed with the state of Michigan. He was a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) attorney for the Washtenaw County Legal Aid Society in 1977-78. He was both staff attorney and managing attorney at Legal Services of Southeastern Michigan from 1978 to 1986. He was hired as a staff attorney at MILS in 1987 and has been the executive director since 1988. Mr. Keedy is a graduate of Michigan State University and Wayne State University Law School. He is the past chair and member of the Indian Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan, a member of the State Bar’s American Indian Law Committee, and formerly ex officio member of the Steering Committee and treasurer of the National Association of Indian Legal Services.


Reginald Heber Smith Award

Saundra Brown

Saundra Brown is the directing attorney of Disaster Legal Services at Lone Star Legal Aid. She received a B.A. from Kent State University in Ohio and a J.D. from Tulane University Law School in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has been with Lone Star Legal Aid since 1994 and has responded to disasters for Lone Star Legal Aid since Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. She has been the manager of the Disaster Relief Unit since 2010 and is also the content coordinator for www.disasterlegalaid.org, a national disaster legal webpage with resources for individuals and attorneys to help them navigate the disaster preparedness and response process. She has responded to Allison, Katrina, Rita, Ike, the West explosion, the Wildfires in 2011, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the 2015 and 2016 flooding in Texas, and now, Hurricane Harvey.




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