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NACDL Salutes ‘Second Chances’ Heroes

NFCJ 2019 Awards Dinner | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Access to The Champion archive is one of many exclusive member benefits. It’s normally restricted to just NACDL members. However, this content, and others like it, is available to everyone in order to educate the public on why criminal justice reform is a necessity.

At its gala on Aug. 2, 2019, the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice celebrated the commitment to promote and support “second chances.” Whether second chances take the form of diversion, reentry assistance, early release, commutations or an acquittal, the justice system can be at its best only when defense lawyers remind society that people are more than the worst thing they ever did or are alleged to have done.

The criminal defense bar is a leader in many realms of criminal defense reform, including the imperative to afford second chances and opportunities to avoid or minimize the consequences of an encounter with the criminal justice system. The 2019 gala honorees are playing a crucial role in bringing the issue of second chances to the fore in public conversations. The nation owes them a debt of gratitude.


NACDL presented five awards at the NFCJ gala in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 2, 2019.

Photo by Madeline Sklar
NACDL Executive Director Norman Reimer and Mary Price

Mary Price, a longtime NACDL member and general counsel for FAMM, received NACDL’s Champion of Justice Restoration of Rights Award. Price directs the FAMM Litigation Project and advocates for reform of federal sentencing and corrections law and policy before Congress, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the Bureau of Prisons, and the Department of Justice. She also played a pivotal role in founding and supporting Clemency Project 2014, where she worked closely with NACDL and other groups to support a major pro bono effort to secure commutations for federal inmates. Price continues to play a pivotal role in the NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project, and her efforts to promote and implement compassionate release programs for elderly and ill inmates further underscores her life-long dedication to the restoration of rights and second chances.

Photo by Madeline Sklar
NACDL Executive Director Norman Reimer (left) and Don Salzman

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP received NACDL’s inaugural Champion of Justice Pro Bono Award. Skadden is being recognized for its heroic pro bono efforts in support of Clemency Project 2014, the NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project, and NACDL’s federal- and state-level efforts to combat the trial penalty, including its in-depth research and drafting of NACDL’s groundbreaking report – The Trial Penalty: The Sixth Amendment Right to Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How to Save It. In addition to their work supporting NACDL’s clemency efforts, Skadden attorneys have provided extraordinary, pro bono amicus representation to NACDL in a variety of critically important criminal law cases. Don Salzman, pro bono counsel at Skadden, accepted the award on behalf of the firm.

Photo by Madeline Sklar
NACDL Past President Ted Simon (left) and John Flynn

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John Flynn, singer-songwriter, social justice activist, and executive director of New Beginnings-Next Step, Inc., received the NACDL Champion of Justice Humanitarian Award. In 2017, Flynn founded New Beginnings-Next Step, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to helping lead incarcerated and returning citizens in a successful transition to freedom. Flynn is an ardent opponent of the death penalty. He has organized and performed in MERCy Concerts (Musicians Encouraging the Repeal of Capital punishment) in his home state of Delaware in addition to volunteering as lead inmate support group facilitator at Delaware’s maximum-security penitentiary, the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, since 2005. Recognizing the need for more of this work, in 2013 Flynn began running additional groups for those released.

Photo by Madeline Sklar
Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Theodore McKee (left), NACDL Past President Ted Simon, and STAR program graduate Antione Norman accepted the award on Judge Restrepo’s behalf.

Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge L. Felipe “Phil” Restrepo was awarded the Champion of Justice Judicial Recognition Award. Judge Restrepo was honored in recognition of his role in establishing and overseeing the Supervision to Aid Reentry (STAR) Program in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The STAR Program is a reentry program created in 2007 by the Board of Judges of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The program’s objectives include preventing recidivism, reducing the high rate of violent crime in Philadelphia, and assisting high-risk, returning citizens with the multiple social, familial, and logistical issues they confront upon their return to society after years in prison.

Photo by Madeline Sklar
NACDL Past President Ted Simon (far left) and CHU staff members

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The Capital Habeas Corpus Unit (CHU) at the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania received the Champion of Justice Legal Award. The CHU, which represents death-sentenced prisoners in postconviction proceedings throughout Pennsylvania and outside jurisdictions when appointed, provides clients with the highest level of legal representation with respect to their convictions and death sentences. CHU personnel regularly litigate in federal district court, courts of appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. CHU staff also provide training and consultation to members of the private bar handling capital postconviction cases. CHU Chief Shawn Nolan and Chief Federal Defender Leigh M. Skipper accepted the award alongside several other CHU colleagues.


Photos by Koichi Take and Steven Logan