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Inside NACDL: Words Have Power

By Quintin Chatman

Read more Inside NACDL columns.

Publisher’s Note: In my capacity as NACDL’s Executive Director, it was my privilege to confer the Executive Director’s Award upon Quintin Chatman, Editor of The Champion. The award is given from time to time to recognize sustained excellence by a member of the NACDL staff. By any measure, The Champion is NACDL’s crown jewel. For more than a dozen years, Quintin Chatman has been the caring custodian of that jewel. He is not only a first-rate Editor, but he also recruits the authors. He evaluates, edits, and improves the submissions. He integrates the input of an engaged and knowledgeable Advisory Committee. And he compiles the content and produces one of the most respected publications in the legal community — 10 times a year, every year. 

edit_©Kayleigh-Rae_2018_NYC_Gala_Chatman_Quintin_Reimer_NormanPhoto by Kayleigh Rae
Quintin Chatman (left) and Norman Reimer

Quintin Chatman also serves as NACDL’s “editor-in-chief.” He edits every significant report and position paper produced by NACDL. In just the last several years alone, NACDL has produced 25 major reports — all edited by Quintin. Beyond that, Quintin brings to his work qualities that are universally admired by his colleagues: patience, talent, integrity, creativity, and above all, at all times, quintessential professionalism. 

The Executive Director’s Award was presented to Quintin on April 20, 2018, in New York City, at the Foundation for Criminal Justice Annual Gala, which this year honored NACDL on the occasion of its 60th anniversary. Quintin Chatman’s insightful acceptance remarks were one of the highlights of the evening. In them, he compellingly explained the raison d’etre for The Champion, and reminded us how the articles that appear in these pages continuously and directly benefit not only the criminal defense bar, but more importantly, the accused persons whose lives and destinies are profoundly impacted by the caliber of their defense. In my capacity as the magazine’s publisher, I am honored to share Quintin’s remarks with The Champion’s readers. 

It is great to be here with you tonight.

I spend a large part of my days dealing with the words that authors send me. Those words that pop up on my computer screen are profound and insightful, and sometimes they are angry due to the way laws are being applied to clients. Whatever the tenor of the words I receive, they all march toward one goal: achieving justice.

I like working with words because words have power. They have power when printed on a page or when spoken aloud. Words can make people feel joy, and words can make people feel pain. Words can turn two people into lovers, and words can turn people into enemies. Let me illustrate my point: Think of your significant other. Think of those powerful, warm words that drew the two of you to each other. Now, think of your ex! I don’t want to know the powerful words running through your mind right now!

Words can bring a sense of calm to a tense situation, and words can start a revolution that overthrows a government. Indeed, powerful words can turn the world upside down.

Month after month, the greatest lawyers in the country — all of you in the audience — send me powerful words to put in the magazine. It is an honor to be entrusted with the task of helping to produce a magazine that is filled with practical information that defense advocates can use in the day-to-day representation of clients.

The Champion is the best legal magazine in the country, and it does not happen by accident. NACDL Executive Director Norman Reimer is committed to providing the best resources for the criminal defense community. The Champion is one of the arrows in his quiver. I thank Norman for his insight and advice, and for having a standard. That standard is excellence.

Members of my family are here tonight. I am happy we can share this moment. They have always supported me and have never indicated that any boundaries exist on what I can achieve. In fact, reaching for the stars has always been mandatory.

I consider the writer the most important ingredient in the making of the magazine. The folks who write for the magazine and review submitted articles are phenomenal. I am in awe of their talent and their willingness to share their knowledge with the world. I cannot do my job without these spectacular people.

To all writers, continue sending me your powerful words. As long as you continue to write them, I will continue to edit them! Somewhere down the line, other defense lawyers will read those powerful words you send, and those lawyers will discover the perfect sentence for their oral arguments or their legal briefs.

When you receive The Champion magazine each month, I hope you use the powerful words tucked in its pages to help fight injustice. Use those powerful words to make the world see that people are more than the crime of which they are accused. When amnesia strikes the prosecutors and judges in your midst, use those powerful words to remind them that the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, and the Sixth Amendment are still part of the Constitution. If, in some small way, the powerful words that leap from the pages of The Champion help you secure that not guilty verdict that allows a client to return home to family and friends, then I know my work has been done.

Writer and activist Audre Lorde said that “each of us is blessed in some particular way, whether we recognize our blessings or not.” I may not recognize all my blessings, but I am sure that one of my blessings is you. Have a great evening.

About the Author

Quintin M. Chatman is Editor of The Champion.

Quintin M. Chatman
NACDL
Washington, DC
202-465-7633
www.nacdl.org
@NACDL
qchatman@nacdl.org 

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