San Antonio, Tex. Attorney Cynthia Orr to Receive 2014 Heeney Award from Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar
Washington, DC (May 6, 2014) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) is pleased to announce that President Jerry J. Cox has today selected Cynthia Eva Hujar Orr to receive one of the Association's most prestigious honors, the Robert C. Heeney Award. Orr will be presented with the award on August 1, 2014, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the Foundation for Criminal Justice's gala Celebrating Liberty’s Last Champions™: Guardians of the Constitution. The Heeney Award is given annually to the member who best exemplifies the goals and values of the Association and the legal profession.
NACDL's President Jerry J. Cox said: "Cynthia Orr's dedication to the defense bar is unparalleled. She is a true advocate, both when working on behalf of her clients in the courtroom and when pushing for systematic reforms to criminal justice, at all levels of government. Her record of exposing flaws in Texas's application of the death penalty is particularly impressive. And I have been personally touched by her years of commitment to NACDL and her never ending desire to serve the Association. I am delighted to name her as the recipient of this year's Robert C. Heeney Award."
Orr was NACDL President from 2009-10 and has served NACDL in every officer position and has held numerous other positions of leadership within the Association. During Orr's term as President, NACDL took significant action to challenge New York State's inadequate delivery of indigent defense services. The Association also made extraordinary efforts to support the defense lawyers working at Guantanamo Bay and to bring greater transparency to the proceedings there. Furthermore, NACDL, together with the Heritage Foundation, released its influential report Without Intent: How Congress Is Eroding the Criminal Intent Requirement in Federal Law bringing focus to the problem of overcriminalization and issued studies on misdemeanor courts, problem solving courts, and the need to ensure the scientific integrity of forensic science.
Orr currently serves as the 5th Circuit Vice Chair to NACDL's Amicus Curiae Committee, as a member of NACDL’s Champion Advisory Board, and as a member of NACDL's Death Penalty, Corrections, Forfeiture Abuse, Fourth Amendment Advocacy, and Discovery Reform Committees. Orr is a Trustee of the Foundation for Criminal Justice and has previously chaired NACDL's Membership, Internet, Public Affairs, and History Committees.
As a leading criminal defense lawyer, Orr's achievements have attained wide national recognition. Orr obtained the first confession of error by the State of Texas in a death penalty case, Miguel Angel Martinez vs. Gary Johnson. And on October 4, 2011, Orr, along with the Innocence Project, Inc. of New York, was instrumental in gaining the release of Michael Morton, an innocent man who had been convicted in 1987 for the murder of his wife, in Williamson County, Texas. In her first year in practice, Orr was counsel on an amicus brief in CNN vs. General Manuel Noriega before the United States Supreme Court, where she successfully defended this unpopular defendant’s attorney-client privilege. She is Board Certified in both Criminal Law and Criminal Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
Orr is NACDL's representative in the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates, is the Chair-Elect to the Criminal Justice Section and is a member of the ABA Task Force rewriting the Standards for Prosecution and Defense Functions. She also served on the ABA Ad Hoc Innocence Committee which published Achieving Justice: Freeing the Innocent, Convicting the Guilty. She previously authored the Annual Report on the Criminal Justice System for the ABA Defense Function Committee entitled The State of Criminal Justice.
Orr is a Past President of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and a Past President and Founder of the San Antonio Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. She is a member of the San Antonio Bar Association (SABA) and the SABA Federal Courts Committee, and Co-chair of the Criminal Law Subcommittee. She was also appointed to the Board of Governors for the Bar Association of the Fifth Federal Circuit.
Orr's many accolades include induction into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame. She is listed in Best Lawyers in America and is one of Texas Monthly's "Texas Super Lawyers" and "San Antonio's Best Lawyers," featured in Scene in SA Monthly. In addition, Orr has been designated, on multiple occasions, as one of the Best 100 Trial Lawyers in Texas by the American Trial Lawyers Association. Orr helped establish the Women's Opportunities Week and the San Antonio Minority Business Accelerator for the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, and previously served on the Board of Directors. Orr is also a co-founder of the Texas Innocence Network.
Orr received her B.B.A. from the University of Texas in 1979 and her J.D. from St. Mary's University in 1988. She began her career clerking for Fifth Circuit Judge Emilio Garza when he sat on the U.S. District Court bench in San Antonio, Tex.