News Release

California Innocence Project Director and Co-Founder Justin Brooks Receives NACDL Champion of Justice Award

Washington, DC (Feb. 19, 2020) – On Friday, February 14, 2020, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) conferred its Champion of Justice Award to Justin Brooks, Director and Co-Founder of the California Innocence Project (CIP). NACDL President Nina J. Ginsberg presented Brooks with the award at an NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice (NFCJ) reception held that evening at the residence of Juanita Brooks & Michael Pancer in San Diego, Calif. This award is bestowed upon those individuals who — through legislative, legal, journalistic, or humanitarian pursuits — have staunchly preserved or defended the constitutional rights of individuals in the United States and have endeavored to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime.

“I am so very honored that NACDL is able to recognize Justin’s steadfast commitment to a more humane and just system of law,” said NACDL President Nina J. Ginsberg as she presented Brooks with NACDL’s Champion of Justice Award.

Brooks has gained international recognition for his work in exonerating wrongfully convicted people and training judges, prosecutors, advocates, and defense attorneys. CIP is a clinical program with the California Western School of Law. Under Brooks’ leadership, CIP staff attorneys and students have reviewed over 2,000 cases and successfully worked to free more than 30 wrongfully convicted individuals. Among CIP’s success stories is that of Brian Banks. Banks was wrongfully convicted of rape and, owing to Brooks and the CIP’s work, was able to join the NFL as a player and eventually went on to work for the NFL.

In addition to being a tenured professor at California Western School of Law and the author of the only legal casebook devoted to the topic of wrongful convictions — Wrongful Convictions: Cases and Materials — Brooks has also worked extensively in Latin America. He is the Founder and Director of California Western’s Latin American Institute for Law and Justice, an organization devoted to training law students and lawyers in Latin America and improving justice systems there. He is also the Founder and Director of RED Inocente, an organization devoted to starting and supporting innocence organizations throughout Latin America. Brooks has been recognized several times by the Los Angeles Daily Journal as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in California. And in 2010 and 2012, California Lawyer magazine recognized him with the “Lawyer of the Year” award.

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Ivan Dominguez, NACDL Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications, (202) 465-7662 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.