News Release

Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar Presents  Champion of Justice Award  to Milwaukee, WI Attorney Deja Vishny

Washington, DC (March 6, 2023) – Deja Vishny was awarded the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) Champion of Justice Award during NACDL’s Midwinter Meeting in New Orleans on March 4. Champion of Justice Awards are bestowed upon those individuals who – through legislative, journalistic, philanthropic, or humanitarian pursuits – have staunchly preserved or defended the constitutional rights of American citizens and have endeavored to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime. 

Deja Vishny is a renowned criminal defense attorney and trial lawyer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin who specializes in homicide and false confession cases as well as suppression and trial skills. Vishny is a nationally known trainer and lecturer for NGOs, criminal defense, public defense, and state bar organizations, having given lectures on defending confession cases, suppression, and various aspects of trial practice in over 40 states and India. She serves as faculty of the National Criminal Defense College (NCDC), is currently on their Board and previously served on the Boards of NACDL and the Wisconsin State Bar Criminal Law Section. Before entering private practice in 2019, Deja was a public defender in Wisconsin for 38 years, serving as the state's Homicide Practice Coordinator and Deputy Training Director.  

"Deja Vishny has dedicated her career to nurturing and promoting excellence in the defense of citizens embroiled in the criminal legal system," said NACDL Board Member and Wisconsin defense lawyer Kathleen Stilling. "Through training and through her own example, Deja has influenced, mentored, and improved the practice of an entire generation of lawyers. She richly deserves this recognition."

Deja was awarded two Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (WACDL) lifetime achievement awards; one for excellence and service to the criminal defense bar and another for the defense of the indigent accused; as well as multiple awards for acquittals in homicide cases. In 2012, Vishny received the Wisconsin Law Journal ‘Women in the Law’ award. She was an adjunct professor on trial advocacy at Marquette University Law School and is the author of Suppressing Criminal Evidence, now in its 4th edition, and recently joined the NACDL Public Defense team. 

"Deja is a one in a life time teacher and mentor of defenders," said NACDL Immediate Past President Martín Sabelli during the award presentation. "She has generously shared her talents with NACDL and NCDC for decades while giving vulnerable clients top-notch representation in the heaviest of cases. She exemplifies the giving spirit that passes the best of us from one generation of defenders to the next."

"I am honored to receive this award," said Deja Vishny. "There is an old saying: Whoever saves a life, saves the entire world. Day in and day out, we criminal defense lawyers save lives. I became involved with NACDL in the mid-1990s, and the organization has moved in a great direction since that time. Women and BIPOC lawyers are now in leadership positions. NACDL has taken on the fight against mass incarceration, the trial penalty, and racism in the criminal legal system. The focus on giving assistance to public defenders who work tirelessly for lower pay and carry higher caseload is amazing and I'm proud to have been able to contribute in some small way to what NACDL does."

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Kate Holden, NACDL Public Affairs and Communications Associate, (202) 465-724 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 legal system.