News Release

Capital Habeas Corpus Unit (CHU) honored with Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar’s Champion of Justice Legal Award

Washington, DC (August 7, 2019) – 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 at the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice (NFCJ) Gala in Philadelphia, PA, on August 2.

“These lawyers practice at the highest level of our profession. They are deserving of our admiration and respect, and have achieved so much,” said NFCJ Vice President and NACDL Past President Theodore Simon. “Through their work, they basically established a moratorium in Pennsylvania -- one case at a time -- before Governor Wolf did it officially.”

The CHU, which represents death-sentenced prisoners in post-conviction 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. In September, the CHU will argue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in favor of declaring the death penalty unconstitutional.

“Being honored by [NACDL] is a phenomenal thing, because it is being honored by one of your own,” said CHU Chief Shawn Nolan when he accepted the award alongside Chief Federal Defender Leigh M. Skipper and other members of the CHU at the NFCJ Gala. “This organization is one of our own. We are public defenders through and through.”

CHU personnel regularly litigate in federal district court, courts of appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. CHU staff also provide training and consultation to members of the private bar handling capital post-conviction cases. The CHU is led by CHU Chief Shawn Nolan and Deputy Chief Jennifer Chiccarino.

See a complete list of past winners of the Champion of Justice Legal Award.

Featured Products


Madeline Sklar, NACDL Public Affairs and Communications Assistant, (202) 465-7647 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.