News Release

Nation’s Defense Bar and LACDL Commemorate Billy Sothern at ‘Justice and Jazz’ Reception in New Orleans

New Orleans, LA (March 2, 2023) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), joined by the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (LACDL), posthumously honored Billy Sothern during “Justice and Jazz in the Quarter,” a charitable fundraiser at the historic Toulouse Theatre in New Orleans’ French Quarter on March 2, 2023.  Billy was a committed member of NACDL and LACDL who is remembered for taking on some of Louisiana’s toughest capital cases. Near the top of that list is a successful legal campaign to secure the release of Albert Woodfox, an acclaimed memoirist and Black Panthers organizer who spent nearly 44 years in solitary confinement – thought to be the longest in U.S. history – for a crime he did not commit. The reception, which featured live entertainment by Soul Brass Band – led by acclaimed percussionist Derrick Freeman – also honored Champion of Justice Award recipient James “Jim” Boren.

A graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, Billy earned his law degree at New York University. While in law school, Billy worked for Bryan Stevenson at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Billy began his legal career as a lawyer at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, and went on to direct the Capital Appeals Project, representing individuals on death row from across Louisiana in trial and post-conviction appeals. He was a member of the legal team in Kennedy v. Louisiana, in which the Supreme Court greatly cut back on the availability of capital punishment. 

NACDL President Nellie King stated: 

“Billy understood the importance of fighting for justice in communities with the greatest need and taking on the toughest cases. Through his compassion for his clients and commitment to his adoptive home of New Orleans, Billy put his heart and soul into improving the lives of those around him. He left us far too soon, and NACDL and LACDL join with his family, friends, and community, in recognizing the positive impact he made.” 

“With his cherubic grin, energetic idealism and impressive legal chops, Mr. Sothern could have been a character out of a John Grisham novel,”  states The New York Times’ October 8, 2022 obituary of Billy Sothern. “He arrived in New Orleans from New York City in 2001, right out of law school and intent on fighting on behalf of impoverished clients across what he and others called the Death Belt: the stretch of the Deep South from lower Alabama to East Texas where numerous capital punishment cases unfold…. Mr. Sothern did more than defend people in court; he stayed in touch afterward, often forming close friendships. Before he defended people, he got to know them intimately — their families, their lives, their communities — and in the process often became a part of those communities himself.” 


Jonathan Hutson, 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 legal system.

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