News Release

New York City Attorney Rick Jones to Receive Champion of Justice 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 Rick Jones to receive one of the Association's most prestigious honors. Jones has been selected as this year’s recipient of the Champion of Justice Award. He 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 Champion of Justice Award recognizes individuals who -- through legislative, journalistic 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.

NACDL president Jerry J. Cox said: "Rick Jones and his partners at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem have truly revolutionized our understanding how indigent defense should be delivered. Rick is a tireless leader and has time and again given himself to advocating for local, state and national reforms to indigent defense. Simply put, Rick Jones and quality indigent defense are synonymous. I can think of no one more deserving of this recognition and I thank Rick for his tremendous service."

Jones has dedicated years of service to raising the quality of indigent defense for the residents of Harlem, N.Y., and to advocating for improved indigent defense systems throughout the nation. Jones is currently a practicing criminal defense lawyer in New York City, where he is the Executive Director and a founding member of the Neighborhood Defender Service (NDS) of Harlem. Since its founding more than twenty years ago, NDS has gained national and international recognition for its innovative, community-based approach to public defense. NDS combines criminal defense work with the services of civil attorneys, social workers, investigators and others to meet the needs of its clients. Jones and NDS have been widely praised for their efforts to address not just the needs of their clients in criminal courtrooms, but to confront the underlying issues that bring them into contact with the criminal justice system in the first place, and provide comprehensive social service support to avoid or minimize future problems.

Jones' work to reform systems of indigent defense has extended far beyond his service to NDS and he has been a dedicated member of NACDL for many years. Jones currently serves as the Association's secretary and previously served two terms on the Association's Board of Directors, including a year as parliamentarian. Jones has co-chaired NACDL's Indigent Defense Committee and the Task Force on Problem-Solving Courts. He currently serves as co-chair of the Task Force on the Restoration of Rights and Status After Conviction and is a member of the State Legislative Affairs and Budget Committees. Through his work at NACDL, Jones has traveled to every region of the country, as well as abroad to Liberia, promoting fairness, equality and justice for the poor and indigent. 

Likewise, Jones is involved in a number of leading organizations working to address indigent defense delivery in his home state of New York and around the country. He is a member of the inaugural steering committee of the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD) and sits on the boards of the New York State Bar Association Criminal Justice Section Executive Committee, the New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA), and the Sirius Foundation. Jones has been engaged with the Brennan Center for Justice's Community Oriented Defender Network and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. He also serves on the Editorial Board of the Amsterdam News.

Jones teaches the criminal defense externship at Columbia Law School as well as a trial practice course. As part of his commitment to the future of indigent defense he works tirelessly to place his students in public defender offices all over the country. He also serves on the faculty of the National Criminal Defense College (NCDC) in Macon, Georgia.

Jones completed his bachelor's degree at the University of Michigan, where he was elected to the Michigan Student Assembly and earned his law degree at Rutgers University School of Law, where he won the prize as the most promising trial lawyer in his graduating class. He was also a Leadership New York Coro Fellow.

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NACDL Communications Department

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.