News Release

Baylor Law Honors NACDL President Elect Michael Heiskell with Lawyer of the Year Award

Washington, DC (Sept. 15, 2022) – NACDL President Elect Michael Heiskell received Baylor School of Law's 2022 Lawyer of the Year Award at a ceremony on September 15 at the Fort Worth Club in Fort Worth, TX. The law school presents the annual award to an outstanding alumnus who has brought honor and distinction to the Law School and to the legal profession, as determined by achievements as a lawyer; contributions to the legal profession; standing in the profession; Christian character; civic, religious and other attainments; and active interest in Baylor Law. 
Heiskell was the first Black graduate of Baylor Law School when he received his J.D. in 1974. Throughout his time at the law school and as an undergraduate at Baylor, he showed commitment to racial equity on campus and in the community. His stature at the law school inspired and increased student enrollment. 
"Mike Heiskell is a remarkable individual; a trailblazer and an advocate in and out of the courtroom," said NACDL Executive Director Lisa Wayne. "Throughout his career, he has stood up to racism in policing, prosecution, and incarceration, as well as in the legal profession and its institutions. He did this during a time of unpopularity and at a personal sacrifice. As the nation's defense bar, we are honored to count him among our leaders. He shows unwavering commitment to our Association's mission and dedication to supporting his fellow attorneys through CLE programs and NACDL's Lawyers' Assistance Strike Force. He truly deserves this honor." 
"I am humbled and honored to be the recipient of this award, especially being the first African American and the first criminal defense attorney to receive this honor. To be listed among the most influential and iconic Baylor lawyers – from Leon Jaworski to William Sessions to Bob Bullock – to name just a few, is a blessing that I will always cherish," said Michael Heiskell
Heiskell is a former state and federal prosecutor and the owner of the firm Johnson Vaughn & Heiskell in Fort Worth, TX. He was the first African American to serve as President of the Tarrant County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA). He was twice named Lawyer of the Year by the Tarrant County Black Bar Association and received the Presidential Award of Excellence from TCDLA in 1994, 1995, and 2003. He was elected to the TCDLA Hall of Fame in 2015 based upon his extensive proven trial skills, legal acumen, and service to the profession. In 2020, he received the Blackstone Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a member of the Tarrant County Bar Association in recognition of a legal career that exemplifies professional aptitude, integrity, and courage. He is a Life Member of NACDL and serves on the Audit, Budget, Executive, Strategic Litigation, and White Collar Committees and is the 5th Circuit Representative of the Lawyers' Assistance Strike Force and Vice President of the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice Board of Trustees. 


Jessie Diamond, NACDL Public Affairs and Communications Associate, (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 legal system.

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