News Release

Noted Fort Worth Attorney Michael Heiskell Installed as President of Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar

Washington, DC (Aug.  7, 2023) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) swore in noted Fort Worth, Texas Attorney Michael “Mike” Heiskell as its 65th President at the Association’s annual meeting in Chicago.

Heiskell’s priorities during his tenure include initiatives to recognize and redress law enforcement and prosecutorial misconduct. In his remarks to the nation’s criminal defense © 2023 NACDL | Photo by Darnell Porterbar, Heiskell stated, “as criminal defense attorneys, we are the 'best of the best' of the legal profession and in these turbulent times we must rise to the occasion, as our predecessors have done before, to defend the tenets of our Constitution." 

Heiskell is a former state and federal prosecutor and the owner of the firm Johnson Vaughn & Heiskell in Fort Worth. 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. Heiskell 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.

Heiskell is a Life Member of NACDL and has served on the Audit, Budget, Executive, Strategic Litigation, and White Collar Committees and as the 5th Circuit Representative of the Lawyers’ Assistance Strike Force and Vice President of the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice Board of Trustees. 

Heiskell received Baylor School of Law’s 2022 Lawyer of the Year Award. The law school presents the annual award to an outstanding graduate 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. He is the first criminal defense attorney awarded this honor by Baylor.

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. 

You can follow along with Mike Heiskell’s Presidency and watch his swearing in remarks here.

Photo credit: © 2023 NACDL | Photo by Darnell Porter


Jessie Diamond, 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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