Washington, DC (May 25, 2011) -- Last week, both the Foundation for Criminal Justice (FCJ) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) held meetings in Washington, D.C. The first event, on May 18, was a special screening and panel discussing the film The Dhamma Brothers at the Open Society Foundation Washington Office, an event co-hosted by NACDL and the Open Society Foundation. The Dhamma Brothers tells the story of inmates at the Donaldson Correctional Facility who enter an intensive, ten-day meditation program. In addition to the producer/director of the documentary and some of the men featured in the film, the panel also included the Director of Treatment of the Alabama Department of Corrections, a Vipassana meditation instructor, and a representative of the Vipassana Prison Trust.
On May 19, the FCJ held a reception at the Decatur House on Lafayette Square. Keynote speaker Lt. Col. Darrell J. Vandeveld USAR resigned his post as a Guantanamo prosecutor over what he termed ethical lapses and systemic failures that rendered the Commissions unable to achieve justice. Looking back on his experiences as a prosecutor, Vandeveld told the audience, “I’ve learned lessons that I hope will guide my life from now on, and they’ve obviously guided yours.” Vandeveld, an NACDL member, is now the Chief Public Defender for Erie County, Pa.
At the FCJ event, NACDL President Jim E. Lavine presented Guardian of Liberty Awards to The Office of the Federal Defenders of the District of Columbia and to The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. As explained by Lavine, “through the efforts of the Federal Public Defenders in D.C., under the extraordinary leadership of A. J. Kramer, the office has secured counsel for approximately 80 detainees at Guantanamo,” an endeavor that Lavine said “will go down in the history of America’s criminal defense bar as one of the finest, and most selfless achievements.” The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, currently under the direction of Avis Buchanan, was recognized for its 50 years as “the gold standard by which all other indigent defender programs have been measured,” Lavine explained.
In addition, nearly three dozen law firms, defender offices, and individuals were presented with Certificates of Honor at the FCJ event recognizing their significant contributions preparing and submitting NACDL amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court, and numerous federal and state appellate courts.
At a breakfast held before the NACDL Spring Board Meeting on May 20, NACDL presented Mark V. Holden, general counsel of Koch Industries, with its Defender of Justice Leadership Award in recognition of his and Koch Industries’ “vision and courage” reflected in their ongoing support for NACDL’s mission. Upon receiving the award, Holden explained to NACDL’s Board of Directors that his and Koch’s unconditional support for NACDL is “because your role was provided for in the Bill of Rights…. [and] our founding fathers believed you all were and are essential and necessary for the proper administration of a free society and to ensure and protect the freedom and rights of individuals.”
“We support what you in this room do every day to ensure individual liberty and freedom,” he added.
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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.