Washington, DC (May 30, 2004) -- Samuel Dash, 79, a founder of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the association’s second president (1959), died Saturday, May 29, in Washington, DC, after a long illness.
Sam Dash and a handful of concerned colleagues founded our association in 1958 “to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime.”
Despite health problems, he remained an active member of NACDL until his death Saturday. At a symposium on the 40th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright last year at Georgetown University Law Center, Sam observed that as a district attorney in Philadelphia in the 1950s, he learned what it was like to be a competent lawyer presenting a well-organized case against a poor defendant represented only by himself, who did not know courtroom procedure and often did not even understand the charges against him. He stated:
Gideon was a beginning. It was a brave beginning. Read Gideon again, the wonderful language of Justice Black as to why it was time to overrule Betts v. Brady and why it is that everybody should be able to have a defense lawyer and, as we say, a competent defense lawyer with resources.
This can't be America without it. And I think what we have to do is teach or at least declare or confront the present administration with what are the true values, American values, which they like to speak so much about. Those are the values expressed in the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution.
Probably best known to the public as the tenacious counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Watergate, Sam Dash was one of the most distinguished lawyers this country has ever produced. For years, as a prosecutor, as a defense lawyer, as a law professor and in public service, he was one of the stalwarts who continuously pressed for improvements in our criminal justice system.
In periods when this country has faced a constitutional crisis or patent injustice, Sam Dash has stood tall. His tireless devotion to the constitution helped resolve systemic disgraces such as warrantless wiretapping and the lack of adequate indigent defense services in the 1950s and 1960s. Later, during the Watergate and Whitewater scandals, Sam was instrumental in our country’s successfully surviving these constitutional crises. He was dedicated to justice above all, and his passage leaves a great void in America.
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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 justice system.