Leadership Profile: David Berger
David Berger, Vice-Chair of IRR’s Criminal Justice Committee and an associate at O’Melveny & Myers LLP, has spent much of his legal career working tirelessly to reform the criminal justice system and advocating for those caught unfairly in its grasp. He joined the Section and the Criminal Justice Committee because of his commitment to this important reform effort.
On behalf of his client, Amnesty International USA, David co-authored, The Rest of Their Lives: Life without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States , a report advocating an end to the sentencing of children to life without the possibility of parole. At speaking engagements around the country and in numerous television, radio, and newspaper interviews, David has argued: “Children sometimes can and do commit terrible crimes, and when they do they should be accountable for their actions. But life in prison without any possibility or even consideration of parole does not hold them accountable, it holds them disposable.”
David’s efforts have helped put this issue to the forefront of the human rights community’s agenda, and on many legislators’ desks, starting a trend toward legislative reform that will hopefully end the sentencing of child offenders to life without the possibility of parole.
David also has joined Amnesty International’s effort to end the execution of the mentally ill, representing the organization’s Program to Abolish the Death Penalty. Consistent with this policy work, and mirroring the goals of IRR’s Task Force on Mental Illness and the Death Penalty, David recently agreed to assist in the representation of Daryl Atkins, whose case led to the landmark Supreme Court decision in Atkins v. Virginia, which held the execution of the mentally retarded to be unconstitutional. The case has been remanded and a new trial is scheduled for this year.
David’s commitment to public service is not limited to his legal work, however. His writings on such diverse issues as gay rights, the inhumanity of U.S. bombing campaigns, and the DC taxi cab system have appeared in major newspapers around the country including the Washington Post, Washington Business Journal, USA Today, and the Boston Globe. Internationally, David has taught high school in Kenya and cared for malnourished toddlers at a child care and nutritional center in central Mexico. He has served on various boards and committees for organizations including the Corcoran Museum, the National Museum for Women in the Arts, and his alma maters, Emory University and NYU School of Law.
David sees a great opportunity for the ABA to make a positive contribution to the debate on criminal justice reform and is excited about the Criminal Justice Committee’s agenda for the coming year. The Committee will address the disparities between sentences for crack and powdered cocaine, as well as racial profiling issues, and advocate for alternatives to incarceration, and work to end the sentencing of children to life without the possibility of parole and the execution of the mentally ill. For more information about the work of the Criminal Justice Committee and its work, please visit the Section’s website at http://abanet.org/irr or call the Section office 202/662-1030.