2015 Volunteer Recognition & Awards

The Project celebrated the outstanding contributions of volunteer firms and individuals at its 2015 Volunteer Recognition & Awards Event in Washington, DC.

Thank you to our speakers, sponsors, award winners, and everyone who joined us for a memorable and inspirational evening celebrating the achievements of our volunteer attorneys! We hope to see everyone back next year when we will again be in Washington, DC for our 2016 Awards Celebration.

Event Media


Program Booklet

Exceptional Service Awards

Every fall, the Project celebrates volunteer lawyers at its Volunteer Recognition & Awards Dinner. Pro bono firms are nominated by their colleagues for exceptional service to death row prisoners and honored with the Exceptional Service Award.

This year's Exceptional Service awards were presented to three outstanding volunteer law firms, Kirkland & Ellis and Perkins Coie. 

Kirkland & Ellis LLP

The international law firm of Kirkland & Ellis has demonstrated exceptional commitment to providing high-quality pro bono death penalty representation, with some of the firm’s most senior and accomplished attorneys leading the way. The example of firm leadership is now reflected in the work of hundreds of Kirkland partners, associates, and support staff who have provided pro bono assistance to prisoners on death row.

In 2000, two Kirkland leaders—then-firm chair Tom Yannucci and former Solicitor General Kenneth Starr—took on the case of Robin Lovitt in Virginia. While Mr. Lovitt’s case was pending on direct appeal, a courthouse clerk had destroyed all the physical evidence in the case—evidence which potentially could have been used to prove Mr. Lovitt’s innocence through DNA testing. The team won a rare stay of execution for Mr. Lovitt from the U.S. Supreme Court and presented the case for clemency to then-Governor Mark Warner. Kirkland secured a remarkable victory for their client when it persuaded Governor Warner to grant clemency to Mr. Lovitt—the first and only capital clemency grant during his administration. The firm’s work on the Lovitt case set the example for several other cases to follow. Since then, Kirkland has worked on additional cases in Alabama, Virginia, Florida, and Texas. The Texas case is another example of Kirkland’s exceptional commitment to even the most daunting pro bono challenges.

Read full bio here

Perkins Coie LLP

Perkins Coie, a global law firm with 19 offices, has shown an exceptional commitment to death penalty representation over the last twelve years, taking on five death penalty cases in four states. Its extraordinary efforts on behalf of its clients have resulted in two evidentiary hearings, a stay of execution, and new sentence of life in prison.

To tackle these complex cases, Perkins Coie assembles a flexible team of attorneys that are often recruited to the cause by their colleagues within the firm. Explaining his motivation to take on capital cases, one attorney said: “We need to give these guys, for the first times in their lives, really quality representation, making the system do its job and giving them every opportunity to have their story told because it never gets told otherwise.”

Read full bio here

John Paul Stevens Guiding Hand of Counsel Award

Megan Mc Cracken & Jennifer Moreno

The Project is proud to present the 2015 John Paul Stevens Guiding Hand of Counsel Award to Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno for their years of leadership, guidance, and expertise in lethal injection litigation across the United States.

In 2007, Megan and Jen joined the Lethal Injection Project of the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. Since that time, they have been the moving force behind lethal injection litigation in the United States. In addition to their work on landmark Supreme Court cases such as Baze v. Rees and Glossip v. Gross, they have provided legal assistance to countless other prisoners and legal teams, including numerous pro bono teams referred by the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project. Megan and Jen have now worked directly in 29 jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., Oklahoma, California, and Arizona. There they have secured major victories such as successful challenges to California’s execution practices under the Administrative Procedures Act and to the practice of importing lethal injection drugs from foreign countries in violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. As a direct result of their work, death row prisoners in multiple states have been spared from executions using untested drugs and experimental procedures.

Read full bio here

Keynote Speaker

Tina Tchen

The Project is honored to welcome Tina Tchen as our keynote speaker for the 2015 Volunteer Recognition and Awards Event. Ms. Tchen is Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady Michelle Obama. She also serves as the Executive Director for the Council on Women and Girls and was the past Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Ms. Tchen was a partner at Skadden, Arps LLP for 25 years prior to her appointment to the Obama administration. During her time at Skadden, she worked on death penalty cases as a volunteer attorney. Her pro bono work included representing two death row prisoners in Mississippi whose death sentences were overturned after Ms. Tchen and her team uncovered serious constitutional errors that had occurred at their trials.