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.
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, 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.