December 31, 2011

Guiding Hand of Counsel Award


The Death Penalty Representation Project and its thousands of volunteer attorneys have been inspired and sustained by Justice Stevens’ words and actions throughout his distinguished tenure at the Court.  We are indebted to Justice Stevens for his support of pro bono service, which he has long championed.  Writing in a 2000 article for the Chicago Bar Association, he said, “I remain convinced that the principal rewards that are available to the best lawyers in our profession are intangible rather than monetary. . . . [T]here is no substitute for pride in a job well done and knowledge that your talent and training have served others badly in need of help.”

We are proud to announce a new award to be given by the Project beginning next year: this award will recognize an individual lawyer who has demonstrated the kind of courage and commitment we associate with Justice Stevens.  In his honor, it will be named the Justice Stevens Guiding Hand of Counsel Award.  

Justice John Paul Stevens retired from the U.S. Supreme Court on June 29, 2010.  He was the third longest-serving justice in the history of the Court.  During his lengthy tenure, Justice Stevens authored many opinions expressing concerns about injustices in the administration of the death penalty, including racial bias, limitations on the courts’ abilities to correct constitutional violations, and lack of access to competent counsel.  He has been described as a “champion of the powerless” in recognition of his advocacy for the rights of criminal defendants, including those on death row. Since his retirement from the Court, Justice Stevens has continued to be an influential voice for the most vulnerable members of our society and for changes that will give meaning to our Constitutional protections.

To nominate an individual for the Project’s 2012 Justice Stevens Guiding Hand of Counsel Award, please contact the Project at (202) 662-1738 or

[I]t is fundamentally unfair to require an indigent death row inmate to initiate collateral review without counsel’s guiding hand.

John Paul Stevens

Dissent in Murray v. Giarratano, 492 U.S. 1, 16 (1989)