On May 9, 2013, the Project held an informational meeting to discuss the importance of quality representation in capital cases in conjunction with the ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. The meeting created an opportunity for pro bono coordinators and civil attorneys to hear from their peers at other law firms about the professional benefits of representing a death row prisoner and the resources available to volunteer firms. Pamela Wandzel, Pro Bono & Community Service Manager at Fredrikson & Byron, spoke about the resources available to volunteer firms and how her firm keeps costs to a minimum in their death penalty cases. She also told attendees about the firm’s work in Louisiana, where they recently exonerated their client Damon Thibodeaux. Mr. Thibodeaux will be a featured speaker at the Project’s 2013 Volunteer Recognition & Awards Event on September 26 in Washington, D.C. Katie Niejadlik, pro bono manager at Fish & Richardson, also addressed the group in St. Louis. She shared comments from Fish & Richardson volunteer attorneys about the ways that pro bono death penalty work has helped them develop legal skills, build connections with colleagues, recruit new associates, and enhance relationships with the firm’s commercial clients.
On June 25, the Project held its second educational meeting of 2013 at the Edward A. Garmatz United States Courthouse in Baltimore, Maryland. Featured speaker U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar welcomed the attendees, spoke about the importance of pro bono death penalty work, and asked attorneys in attendance to consider taking a case. Judges Catherine C. Blake and J. Frederick Motz joined Judge Bredar at the meeting in support of the Project’s work. Volunteer lawyer Brian Bolton of Funk & Bolton shared his experience representing a client on death row, as did Project Steering Committee Chair Steven Schneebaum of Fox Rothschild. Capital Defender Jennifer Merrigan described the devastating effects of sequestration on federal defenders nationwide and emphasized the need for volunteer assistance that is now more urgent than ever. After the meeting, Project staff were on hand to speak with the more than 30 members of the Baltimore legal community who attended.