June 01, 2014

Join the Project on September 11th to Honor Outstanding Volunteer Counsel at Awards Event in Washington, D.C.

Meredith Gallen, Staff Attorney

The Project is delighted to announce the winners of the 2014 Exceptional Service Awards, Quarles & Brady LLP and Sidley Austin LLP, and the winner of the 2014 John Paul Stevens Guiding Hand of Counsel Award, Mark J. MacDougall of Akin Gump LLP. The awards will be presented at our Volunteer Recognition celebration on September 11, 2014, at the Decatur House in Washington, D.C.

Quarles & Brady will receive the Exceptional Service Award in recognition of its more than 31 years of pro bono death penalty work. Quarles & Brady’s unique dedication to representing clients facing the death penalty has been repeatedly demonstrated by its willingness to take cases from all over the country, often on an urgent basis. Over the years, Quarles has achieved many victories for its death row clients, including Jacob Dougan. Mr. Dougan was convicted and sentenced to death in Florida in 1975 for the murder of Stephen Orlando. With the help of local capital defender Mark Olive, Mr. Dougan’s lawyers convinced the court to vacate both his conviction and his sentence on several grounds in 2013. The state has appealed this ruling and Quarles continues to fight for justice for Mr. Dougan.

Sidley Austin will receive the Exceptional Service Award for its incredible firm-wide commitment to serving death row clients in Alabama. In 2005, Sidley launched its Capital Litigation Project in order to provide representation to inmates in Alabama in their state post-conviction proceedings. Since the inception of the Capital Litigation Project, more than 100 Sidley attorneys and staff have donated over 110,000 hours to representing 21 clients in pro bono death penalty appeals in Alabama. Sidley Austin attorneys have achieved many victories for their clients and helped to set precedents that provide all death row prisoners in Alabama with hope for justice.

Debo Adegbile, Senior Counsel for the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, will present the keynote address at the event. Prior to accepting his current position at the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Adegbile served as acting president and director-counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). In November 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Mr. Adegbile to serve as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. As the Senate debated his nomination, Mr. Adegbile faced unjust criticism because he was involved in the representation of a high-profile indigent death row prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, during his time at LDF. In response, American Bar Association President Jim Silkenat wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing his concerns about the criticism, reminding Senators that “[a] fundamental tenet of our justice system and our Constitution is that anyone who faces loss of liberty has a right to legal counsel. Lawyers have an ethical obligation to uphold that principle and provide zealous representation to people who otherwise would stand alone against the power and resources of the government–even to those accused or convicted of terrible crimes.” After failing to reach a final vote on Mr. Adegbile’s nomination, President Obama called the situation “a travesty.” He said that the defeat of Mr. Adegbile’s nomination based on his representation of a criminal defendant “runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice.” The Project joins the President in recognizing that Mr. Adegbile and those like him “represent[] the best of the legal profession.”

Meredith Gallen, Staff Attorney