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September 20, 2019

Ronald Tabak Receives Prestigious Death Penalty Representation Project Award

Ronald J. Tabak receives the Project Leadership Award from the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project.

Ronald J. Tabak receives the Project Leadership Award from the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project.

On September 19, 2019, at the annual Volunteer Recognition & Awards Dinner, the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project honored longtime Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice leader and CRSJ Death Penalty Committee Chair Ronald J. Tabak with their Project Leadership Award, in honor of his extraordinary leadership and contributions to the work and mission of the Death Penalty Representation Project. 

During the program, Exceptional Service Awards were presented to Skadden Arps (accepted by Don Salzman & Cliff Sloan) and White & Case (accepted by Jo Weiss), and the John Paul Stevens Guiding Hand of Counsel Award was presented to Kelley J. Henry.  The keynote speaker was Philadelphia, PA District Attorney Lawrence S. Krasner.

Click here to read what the event's written program said about the indefatigable Ron Tabak.  We are also thrilled to share with you Ron Tabak’s remarks upon receiving the award, which were in the form of a top 10 list. Below are the remarks put together by the Section Council to thank Ron for his leadership and celebrate this special night. These remarks were included among many others in a card expressing thanks for his incomparable contributions to equal justice for all.

Section Council Thanks Ron for His Leadership

The Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice is thrilled to congratulate Ron Tabak on receiving the Death Penalty Representation Project’s 2019 Project Leadership Award. Back in 2014, the Section awarded Ron the Robert F. Drinan Distinguished Service Award for his sustained commitment to the Section and its mission of providing leadership to the legal profession in protecting and advancing human rights, civil liberties, and social justice. There are few people more deserving of such awards.

Ron is a champion of fairness and due process in capital punishment cases.  He has been a forceful and effective leader in the ABA’s efforts to recruit and train lawyers for indigent death row inmates, and in 1997, along with the Section’s Criminal Justice Committee, spearheaded the ABA’s call for a moratorium on executions until due process concerns are resolved.  He has chaired the Section’s Death Penalty Committee since 1987 and serves as a Special Advisor to the Death Penalty Due Process Review Project Steering Committee in addition to his work with the Representation Project. His work extended to co-author and editor of the ABA Protocols on the Administration of Capital Punishment, used to conduct the Death Penalty Due Process Review Project’s State Assessments.  Additionally, Ron was a member of the Section’s Council from 1994 until 2000, when he transitioned to the role of Special Counsel. He previously chaired the Task Force on Mental Disability and the Death Penalty, whose proposals were adopted as policies by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association.  He successfully argued Francis v. Franklin, a death penalty case in the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the Fourteenth Amendment's requirement that the State prove every element of a criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. He played a leading role in securing the removal from death row of Johnny Lee Gates, a man with intellectual disabilities who was convicted of capital crimes he may not have committed.

Ron also has spoken on capital punishment at numerous conferences, including those sponsored by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Arizona state court system, and the Federal Bar Council; and on pro bono matters, habeas corpus, and civil rights at numerous law schools, bar associations, before civic groups, and on television and radio.  Even his ‘day job’ – as Special Counsel at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, coordinating the firm’s pro bono practice – is all about public service.  Under his supervision, each year hundreds of Skadden attorneys handle pro bono cases suitable to their practices and interests. He also is a member of the advisory committee for the renowned Skadden Fellowship Program.

Ron’s superb public service work has been honored by, among others, The Black Law Students Association of Rutgers School of Law; the New York Criminal Bar Association; the New York State Bar Association; the Legal Aid Society; MFY Legal Services; the Association of the Bar of the City of New York; the Southern Center for Human Rights; the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; the Fortune Society; and The American Lawyer.

We are proud that Ron has been a longtime leader within the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, and the Death Penalty Due Process Review Project, on top of his work with the Representation Project. It is with great respect and affection that CRSJ congratulates Ron today.

On behalf of the 2019-20 Council of the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice

Ron Tabak receives a standing ovation upon receipt of his Project Leadership award.

Ron Tabak receives a standing ovation upon receipt of his Project Leadership award.


You can make a gift in honor of Ron and his service to the Section and support a broad range of civil rights, civil liberties, and due process, including the work of our Death Penalty Committee.
Read more about the 2019 Volunteer Recognition & Awards Dinner here.