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Death penalty and civil rights lawyer to receive ABA’s Father Drinan Award


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Death penalty and civil rights lawyer to receive ABA’s Father Drinan Award

By John Glynn

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2014 — The American Bar Association Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities will honor New York lawyer Ronald J. Tabak with its Father Drinan Award for Distinguished Service to the Section at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Chicago. 


The award, which recognizes members of the legal profession for their service to the section in its mission to provide leadership in protecting and advancing human rights, civil liberties and social justice, will be presented at the Robert F. Drinan Award Reception during the ABA Midyear Meeting.

Tabak is a death penalty and civil rights lawyer and special counsel at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, where he coordinates the firm’s pro bono practice. He successfully argued the death penalty case Francis v. Franklin before the U.S. Supreme Court and played a leading role in securing Johnny Gates’ removal from death row after 26 years.

Tabak is the chair of the ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities’ Death Penalty Committee and serves as a special adviser to the Death Penalty Due Process Review Project Steering Committee. He was chair of the IRR’s Task Force on Mental Disability and the Death Penalty, which developed the ABA’s policy on mental illness and the death penalty and whose proposal was also  adopted as policies by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association.

Tabak has been a leader in the ABA’s efforts to recruit and train lawyers for indigent death-row inmates and has spearheaded the successful effort to have the ABA call for a moratorium on executions until various due process concerns are resolved. He is a longtime proponent of examining and addressing issues of fairness in capital punishment cases. 

Among his other accomplishments, Tabak was awarded the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Champions for Social Justice and Equality Award from the Black Law Students Association of Rutgers School of Law and the New York Criminal Bar Association Award. As a result of his tireless pro bono efforts, he received the New York State Bar Association President’s Pro Bono Service Award.

The ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities provides leadership within the legal profession in protecting and advancing human rights, civil liberties and social justice. Representing nearly 10,000 members with a wide range of professional interests, the section keeps its members abreast of complex civil rights and civil liberties issues and ensures that the protection of individual rights remain a focus of legal and policy discussion.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.