November 24, 2020

ABA Criminal Justice Section honors six during Fall Institute

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2020 Judge Ernestine Steward Gray, who is retiring in December after serving 35 years on the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court in New Orleans, Louisiana, was among six recipients of awards presented by the ABA Criminal Justice Section during its 13th Annual CJS Fall Institute, held virtually Nov. 19-20 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gray was presented with the Charles E. English Award, given to members of the Criminal Justice Section and have distinguished themselves by their work in the field of criminal justice.

Gray, who was admitted to the Louisiana Bar in 1976, was elected to the bench in 1984. Since the start of her career, she has been involved in juvenile justice and family law, including working with the Baton Rouge Legal Aid Society. Gray is past president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), the local YWCA, YMCA and Volunteers of America Boards of Directors. She currently serves as president of the Pelican Center for Children and Families, a nonprofit organization dedicated improving the quality of legal representation for children and providing interdisciplinary training and education to child welfare practitioners.  Click here for photo of Ernestine Steward Gray.

Other award recipients are:

Maryam Ahranjani, Raeder-Taslitz Award: This award is given to a law professor whose excellence in scholarship, teaching or community service has made a significant contribution to promoting public understanding of criminal justice, justice and fairness in the criminal justice system, or best practices on the part of lawyers and judges. Ahranjani teaches constitutional, criminal and education law at the University of New Mexico School of Law. She serves as the advisor or co-advisor to the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, Immigration Law Student Association, Law Students for Equity & Inclusion and Moms of Law. Prior to joining the faculty at in 2016, Ahranjani served as an international legal consultant in Guatemala City, where she worked for the ABA Rule of Law Initiative, U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and U.S. Agency for International Development. Ahranjani currently serves as the reporter of the ABA Women in Criminal Justice Task Force, chair of the Association of American Law School’s Section on Education Law and an appointed member of the ABA Standing Committee on Public Education. Click here for photo of Maryam Ahranjani.

Amy E. Breihan, Livingston Hall Juvenile Justice Award: The award goes to an active member of the bar who devotes a significant portion of his or her legal practice to youth and children and is making positive contributions to the field both in and outside the courtroom. Breihan is a co-director with the Missouri office of the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center, a nonprofit civil rights law firm that fights for racial, gender, social and economic justice through litigation on behalf of people involved in the carceral and criminal legal systems. Since 2012, she has been part of a team of advocates helping to lead efforts to seek second-chance sentences for Missouri youth sentenced to die behind bars. She has provided direct representation to those clients and worked for changes in the law to end juvenile life without parole sentences. That work included state and federal habeas litigation, as well as a successful class action resulting in an overhaul of the parole process for juvenile lifers. Under the new process, juvenile parole hearings have gone from an 86% denial rate to a 100% grant rate. Click here for photo of Amy Breihan.

Judith Friedman, Norm Maleng Minister of Justice Award: This award is bestowed on a prosecutor who embodies the principles enunciated in the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice, Prosecution Function, particularly that “the duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict.” Friedman has spent almost 49 years with the Department of Justice in a variety of positions, including counsel to the 93 presidentially appointed U.S. Attorneys and special assistant to the assistant attorney general in charge of the Criminal Division.  As the only attorney at the Bureau of Prisons’ National Institute of Corrections, she worked with the ACLU’s National Prison Project and judicially appointed Special Masters to develop standards for prisons and jails, to implement court orders following successful 1983 litigation around the country.  For the last 28 years, Friedman has served as a senior trial attorney with the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs. Within the ABA, Friedman has served as vice-chair of the Corrections and Sentencing Committee and Prosecution Function Committee, worked on the Legal Status of Prisoners and Mental Health Standards; and served on the CJS Council. Click here for photo of Judith Friedman.

Margaret Garvin, Frank Carrington Crime Victim Attorney Award: This award is given to an attorney or legal service provider (including organizations) who has either directly represented specific victims in criminal, juvenile or appellate courts or who have worked to promote or implement policies to improve the treatment of crime victims in the criminal justice system. Garvin is executive director of the National Crime Victim Law Institute and a professor of law at Lewis & Clark Law School. She is a leading expert on victims’ rights and is co-author of “Victims in Criminal Procedure.” She serves on the Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces, and on the Victims Advisory Group of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Garvin has served as co-chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section Victims Committee, co-chair of the Oregon Attorney General’s Crime Victims’ Rights Task Force and on the Victim Services Subcommittee of the Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crime Panel of the U.S. Department of Defense. Click here for photo of Margaret Garvin.

Neal R. Sonnett, Albert J. Krieger Champion of Liberty Award: The award honors “lawyers who have devoted a substantial portion of their legal careers to public or private criminal defense practice” and who “have distinguished themselves as criminal trial lawyers” and “made substantial contributions to improvement of the criminal justice system.” Sonnett is a former assistant U.S. attorney and chief of the Criminal Division for the Southern District of Florida. He leads his own Miami law firm, concentrating on the defense of corporate, white collar and complex criminal cases. Sonnett has been included in every edition since 1983 of The Best Lawyers in America by the National Law Journal. He has served as chair of the Criminal Justice Section and has represented the section in the ABA House of Delegates for more than 25 years. He has also served as chair of the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice and is a member of the ABA Board of Governors and the Nominating Committee. Sonnett served as chair of the ABA Task Force on Treatment of Enemy Combatants, the ABA Task Force on Domestic Surveillance in the Fight Against Terrorism and the ABA Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements and the Separation of Powers Doctrine. In addition, he served as the ABA’s first Observer for the Military Commission trials in Guantanamo. Click here for photo of Neal R. Sonnett.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers 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 www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.