Friday, January 18, 2008

NCADP 2008: Legal Service Awardees

We were unable to get online yesterday due to the crush of conference business. But today we're back with our NCADP 2008: Reaching for the Dream awardees. Today we recognize three recipients of the annual Legal Service Award. They are David Kendall, Elisabeth Semel and the Death Penalty Clinic of UC Berkeley and the law firm Morrison & Foerster. Descriptions are below:

Please chech back Saturday and Sunday, as we will conclude our series of NCADP 2008: Reaching for the Dream awardees.

David E. Kendall, William & Connolly
Legal Service Award


David Kendall never met a civil rights challenge he didn’t like.

Whether it was defending an incumbent president against what many saw as an overly zealous prosecution by congressional Republicans set on impeachment or whether it was getting arrested in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964 while registering African Americans to vote, Kendall has earned his stripes as one of the country’s top civil rights lawyers.

Along the way, Kendall, now a partner with Williams & Connolly, has left his indelible mark on the death penalty debate. In the landmark 1977 case Coker v. Georgia, Kendall convinced the U.S. Supreme Court that capitol punishment for rape is unconstitutional. He also was involved in fighting the first two post-Gregg executions – Gary Gilmore and John Spenkelink.

Kendall opposes the death penalty but not just because of its inherent immorality. After Timothy McVeigh was executed for his role in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Kendall suggested that executing McVeigh was an insult to the surviving family members.

“I think Timothy McVeigh should have been locked up, and the key thrown away,” Kendall said. “I think that, unfortunately, to execute him – my own, personal view – will not bring any of his victims back and that somehow executing him almost trivializes the atrocities he’s committed because it suggests that there’s somehow an equivalence between what society has done to him and what he’s done.”

Indeed, Kendall’s longstanding opposition to the death penalty is based on his belief that it not only does not serve as a deterrent to crime, but it also demeans society. “I think the death penalty is kind of a barbaric atavism,” he says. “In part, it’s been preserved politically, and I regret that the Democrats, I think, are on the wrong side of the issue. It eventually will wither away. I think the death penalty is an inefficient way, a counterproductive way to try to deal with violent crime.”

The death penalty, Kendall adds, “doesn’t really have very much to do with the people being executed; it has to do with what we as society think is the right way to treat these people.”

While Kendall is among the nation’s top anti-death penalty lawyers, the trail he has blazed through the nation’s courtrooms is but a part of his legacy to the civil rights community.

He has appeared in trial courts in 22 states and has argued appeals in 6 federal courts of appeal, 7 state supreme courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court. He has been married to Anne L. Kendall, a psychologist with the Wake Kendall Group, since 1968, and they have three children. He presently works on diverse matters such as intellectual property, criminal investigations, and the Clinton Library foundation. His notable clients have included AOL, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Washington Post, the National Enquirer, and the Baltimore Orioles, among many others.

Death Penalty Clinic, University of California, Berkeley,
School of Law and Elizabeth Semel
Legal Service Award


After graduating from UC Davis School of Law, Elisabeth Semel became a deputy public defender. In 1980, she entered private practice and, in 1983, formed the firm of Semel & Feldman. Semel has defended criminal cases in the state and federal courts with an emphasis on representation at the trial level, including homicides and capital cases. In 1997, Semel left private practice to serve as the director of the American Bar Association Death Penalty Representation Project, in Washington, D.C.

Semel joined the Boalt faculty in 2001, as the first director of the Death Penalty Clinic. In that capacity, Semel represents clients under sentence of death in states such as Alabama and California and engages in on related litigation such as amicus curiae briefs, petitions for writs of certiorari, clemency petitions, and pretrial motions in capital cases. Semel and her students have prepared amicus curiae briefs that were filed in the U.S. Supreme Court in several death penalty cases, including Miller-El v. Cockrell, Miller-El v. Dretke, and Snyder v. Louisiana (all dealing with race discrimination in jury selection).

Semel has written numerous articles about criminal defense practice, including: "The Lone Star State is Not Alone in Denying Due Process to Those Who Face Execution" (July 1999); "Racial Injustice: Work to be Done Outside the Courtroom" (June 1998); "Talk to the Media About Your Client? Think Again" in The Champion (with C. Sevilla, November 1997); "Breathing Life into Batson" (2003); "The Good, the Bad and the Evil: News from the Hill" (1997); and "Victims' Rights: New Amendment to the Federal Constitution?" in the California Criminal Defense Practice Reporter (1996). Beginning in 2003, her annual annotated summaries of cases dealing with Batson v. Kentucky (race or gender discrimination in jury selection) have been posted electronically and included in various criminal defense publications. Semel frequently provides commentary in the mainstream media on issues relating to the rights of individuals accused of crime, particularly those facing the death penalty.

Semel has received many awards, including the Distinguished Alumni Award (UC Davis School of Law, 2000), John Dewey Award for Distinguished Public Service (Bard College, 1997), the Marshall Stern Award for Legislative Advocacy (NACDL, 1996), the Civil Rights Award (San Diego League of Women Voters, 1995) and the E. Stanley Conant Award for Protecting the Rights of the Indigent Accused (Defender Programs of San Diego, 1982).

Morrison & Foerster
Legal Service Award


With more than 1,000 attorneys and 18 offices around the world, the San Francisco-based law firm Morrison & Foerster has a longstanding commitment to pro bono work and has helped tens of thousands of people who otherwise would have been denied access to the justice system. The firm’s efforts have focused on civil rights and civil liberty cases, children in poverty and school education issues, international human rights and political asylum, environmental issues and housing issues.

On the death penalty, Morrison & Foerster was honored by Death Penalty Focus after it was successful in having the death sentence of James Lee Spencer of Georgia overturned. Spencer was moved off of death row after he was found to be mentally ill.

Morrison & Foerster attorney Charles Patterson has worked on two notable California death penalty cases, including Manuel Babbitt and Clarence Ray Allen, And James J. Brosnahan of Morrison & Foerster is the author of: the “California Death Penalty Fairness and Fiscal Responsibility Study Commission Act,” which includes a resolution calling for a moratorium on executions and the appointment of a study commission to determine the following information:

Last but not least, the firm is currently helping to incorporate “California People of Faith working against the death penalty,” making it into a non-profit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy reading your blog, it always has great insight. But I am very frustrated with the media’s lack of questions to the presidential candidates about global warming.

The Daily Green just put an article out talking about how the presidential candidates are not being asked where they stand on the issue of the climate change - this is surprising to me considering its such a MAJOR concern to people. I just saw a poll on www.EarthLab.com that says people care a lot what their next leader thinks about global warming (after you take it they show you the results). Does anyone know of another poll or other results about this subject?

If not, go to http://www.earthlab.com/life.aspx and take their poll to see which way the results go. This is a pretty legit website; they are endorsed by Al Gore and the alliance for climate protection and they have a carbon footprint calculator. No matter which political party you vote for this is an important issue for our environment, our economy and for homeland security.