The New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers was formed in 1986 by a group of defense attorneys who felt it was time to speak in a unified voice about criminal defense issues in New York State. Among the original founders of NYSACDL were Jack T. Litman, Lawrence S. Goldman, Murray Richman, Mark J. Mahoney, Gerard M. Damiani, Martin B. Adelman, and Ira D. London, each of whom later became President of the Association. We are a statewide organization responsive to the needs of both private practitioners and public defenders and dedicated to assuring the protection of individual rights and liberties for all.
Many of our members have held positions of prominence in the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. NYSACDL Past Presidents Gerald B. Lefcourt, Robert Fogelnest and Lawrence S. Goldman are also Past-Presidents of NACDL. Past Presidents Marvin Schechter, Joshua L. Dratel and Mark J. Mahoney have been elected to sit on the NACDL Board of Directors. NYSACDL Members serve on the Board of Directors of the New York State Defenders Association. Both the NACDL and NYSDA appoint one person as a full voting member of the NYSACDL Board of Directors.
NYSACDL’s Amicus Curiae Committee is proactive, and regularly files amicus curiae briefs in important State and Federal cases such as People v. Weaver (a court ordered warrant is required to place a GPS device on a motor vehicle), Hurrell-Harring v. State of New York (former defendants may sue to enjoin the State from violating their Sixth Amendment rights), Brown v. Blumenfeld (a trial court may properly consider a prosecutor’s ethics), and Portalatin v. Graham (constitutionality of New York’s discretionary persistent felony statute). Our Legislative Committee continues an ongoing dialogue on issues of importance to the criminal defense bar with elected officials in Albany and in local governments around the state. We have actively lobbied for the reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Discovery statutes, and have sought increases both in funding for indigent defense organizations and for fees paid to Assigned Counsel in the State and Federal Courts. Our magazine, Atticus, provides current information and helpful insights to criminal defense lawyers of every stripe. Our Continuing Legal Education Committee provides some of the best criminal defense CLE available anywhere.
At the first Annual Dinner, we were honored by Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., who, in his last public appearance as a sitting Supreme Court Justice, personally accepted an award in his honor. Other recipients of the Hon. William Brennan Award for Outstanding Jurist include Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye, Second Circuit Chief Judge James L. Oakes, former Associate Judges of the New York State Court of Appeals Vito J. Titone, George Bundy Smith, and Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, Third Circuit Judge Hon. A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., Appellate Division Associate Justices John Carro and Ernst Rosenberger, United States District Court Judges Robert Sweet, Nancy Gertner, Shira A. Scheindlin, David N. Hurd, and Jack B. Weinstein, State Supreme Court Justices Burton B. Roberts, Nicholas Colabella, Jeffrey Atlas, James Yates, and Dan Lamont, and City Court Judge Kate Rosenthal. In 2012, NYSACDL honored New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman in recognition of his efforts to ensure appointment of counsel to indigent defendants and expanding the right to counsel to indigent civil litigants and for his efforts to ensure the judiciary’s continued commitment to the Bill of Rights.
The Thurgood S. Marshall Award for Outstanding Criminal Practitioner has been presented to former Judge Stuart Namm, William M. Kunstler, Herald Price Fahringer, Ronald Tabak, Gerald B. Lefcourt, Martin B. Adelman, Lawrence S. Goldman, Jack T. Litman, Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, Ray Kelly, Kevin M. Doyle, Donald G. Rehkopf, Jr., Gerald Shargel, Benjamin Brafman, Mark J. Mahoney, James P. Harrington, Susan Brune, and David Ruhnke.
In 1995, a special President’s Award was presented to Joseph Fahey of Syracuse, New York. In 1998 a special Justice Award was given to Presiding Justice Francis T. Murphy of the Appellate Division, First Department upon his retirement from the Bench. Outstanding Service to the Criminal Bar Awards have been presented to Gustave H. Newman, Ira D. London, Myron Beldock and Martin B. Adelman. David Steinberg, Malvina Nathanson, Alan Rosenthal and Stephen J. Pittari have been honored with Distinguished Service Awards. A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Jack T. Litman.
The Clarence Darrow Award for Outstanding Achievement was presented to Benjamin Brafman at the 2007 Annual Dinner and to Ray Kelly at the 2010 Dinner. Keynote Speakers at our Annual Dinner have included Morris Dees, Millard Farmer, Johnnie Cochran, Jr.,,Steven Brill and Sol Wachtler, former Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals.
The Gideon Champion of Justice Award was presented to the pro bono team at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind & Wharton (for their assistance in the NYSACDL v. Hon. Judith Kaye litigation); to Elinor Jackson Piel, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld; John J. P. Howley and Dean C. Garfield of Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays and Handler, (for their pro bono efforts in obtaining grants of clemency for 3 death row inmates); to Priscilla Read Chenoweth, Jethro M. Eisenstein and Denis O’Sullivan (for working to overturn a wrongful murder conviction), to Norman Reimer, Jonathan Gradess and the Davis Polk & Wardwell (for their pro bono efforts to increase indigent defense compensation which resulted in the NYCLA v. George Pataki litigation), to Edward Hammock, to Jennifer M. O’Connor, Stephen L. Braga, Barry J. Pollack, Bruce Barket and Jay Salpeter (for their successful efforts to free the wrongfully convicted Martin Tankleff), and to John M. Hintz, Shauna K. Friedman, Ross E. Firsenbaum and others at WilmerHale (for their successful pro bono efforts to free the wrongfully convicted Dewey Bozella).