Nomination Criteria: Nominees should be lawyers who have devoted their careers to serving the public interest and pursuing justice, and whose work has brought about positive change in the community, state, or nation.
Nominations should highlight these qualities:
- Courage Under Fire: Maintains a dedication to service even when challenged or threatened by individuals or groups
- Champions the Cause: Pursues service with energy and compassion.
- Leader of Change: Creates new or innovative approaches to resolving social problems.
- Career of Service: Has spent the majority of his or her legal career in service to public interests.
- Embodies the Highest Standard of Excellence: Exhibits legal and ethical excellence.
For more information, or to nominate someone online, go to: http://www.MorrisDeesAward.com
Morris Dees Justice Award
In 2006, the law firm of Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom partnered with the University of Alabama School of Law to create the Morris Dees Justice Award in honor of Dees, an Alabama graduate, for his lifelong dedication to public service. The award is given annually to a lawyer who has "devoted his or her career to serving the public interest and pursuing justice, and whose work has brought positive change in the community, state or nation," as illustrated by the lives of the following recipients.
The first recipient of the award was U. S. District Judge William Wayne Justice, of the Eastern District of Texas, who received it November 16, 2006 at a ceremony in Skadden offices in New York City. Judge Justice was recognized for his lifelong efforts to protect civil rights and safeguard constitutional rights during more than 30 years as a federal district judge, hearing notable cases dealing with integration, prisoners' rights (Ruiz v. Estelle, 1972), procedural due process, equal access to education (United States v. Texas, 1970), free public education for children of illegal immigrants (Plyer v. Doe, 1982), dilution of voting rights, and care for the mentally challenged.
In 2007, the award was presented to Arthur N. Read, general counsel for Friends of Farmworkers, Inc., a legal services provider in Philadelphia, for dedicating his career and life to providing a voice for the disadvantaged and advocating on behalf of the underprivileged. In Vlasic Farms, Inc. v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (2001), he won for workers in Pennsylvania's mushroom industry the right to organize, and in El Concilia v. DER (1984), Read won a class-action lawsuit arguing that Pennsylvania had failed to inspect migrant camp housing for workers, bringing such housing largely into compliance with state and federal law.
In 2008, the award went to immigrant rights advocate Cheryl Little, Executive Director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, a non-profit legal assistance organization in Miami, for her dedication to protecting the rights of immigrants, especially Haitian refugees, throughout her professional career. Little is considered one of the country’s leading experts on immigration law.