News & Insights

Dykema Receives Exceptional Service Award From ABA Death Penalty Representation Project

Honor Recognizes Firm’s Outstanding Pro Bono Work and Unwavering Commitment to Justice

August 31, 2009


Dykema, a leading national law firm, today announced that the firm has been selected to receive the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project’s 2009 Exceptional Service Award, which recognizes the firm’s commitment to representing death row inmates. The firm will be honored at the ABA’s 23rd Anniversary & Volunteer Recognition Event in Atlanta, Georgia on September 24, 2009.

The criteria for this award was based on Dykema’s commitment to pro bono death penalty work through the number of death penalty cases the firm handled; their financial and hourly commitment in ratio to resources; their attention devoted to the death penalty debate; and their significant impact on the justice system through legal victory, legislation, and/or litigation. Previous award winners have been global law firms including Covington & Burlington, Kaye Scholer, Skadden Arps, Wilmer Hale, Jenner & Block, Mayer Brown, Sidley Austin and King & Spaulding.

The ABA created the Death Penalty Representation Project in 1986 with the goals of raising awareness about the lack of representation available to death row inmates, addressing this urgent need by recruiting competent volunteer lawyers. The Death Penalty Representation Project works for systemic changes in the criminal justice system in order to assure those facing death are represented from trial through clemency by qualified, adequately compensated counsel.

"Dykema has a long term commitment to ensuring equal access to justice, regardless of income or status," said Rex E. Schlaybaugh, Jr., Dykema chairman and chief executive officer. "We are pleased that the ABA has recognized the firm’s dedication to these principles and our more than 20 years of representation in death penalty cases. For those condemned, their access to counsel is a matter of life and death. I congratulate our attorneys on this honor."

"We look forward to continuing our long-standing relationship with the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project and supporting its efforts to provide legal services for those who otherwise might go without representation," added Heidi Naasko, Dykema’s attorney pro bono coordinator.

"This recognition from the ABA represents a convergence of two of Dykema’s values: dedicated client service and a commitment to serve the underserved," said Charles Le Moine, Chairman of the firm’s Pro Bono committee. "We are proud of all attorneys involved in the efforts that lead to this award."

Dykema’s work on Death Row cases started more than 20 years ago. Since that time, the firm has represented three separate death row inmates including Jimmy Meders, Robert Newland and David Perkins; all from the State of Georgia.

The Dykema Death Penalty Team leaders include Members Joseph Basta, Jon Cantor, Claire Harrison, Patrick Hickey and Derek Whitefield.

Dykema’s Longstanding Commitment to Pro Bono

Dykema believes the practice of law, especially in a large corporate firm, is a privilege that carries with it profound societal responsibilities. Performing legal services for those who cannot afford to pay for them – or for organizations that benefit such persons – is a central part of the firm’s effort to improve the quality of life for the underserved in its community.

Last year, Dykema attorneys and support staff performed 11,252 hours of pro bono work. The firm has earned several prestigious awards for its pro-bono work, including the 2006 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year, 2005 Community Development Award, the 2005 Legal Aid and Defender Firm of the Year Award, and the 2004 Community Legal Resources Award.