Marsha Levick is the Legal Director of the Juvenile Law Center, a public interest law firm which advances the rights and well-being of children in jeopardy. Ms. Levick co founded JLC in 1975 and served as its first executive director until 1982. In 1982, Ms. Levick left JLC to become the Legal Director of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York City and, from 1986 1988, Ms. Levick served as Executive Director of NOW LDEF. Ms. Levick worked in private practice from 1989-1995. In 1995, Ms. Levick returned to JLC, where she now manages JLC’s litigation and appellate docket, which focus mainly on the rights of children in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Nationally, Ms. Levick worked with the American Bar Association’s special taskforce to develop standards for the prosecution of juveniles in the adult criminal justice system, and currently serves on the management committee of the National Juvenile Defender Center, a joint project of the ABA Juvenile Justice Center, the Juvenile Law Center, and the Youth Law Center. Ms. Levick is a member of the adjunct faculty of both Temple University Law School and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she co-teaches a course on juvenile justice. Ms. Levick is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University School of Law.
Rhonda Brownstein is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law where she supervises students in the Civil Litigation and Civil Rights Clinics. Rhonda came to DU from the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, where she spent fifteen years as a litigator and the last eight years as the Center’s Legal Director. The Southern Poverty Law Center is a national non-profit organization that works to reduce bigotry and oppression through education and litigation. At the Center, Rhonda was lead and co-counsel in class action constitutional and civil rights cases in the state and federal courts, including a lawsuit that ended Alabama’s notorious chain gangs. Along with her Center colleagues, Rhonda also co-counseled cases against neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan organizations. Before working at the Center, Rhonda was a legal aid attorney in Alabama and Pennsylvania, representing poor people and low-wage workers in employment, housing, consumer, and domestic violence cases, and was an associate at a labor law firm. A Philadelphia native, Rhonda received her law degree in 1986 from Temple University Law School.
Joe Morris Doss served parishes in Louisiana and California as an Episcopal priest, and the Diocese of New Jersey as Bishop. An attorney with a background in civil rights, he enjoys a national reputation in and out of the church, primarily as an advocate for justice, and in particular as a champion of minorities, women, and children. Bishop Doss is also granted special recognition in the church as a liturgist, ecumenist, and leader for church reform. He is the author of five books, including an acclaimed work of theology, “The Songs of the Mothers”, a popular memoir about a rescue mission to Cuba entitled “Let the Bastards Go”, and a successful play about a man he defended on death row appeals, who was executed on October 30, 1984. He is presently consumed with activities to help rebuild Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. Bishop Doss personally testifies that he has found most “professional” satisfaction in his skills as a parish priest.
Vanita Gupta is Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. She is also Director of the organization’s newly-formed Center for Justice, which addresses systemic problems in the U.S. criminal justice system, including the treatment of prisoners, the death penalty, and the policies of over-incarceration that have led the United States to imprison more people than any other country in the world. In addition, Vanita is an adjunct clinical professor at NYU School of Law, where she teaches and oversees a racial justice litigation clinic. From 2006-2010, Vanita was a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, where she won a landmark settlement on behalf of immigrant children detained in a converted medium security, privately-run prison in Texas. Prior to joining the ACLU, Vanita was at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund where she successfully led the effort to overturn the wrongful drug convictions of 38 defendants in Tulia, Texas, and served on the legal team that won freedom for renowned prison journalist Wilbert Rideau in his fourth retrial after he had already spent 44 years in prison.Vanita has won numerous awards for her advocacy and has been quoted extensively in national and international media on racial justice and criminal justice issues. She has served as a consultant for the Open Society Institute on various international human rights projects in Central Europe and Africa. She serves on the board of OSI Roma Initiatives and Working Films, Inc., as well as on the advisory committee of Human Rights Watch US Programs. Vanita is a graduate of Yale University and New York University School of Law.
Stephen Hanlon has a long history of handling public interest and civil rights cases. He manages Holland & Knight’s Community Services Team, which provides legal representation to people and groups that otherwise could not afford it. In 1997, the firm received the ABA Pro Bono Publico Award. The American Lawyer has described Holland and Knight as a “Pro Bono Champion.” Mr. Hanlon’s major civil rights work has included challenges to high stakes testing, challenges to indigent defense systems, a claims bill in the Florida Legislature for the survivors of the town of Rosewood, housing, employment and AIDS discrimination, death penalty litigation, prisoner rights, and a constitutional challenge to unconsented medical experimentation.
Wilbert Rideau was sentenced to death for murder in 1961 by an all-white, all-male jury in a trial called “kangaroo court proceedings” by the United States Supreme Court, which threw out the conviction. All-white male juries twice again sentenced him to death. Pursuant to the Supreme Court’s 1972 Furman v. Georgia decision, that sentence was amended to life imprisonment in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, then widely acknowledged to be “the bloodiest prison in the nation.” In 1976, Wilbert became editor of The Angolite, the prisoner-produced newsmagazine, and was the first prisoner in American penal history to win freedom from censorship. Over the next quarter century, he won many of the nation’s highest journalism awards, including the prestigious George Polk Award, for his outstanding contributions to public understanding of the criminal justice and prison systems. In 1979, he became the first prisoner ever to receive the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award for an investigative exposé, “Conversations with the Dead,” that resulted in the release of a number of long-term inmates “lost” in the Louisiana prison system. In 1984, he was selected to participate in an unprecedented nationally televised dialogue with Chief Justice Warren Burger of the Supreme Court on ABC-TV’s Nightline. In March 1993, Life magazine called him “The Most Rehabilitated Prisoner in America.” That same year, he ventured into broadcast journalism, producing award-winning reports for national radio and television. In 1996, he became the only prisoner ever to receive the Louisiana Bar Association’s highest journalistic honor for a documentary film he co-produced, Final Judgment: The Execution of Antonio James. In 1998, he co-directed a documentary, The Farm: Angola, USA, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award. He is the co-editor of The Wall Is Strong: Corrections in Louisiana, a textbook now in its fourth edition; Life Sentences, an anthology of articles from The Angolite; and In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance, his autobiography. For two decades, as Louisiana’s most prominent prisoner, he traveled throughout the state, lecturing about journalism and criminal justice at universities and talking to court probationers and troubled youths at the request of judges and school authorities. In 2000, Wilbert won a new trial because of the systematic exclusion of blacks from the grand jury that indicted him in 1961. On January 15, 2005, a racially-mixed jury convicted him of manslaughter, a crime for which he had already served 23 years more than the maximum sentence. He was released immediately. Wilbert was given the 2005 Champion of Justice Award by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and also honored by the Southern Center for Human Rights with its Human Rights Award for 2005. A 2007 Soros Justice Media Fellow, he is now a consultant, specializing in capital client communications and problems.