2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award to Four MacArthur Justice Center Attorneys
Four attorneys with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center have been named recipients of the 2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award presented by Public Justice, the national non-profit firm pursuing high impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice.
Part of a team of lawyers recognized for their litigation work aimed at ending money bail practices, the four are Katie Schwartzmann, Co-Director of the MacArthur Justice Center’s office in New Orleans; Eric A. Foley, a staff attorney in New Orleans; Cliff Johnson, Director of the MacArthur Justice Center’s office at the University of Mississippi School of Law; and Jacob Howard, staff attorney at the office at Ole Miss Law.
Eric A. Foley
Schwartzmann and Foley filed a class action suit against Ascension Parish, a suburban community between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Within days of the filing, the district court granted a temporary restraining order requiring the release of the named plaintiff. Shortly after that victory, they negotiated a settlement with the Parish Court, replacing money bail with release without bail for most misdemeanor offenses.
The tireless work of Johnson and Howard in Moss Point — a small city in Jackson County, Mississippi — helped bring an end to the practice of jailing impoverished people for up to a week while they wait to appear in court on misdemeanor cases. The MacArthur Justice Center also recently settled a case against the City of Jackson that resulted in the elimination of money bail in misdemeanor cases there.
The award from Public Justice also recognized Alec Karakatsanis of Equal Justice Under Law for his national leadership, which included serving as co-counsel on both MacArthur Justice Center cases. In 2015, Karakatsanis filed a federal lawsuit in Montgomery, Ala., “making his client the first person to file a systemic challenge to the American money bail system on equal protection and due process grounds since the rise of mass incarceration more than 30 years ago. Shortly after, the Department of Justice filed a landmark Statement of Interest, agreeing that a person in jail on a money bail she cannot afford, and without an inquiry into her ability to pay, is unconstitutional.”
Other team members receiving the Trial Lawyer of the Year award included Matthew Swerdlin of Birmingham, Ala.; J. Mitch McGuire of McGuire & Associates in Montgomery, Ala.; William M. Dawson of Dawson Law Office in Birmingham, Ala.; Thomas B. Harvey and Michael-John Voss of ArchCity Defenders in St. Louis, Mo.; and William P. Quigley of New Orleans, La.
2016 Michaelle Pitard Wynne Professionalism Award to Schwartzmann
Katie M. Schwartzmann, Co-Director of the New Orleans office of the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center, is the recipient of the 2016 Michaelle Pitard Wynne Professionalism Award. The Association for Women Attorneys (AWA) presents the award annually to a member of the greater New Orleans legal community who exemplifies the ideals and professionalism set by Magistrate Judge Wynne.
A graduate of Tulane Law School in New Orleans, Schwartzmann has an impressive record battling for justice in Louisiana.
Prior to joining the MacArthur Justice Center, she was Managing Director of the Louisiana office of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and previously was Legal Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. During her tenure at the SPLC, she was lead attorney on the case of Jones v. Gusman, which seeks to end the inhuman conditions suffered by prisoners at the Orleans Parish Prison in New Orleans. She continues in that role at the MacArthur Justice Center, which now has lead litigation responsibility in the implementation phase of the consent decree.