Gloucester County defenders win national award for profiling work
WOODBURY - Three New Jersey public defenders whose work in State v. Soto helped to transform the term "racial profiling" from a whispered secret to a national concern have been selected by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association to receive the Kutak-Dodds Award, its highest honor.
Deputy Public Defenders Jeffrey Wintner and Wayne Natale and Assistant Deputy Public Defender Fred Last were named the honorees on June 5 after being nominated in April by Minnesota State Public Defender John Stuart.
"Obviously, Wayne , Fred and I are all extremely thrilled to have won this award," Wintner said. "It's particularly gratifying in light of the fact that we all put such a tremendous effort into the Soto case and the profiling issues as a whole. We continue to work on that issue today."
Stuart credited the three attorneys from the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender's Gloucester County region with bringing the issue of profiling to light in the Soto litigation, which began in 1996 as a consolidation of a number of otherwise routine drug cases.
"Their work has inspired lawyers, legislators and citizens across the country to speak out against racial discrimination in law enforcement," Stuart wrote in his nominating letter. "Before these three lawyers started their model litigation against the New Jersey State Police practice of stopping motorists of color in great disproportion to their presence on the highway, "racial profiling" was virtually unaddressed. Now, thanks to the work of these three public defenders and their colleagues, a national movement against racial profiling has emerged.
"Suffice it to say, the prolonged work of these three lawyers demonstrates that civil rights advocacy is central to the development of an honest criminal justice system for our society."
New Jersey Public Defender Peter A. Garcia said the work of the three
Gloucester County defenders showed how a greater societal good can come
from the work of dedicated attorneys in individual matters.
"No one, regardless of financial status, deserves anything less than full and committed legal representation. And no one, regardless of racial or ethnic backgrounds, deserves anything less than the full protection of their constitutional rights."
The Kutak-Dodds award will be presented to the three attorneys at ceremonies on Thursday, June 14 at Union Station in Washington, D.C. during the NLADA's 90th anniversary celebration.