The American Association for Justice (AAJ) presented Michael Bien of Rosen, Bien & Galvan and Donald Specter of the Prison Law Office with the 2011 Leonard E. Weinglass In Defense of Civil Liberties Award on July 11, 2011 at AAJ’s annual convention in New York.

Bien and Specter were honored for their historic victory in Brown v. Plata in the United States Supreme Court.  On May 23, 2011, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling of a special three-judge court that California’s state prison system must bring its extreme overcrowding under control in order to allow medical and mental health staff the ability to provide minimally humane care to prisoners.

“For more than two decades, Mike Bien and Don Specter have been tireless advocates for those victimized by life-threatening civil rights violations, thus defending the rights of all Americans,” said AAJ President C. Gibson Vance.

By winning at trial and on appeal, the legal teams led by Bien and Specter have helped bring about major changes in corrections policy in California, including legislative and executive reconsideration of California’s unique parole supervision policies that undermine prisoner reentry and force an enormous flow of short-term parole violators through the prison system.  These legislative and administrative steps have borrowed extensively from the public safety expert testimony and evidence presented by Bien and Specter in the overcrowding trial.

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 About the Weinglass Award

The Leonard E. Weinglass In Defense of Civil Liberties Award is given to an individual—usually, but not necessarily, an attorney—who has made a notable contribution to the defense of civil liberties by bringing, trying, or resolving a suit, or by otherwise protecting or advancing civil liberties, in a way that has had a significant impact in the past year or over the course of his/her career.  The Award is named after civil rights lawyer Leonard E. Weinglass, who has long demonstrated a strong commitment to defending our civil liberties.

About American Association for Justice

The Mission of the American Association for Justice is to promote a fair and effective justice system—and to support the work of attorneys in their efforts to ensure that any person who is injured by the misconduct or negligence of others can obtain justice in America’s courtrooms, even when taking on the most powerful interests.  As the world’s largest trial bar, AAJ (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) promotes justice and fairness for injured persons, safeguards victims’ rights—particularly the right to trial by jury—and strengthens the civil justice system through education and disclosure of information critical to public health and safety. With members worldwide, and a network of U.S. and Canadian affiliates involved in diverse areas of trial advocacy, AAJ provides lawyers with the information and professional assistance needed to serve clients successfully and protect the democratic values inherent in the civil justice system.

About Prison Law Office

For over 30 years this nonprofit public interest law firm has been in the forefront of legal efforts to enforce the Constitution and other laws inside the walls of California’s prisons. With a small staff of attorneys and support personnel, the Prison Law Office represents individual prisoners, engages in class action and other impact litigation, educates the public about prison conditions, and provides technical assistance to attorneys throughout the country.