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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.

Katie Schwartzmann

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.

Cliff Johnson

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.

Jacob Howard

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.

Updated 08/10/16