Debra Evenson Venceremos International Award
The Debra Evenson Venceremos International Award is presented on an annual basis as a national Guild award to honor outstanding international legal work, legal solidarity, international advocacy, and justice beyond borders, in the tradition of Debra Evenson. Former Guild President Debra Evenson was a leading expert on Cuba’s legal system, a law professor and a pioneering advocate of international solidarity in legal work.
The recipient of the annual award is selected by the Steering Committee of the International Committee and is presented annually at the NLG Law for the People Convention.
Audrey Bomse is a global people’s lawyer who has defended the marginalized and disposed, and communities under repression in the U.S., Palestine, North Africa and elsewhere. She practiced criminal law in the U.S. for many years as a public defender and later civil rights law, representing the interests of the class of state and county inmates at the New Jersey Office of Inmate Advocacy. Her commitment to the Guild’s mission and the broader global social justice movement—anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist, and dare we say it, Marxist—is an example for us all. Audrey has been an active member of the National Lawyers Guild for 30 years, is past co-chair of its Prisoners’ Rights Committee and current (long-standing) co-chair of its Palestine Subcommittee. She also leads a balanced life as a wonderful mother and grandmother, and rather rabid sports fan, always open to the occasional wager.
2017: Abdeen Jabara and Jan Susler
In 1967 Abdeen Jabara was a founder and later president of the first national Arab American organization, a co-founder in the 1970s of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, and in 1986 president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. He was a defense consultant in the trial of Sirhan Sirhan and co-counsel in Sirhan’s appeal. Jabara represented the first Palestinian activist extradited to Israel. In 1972, he led efforts challenging Operation Boulder, a U.S Government program targeting activists on Palestine in the U.S. Jabara was plaintiff in a lawsuit against the FBI which revealed for the first time National Security Agency spying on U.S. citizens.
Long time NLG member Jan Susler, partner at the People’s Law Office in Chicago, has represented the Puerto Rican political prisoners for over three decades, serving as lead counsel in the efforts culminating in the 1999 Clinton commutation of their disproportionate sentences and the 2016 Obama commutation of Oscar López Rivera’s sentence. Her work with the Puerto Rican Independence Movement and with progressive movements challenging U.S. foreign and domestic policies has been a constant throughout her 40+ years as lawyer, activist and teacher. Her practice at PLO focuses on police misconduct civil rights litigation, including wrongful conviction, excessive force, and death in custody.
2018: Marjorie Cohn and Judith Berkan
Judith Berkan is one of Puerto Rico’s leading human rights attorneys. She moved to Puerto Rico in1977, initially as attorney in NLG’s Puerto Rico Legal Project. Over four decade, she has represented independentistas, Vieques protesters, student strikers, the families of those murdered at COINTELPRO Maravilla, victims of harassment and surveillance by the PRPD Intelligence Division and FBI’s Cointelpro, women’s rights activists, communities struggling against gentrification, and victims of police violence. She also has represented institutions like the Colegio de Abogados against right-wing attacks. Co-chair of NLG’s Puerto Rico Subcommittee, along with Jan Susler and Natasha Bannan, she has worked tirelessly to shed light on and promote solidarity with the struggle of the Puerto Rican people for independence.
Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, where she taught for 25 years. Joining the Guild in 1971, she has been a legal worker, law student, and attorney member. She served on the NLG’s national board for 15 years, as editor-in-chief of the Guild Practitioner (now NLG Review) for 10 years, and as NLG President from 2006-09. Over the last 20 years, her Guild work has primarily been with the NLG International Committee, including the Palestine Subcommittee, as well as the NLG’s Military Law Task Force. Marjorie writes weekly articles for Truthout on human rights, U.S. foreign policy, and the contradiction between the two. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.
2019: Judy Somberg
A longtime Guild activist, Judy Somberg has led the International Committee’s Task Force on the Americas in recent years. She has organized NLG delegations to Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Bolivia. In 1989-90, she was the NLG representative in Nicaragua. She co-led an emergency delegation to Honduras after the murder of renowned environmental activist Berta Cáceres in 2016, which led to the Guild’s ongoing participation in the international observer group to the trial of the accused. Judy has participated in the Guild as a student member at Northeastern Law School, longtime board member of the Massachusetts chapter, Regional VP, National VP, and Executive VP, and she is currently co-treasurer of the NLG Foundation. In addition to Guild and other activism, she was a founder of the Cambridge-El Salvador Sister City Project, established in 1986 to support the civilian population during the war years and which continues to this day.
2020: Charlotte Kates
Charlotte Kates is an activist and organizer who coordinates the work of the NLG International Committee, working together with the co-chairs, steering committee and membership of the committee to advance international justice and oppose U.S. imperialism. She is the international coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and has organized delegations, actions, reports and articles that highlight the struggle for the liberation of Palestine and the Palestinian prisoners. She is also a member of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition and the Organizing Collective of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
2021: Kerry McLean
Kerry McLean is an international human rights lawyer and social justice activist. An NLG member since 2003, Kerry is the founder and Chair of the National Lawyers Guild’s Africa Subcommittee, a former NLG national board member, former VP of the NLG-NYC Chapter, and was a Co-Chair of her law school chapter. She also chaired the NLG Anti-Sexism Committee for several years.
Kerry has represented the Guild in advocacy for the Jena 6, Marissa Alexander and Troy Davis. She also helped to coordinate support for migrants of African descent in Mexico.
Kerry has played a leading role as spokesperson for and member of the Steering Committee of the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States.
Over the past 17 years Kerry has lived in Africa, Europe and Asia, working with local and international organizations on human rights and international development. She has engaged in significant United Nations advocacy, including litigation with treaty monitoring bodies, writing shadow reports concerning compliance with
CERD, CEDAW and CAT, contributing to UPR reports and working with UN Special Rapporteurs. She has provided trainings on and delivered lectures on international human rights in the US and other parts of the world
Kerry has served as an election observer in Cambodia, Honduras, Venezuela, El Salvador and Abkhazia. She has also served as a trial observer in Turkey for trials involving persecuted lawyers and human rights defenders, and organizes solidarity activities for Turkey with multiple organizations. She represents the NLG in the Geneva Support Group for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Western Sahara, an international advocacy coalition that supports the fight of the Saharawi people for independence and self-determination.