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.
Debra Evenson Venceremos International Award Recipients
2011: Leonard Weinglass
Leonard Weinglass (award presented posthumously) graduated from Yale Law School in 1958 and went on to defend some of the most significant political cases of the century. He represented Tom Hayden of Students for a Democratic Society when Hayden was indicted in the Newark riots. During the Vietnam War, he provided counsel to Anthony Russo in the Pentagon Papers case, and in 1969 he co-chaired the Chicago Seven case, ultimately helping to overturn all the guilty verdicts. He also represented Puerto Rican independence fighters Los Macheteros, eight Palestinian organizers facing deportation known as the L.A. 8, and Jane Fonda in her suit against Richard Nixon. And for many years Weinglass served as lead attorney for Mumia Abu-Jamal. In 2002, he joined the appeals team of the political prisoners known as the Cuban Five. Because of the U.S. government’s politically-motivated persecution of the Five, Weinglass firmly believed—even as he worked night and day on their legal case—that victory is not possible without political solidarity and public pressure. In addition to full-time legal work for the Five, Weinglass spoke on their behalf at many anti-war protests, public forums, and press conferences, at home and abroad. Weinglass was especially loved by the Cuban Five, their families and the Cuban people.
2012: Jeanne Mirer
Jeanne Mirer is Co-Chair of the International Committee. She is currently President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, a founding Board Member of the International Commission for Labor Rights and a Board Member of the Sugar Law Center. Additionally, Jeanne is a member of the Core and the National Board of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign. She has been a member of the NLG for 42 years and has held numerous positions in the Guild. She practices labor, employment and civil rights law in New York City. Among her clients are Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange who have taken to court the U.S. chemical companies that profited from manufacturing the poison. In addition to the Guild and the IADL, she is a member of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee, the National Employment Law Association, and the NAACP. Jeanne has a deep and extensive history of work in both the international and domestic sphere, including the application of international laws, standards and treaties to the United States. She has authored and co-authored countless white papers, briefs, and articles on everything from the human right to peace, to Agent Orange, to drones, to women’s rights, to labor law and international law.
2013: Ann Fagan Ginger
Ann Fagan Ginger is an American lawyer, teacher, writer, and political activist. One of the Guild’s longest-serving and most respected members, he persevered in the face of rampant sexism in and out of the Guild, appearing as the only female delegate at the first racially integrated meeting of lawyers in the South, arguing before the Supreme Court, and guiding the NLG through the Red Scare. Faced with hostility from the House Un-American Activities Committee, the FBI, and Attorney General Herbert Brownell, she successfully fought the listing of the NLG as a subversive organization and kept its organizational core intact. Ann is a founder and the executive director of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute in Berkeley. Ann practiced law for many years in Berkeley, California. She has been a visiting professor of law at a number of schools in California and Washington, is the author of many books and articles, and lectures widely. She is an expert in civil liberties law and peace law under the statutes of the United States and the United Nations, and has argued and won before the U.S. Supreme Court. She was the Chair of the City of Berkeley Commission on Peace and Justice from 1986-1989 and Vice-Chair from 1989-1999.
2014: Brian Concannon
Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti Executive Director, co-managed the BAI in Haiti for eight years, from 1996-2004, and worked for the United Nations as a Human Rights Officer in 1995-1996. He founded IJDH, and has been the Director since 2004. He helped prepare the prosecution of the Raboteau Massacre trial in 2000, one of the most significant human rights cases anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. He has represented Haitian political prisoners before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and represented the plaintiff in Yvon Neptune v. Haiti, the first Haiti case ever tried before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Mr. Concannon has received fellowships from Harvard Law School and Brandeis University and has trained international judges, U.S. asylum officers and law students across the U.S. He is a member of the Editorial Board of Health and Human Rights, An International Journal. He speaks and writes frequently about human rights in Haiti. He holds an undergraduate degree from Middlebury College and JD from Georgetown Law. He speaks English, Haitian Creole and French.
2015: Art Heitzer
Art Heitzer has practiced civil rights and employment law in Milwaukee, WI since 1975. He is an honors graduate of both the University of Wisconsin Law School and of Marquette University. He has held leadership roles in the Wisconsin Bar Association and the NLG, where he founded its Economic Rights Task Force, and has chaired Cuba Subcommittee for over a decade. Working with the Center for Constitutional Rights and the NLG, Art helped train and establish a network of over 50 lawyers in the U.S. to assist travelers from U.S. who had visited or wanted to visit Cuba. He has also supported the Cuban Five through speaking, writing, and educational work.
2016: Audrey Bomse
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.