Saturday, November 01, 2008

Extraordinary Americans In Cincinnati Last Night

Last night, while many were tricking-and-treating, I was privileged to be among a group of individuals who were present for the 2008 William J. Butler Human Rights Award Ceremony.  The Butler Medals, as the awards are known, are awarded through the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights at the UC College of Law.  My status as a former Urban Morgan fellow (Class of 2003) was enough to get me on the guest list.

This year's honorees were Lt. Col. Yvonne R. Bradley (USAF); Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights; and Thomas B. Wilner, managing partner of the International Trade and Global Relations Practice of Sherman & Sterling.

No doubt you're wondering:  what could three such seemingly disparate attorneys have in common?  The answer:  all three represented Guantanamo Bay detainees.  Lt. Col. Bradley was appointed counsel for Binyam Mohamed, who has consistenly claimed that he was the subject of torture and rendition.  Mr. Ratner has spearheaded CCR's efforts to restore the right of habeas corpus and has organized an army (700 strong) of private attorneys across the country to assist in the representation of Guantanamo detainees.  Mr. Wilner entered the fray in 2002, and was ultimately counsel of record in Rasul v. Bush and Boumediene v. Bush, the landmark cases in which the Supreme Court pushed back on the chief executive's efforts to eradicate "the great writ."

It was an honor not just to be present for the awards ceremony, but also to be among the guests there, many of whom are among the most august members of Cincinnati's legal community.  (I'll not be specific, as it feels a little too much like name-dropping.)  But being at last night's gathering made me proud to be an alumnus of UC Law and the Urban Morgan Institute and prouder still to be an attorney.  Hearing the awardees and the presenters speak reminded me of why I entered the legal profession and push me to be a better, more passionate lawyer and advocate.  

Earlier in the day, the three honorees participated in a panel discussion at the College of Law.  You can view it (well worth the time) on the web here.

Finally, a shout-out to the venue:  the Verdin Bell and Clock Museum on Reading Road.  I'd noticed the building before but didn't know what was there; it's  truly a gorgeous facility.

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