Inside NACDL: New Faces and New Services

Inside NACDL Norman L. Reimer

Access to The Champion archive is one of many exclusive member benefits. It’s normally restricted to just NACDL members. However, this content, and others like it, is available to everyone in order to educate the public on why criminal justice reform is a necessity.

Regular readers of this column know that from time to time it is the vehicle by which I introduce NACDL membership to the key personnel who are working to serve you and NACDL’s mission. This month, I am pleased to announce three new additions to NACDL’s staff roster — three individuals of extraordinary talent and dedication.

State Legislative Affairs Director

Last summer, Scott Ehlers left his position as NACDL’s state legislative affairs director to return to his hometown of Austin, Texas, where he assumed a position as senior policy advisor to state Sen. Rodney Ellis. After an extensive national search, Angelyn C. Frazer was selected to fill the position. Angelyn joins NACDL following a six-year stint at Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), where she served as deputy director of state legislative affairs. In that position, Angelyn played a pivotal role in developing state legislative and advocacy concerns, and serving as an articulate and effective spokesperson for FAMM at conferences, workshops, and in the media.

In the 10-year period prior to her service at FAMM, Angelyn held numerous public policy positions that embraced a panoply of social initiatives. She served as a contract researcher on the “school to prison” pipeline, a planning and development specialist with the Seattle Office of Civil Rights, focusing on human and civil rights issues, and as a marketing associate at the University of Washington, where she conducted research on the impact of anti-affirmative action legislation on minority businesses and worked on efforts to enhance development of minority businesses in urban areas. Angelyn earned a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington.

In assuming the responsibilities of her new position, Angelyn will build upon the foundation established by her predecessor to support NACDL’s state and local affiliates to promote criminal justice policy initiatives and to build new and more effective reform coalitions. She has identified concerns about Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act requirements, particularly as they impact the juvenile community, the cradle to prison pipeline, sentencing reform, and support for defense services as among her top policy priorities. Institutionally, she is committed to utilizing her extraordinary experience as an organizer and a coalition builder to elevate the level of service provided to affiliates.

Angelyn says that she came to NACDL “because it is a great place to work and because NACDL is known in the criminal justice world as an organization whose staff and affiliates are committed to ensuring that justice is a right for all, and not merely a privilege for a few.” That reputation will certainly grow with Angelyn Frazer as a key member of the NACDL policy team.

Resource Counsel

NACDL’s leadership has long envisioned a day when the Association could provide concentrated resources to support the small and solo practitioners who are a cornerstone of criminal defense in this nation. These lawyers, who operate entirely without the support available to the institutional indigent defense provider or the resources of the large firms, deserve effective and reliable support from the nation’s criminal defense bar association. Now, thanks to the Ford Foundation, which has provided a generous grant to the Foundation for Criminal Justice, NACDL can achieve this aspiration. Effective this month, NACDL has established the position of resource counsel.

The resource counsel will develop and administer support services for criminal practitioners in small and solo practice settings throughout the United States. The counsel will marshal NACDL’s existing resources to provide technical and strategic assistance in substantive and procedural aspects of criminal defense practice, and will augment those resources as necessary. There will be an emphasis on supplying resources to enable defense counsel to maintain the highest standards of professionalism, ethical practice, and law office management.

Filling this position was a tall order. What was required was an individual with a passion for criminal defense, broad experience as a criminal defense practitioner, and a willingness to leave practice to literally invent a new position. In Vanessa Antoun, I believe NACDL has found that person. Vanessa, whose appointment took effect on January 5, is an experienced defense attorney with precisely the breadth of experience necessary to fulfill the requirements of the new portfolio. Vanessa has been in private practice in Virginia since 2004, working as a solo practitioner for the past two years. Prior to that, she was a public defender for seven years, rising through the ranks to serve as public defender for the City and County of Fairfax. Vanessa earned a juris doctorate from George Mason University School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Michigan.

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Vanessa said she was attracted to the resource counsel position because “it will give me the opportunity to provide real assistance to those defense lawyers who may not have access to the same resources as their colleagues at larger firms or organizations.” She has indicated that she is particularly committed to finding ways “to link attorneys and experts to brainstorm ideas on specific issues and contribute to the shared wisdom and sense of community that help all of us become better lawyers.”

NACDL is determined to make the most of the extraordinary support provided by the Ford Foundation to foster meaningful innovation that will provide tangible benefits for the criminal defense bar and the clients defense lawyers serve. I am confident that Vanessa Antoun will skillfully guide this effort.

Special Assistant to The Executive Director

As NACDL expands its support for the nation’s criminal defense bar and increases its public policy reform initiatives, cross-departmental coordination and communication are absolutely essential. Additionally, thanks to the vigor and ingenuity of the Association’s committees, task forces, and leaders, efficient and effective staff support is critical to success. Now, for the first time, NACDL has a staff member whose primary responsibility will be to assist in ensuring harmonious collaboration among NACDL policy and program departments, committees, task forces, and governance entities.

NACDL’s newly appointed special assistant to the executive director is extraordinarily well-suited to take on this vital portfolio. Daniel A. Weir comes to NACDL with a passion for criminal defense reform. Most recently, he spent a year at The Justice Project, where he handled the Project’s national reform agenda. He was directly responsible for advocating that agenda with coalition partners, congressional committees and staff, policymakers, issue experts, and criminal justice stakeholders. Daniel has organized events on capital punishment and campaigned for reform on numerous social justice issues.

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Prior to working at The Justice Project, Daniel taught U.S. foreign policy and introductory international relations courses at the University of Virginia, where he served as a teaching assistant and discharged the administrative responsibilities of head teaching assistant. Daniel earned a master’s degree in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in Political Science and Philosophy from Concordia College.

Daniel summed up his enthusiasm for NACDL’s mission by noting, “I believe that due process matters. The rights of the accused matter in every circumstance without regard to what the accused may have done. If we cut down the laws to get at the devil, we’ll soon find ourselves in more trouble than we bargained for.” His long-term goals are to devote his career to fighting for the rights of the accused, perhaps one day as a lawyer. In the meantime, he believes that in his position at NACDL, “I will immerse myself in criminal defense policy, governance, and administration in ways that will make me a fearsome advocate.”

And while Daniel is gaining that experience, he will be available to support you — and me — as we fulfill our mission of service to core constitutional principles. All three of these new appointees, Daniel, Vanessa, and Angelyn, bring stellar credentials and energy to the cause of Liberty’s Last Champions. I urge you to call upon their expertise without hesitation whenever you think they may be able to assist you.

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