News Release

Vicki Young Receives 2012 Heeney Award

Washington, DC (July 28, 2012) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) is pleased to announce that San Francisco criminal defense lawyer Vicki Young was chosen as this year’s Robert C. Heeney Award recipient.  NACDL’s most prestigious recognition, the Heeney Award is given annually to the member who best exemplifies the goals and values of the Association and the legal profession.

Ms. Young received the award last night at the “Gideon at 50” gala at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.  The fundraising event commemorated the 50th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court case establishing the right to counsel. The celebration was hosted by the Foundation for Criminal Justice, and proceeds from the event will be used to  support NACDL’s right to counsel projects. 

Ms. Young is the principal of the Law Offices of Vicki H. Young in Palo Alto, California, and is Of Counsel to the Law Offices of Ephraim Margolin in San Francisco.

NACDL President Lisa M. Wayne said she “could not imagine a more deserving and unsung hero than my friend and colleague Vicki Young.”

“NACDL is an organization of dedicated criminal defense lawyers from around the world volunteering their time pro bono to advance ongoing issues in the criminal justice system,” she continued. “Vicki exemplifies extraordinary commitment to NACDL’s goals and mission. Her active involvement with our Diversity Task Force in its early years, a member and chair of the Nominating Committee, a member of the Problem Solving Courts Task Force, and chairing the Restoration of Rights task force are just a few examples of the unfailing dedication Vicki has contributed in making this organization the best criminal defense bar in the country.”

Ms. Young was surprised and touched when she learned she had been selected for this year’s award. “I am deeply honored to be chosen as the 2012 recipient of NACDL’s Heeney award because it recognizes members who personify ‘Liberty’s Last Champion,’” she said. “As a lifelong public defender and court-appointed counsel in both state and federal courts, I work daily to ensure that the least among us receive the rights promised to everyone by the Constitution.”

A native Californian, Ms. Young grew up in Palo Alto, CA. She is a graduate of Wellesley College in Massachusetts and received her J.D. from Boalt Hall, the law school of the University of California, Berkeley. Now a distinguished trial and appellate attorney in private practice, she has been a deputy public defender for Sacramento County, an assistant federal public defender in the Central District of California, and a supervising assistant federal public defender in the Northern District of California.

She has tried more than 60 felony jury trials, both in state court and in federal court and tried the first capital-eligible murder case filed in the San Jose division of the Northern District of California. After meeting with Ms. Young in Washington, D.C., the Attorney General declined to proceed with capital murder charges, and her client did not face the death penalty at trial. Her cases have spanned the entire gamut of criminal law, from drunken driving, white- collar fraud, intellectual property crimes, to murder.  She has also argued appeals in the California appellate courts as well as before the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

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A Life Member of NACDL, Ms. Young currently serves on the Executive Committee as the Association’s 2012-13 Parliamentarian. Previously she served on the Association’s Board of Directors from 2003-09.  She has chaired NACDL’s Nominating Committee, is a co-chair of NACDL’s Task Force on Restoration of Rights and Status After Conviction, and serves on the Association’s Task Force on Problem Solving Courts, traveling extensively around the country. She received NACDL’s President’s Commendations in 2003 and 2004.

She has served on the Executive Committee of the Criminal Law Section of the State Bar of California  from 1994-97 and continued as an advisor throughout the 1990s, served on the Board of Governors of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ), an NACDL affiliate (1990-99), and served on the Board of Directors for Women Defenders in the late 1990s. From 1997 to 2000, she was a lawyer representative to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

NACDL’s Heeney Award was established in 1981 to honor NACDL’s 18th President, Robert C. Heeney, of Rockville, MD.

To find out more about the July 27 event, including purchasing tickets or sponsorships, please visit or email

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NACDL Communications Department

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.