News Release

NACDL President Steven D. Benjamin Honored As a Virginia "Leader in the Law"

Washington, DC (October 26, 2012) – Last night at a reception at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, Steven D. Benjamin, President of the National Association of the Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) was celebrated as a Virginia "Leader in the Law." Through this award, Virginia Lawyers Media, publisher of Virginia Lawyers Weekly, "recognizes the lawyers across the commonwealth who are setting the standard for other lawyers in Virginia....for changing the law, serving the community, changing practice or improving Virginia’s justice system."

"This is a well-deserved recognition for a leader of the bar who has devoted his life and career to the constitutional rights of the accused and the fairness and integrity of the American criminal justice system," said NACDL President Elect Jerry Cox. "Through his leadership and decades of legal practice, Steve Benjamin has demonstrated that one person really can change the world in ways that improve the lives of countless individuals. The nation's criminal defense bar is fortunate to enjoy his service as its leader."

Mr. Benjamin is an attorney in private practice with the Richmond, Va. firm of Benjamin & DesPortes. In addition to his private practice, he serves as Special Counsel to the Virginia Senate Courts of Justice Committee, and is a member of the Virginia Board of Forensic Science and the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission. A Past President of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a Fellow of the American Board of Criminal Lawyers, Mr. Benjamin is a 2003 recipient of the Virginia State Bar’s Lewis F. Powell Pro Bono Award and is a frequent national lecturer on criminal justice.

Much of his career has been devoted to criminal justice reform. As Special Counsel to the Virginia State Crime Commission, he assisted in the creation of Virginia’s Writs of Actual Innocence, and helped draft the procedure enacted by the Virginia General Assembly to restore appellate rights lost solely because of attorney error. When biological evidence was discovered in more than 20 years of old case files stored in Virginia’s crime laboratories, he helped persuade state political leadership to order statewide DNA testing. When the pace of that testing stalled, he worked to obtain the passage of legislation mandating effective notification of interested parties that this new evidence had been found.

Mr. Benjamin was counsel in the landmark Virginia Supreme Court decision recognizing a constitutional right to forensic expert assistance at state expense for indigent defendants. In other cases, he argued through the trial courts and on appeal that Virginia’s mandatory fee caps on compensation for court-appointed counsel deprived indigent defendants of conflict-free representation, and he led the litigation and legislative effort to abolish those caps. At the request of the Virginia Supreme Court, Mr. Benjamin helped establish and chair an annual Advanced Indigent Defense Training Seminar to draw top lecturers from across the country to train Virginia’s defenders at no cost. With his longtime law partner Betty Layne DesPortes, he won the non-DNA exoneration and release of a man serving a life sentence for a murder he did not commit, and he argued in the United States Supreme Court that a Richmond trespassing policy violated the free speech rights of public housing residents.

Steven D. Benjamin can be reached at:

Benjamin and DesPortes, P.C.
P.O. Box 2464 | Richmond, VA 23218-2464
11 South 12th Street, Suite 302 | Richmond, VA 23219
Phone: 804.788.4444
Fax: 804.644.4512 

Follow Mr. Benjamin on Twitter @stevebenjaminva. His law firm is also on Facebook – “Like” them at Benjamin & DesPortes.

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Ivan J. Dominguez, Director of Public Affairs and Communications, (202) 465-7662 or

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.