David Carliner Public Interest Award

  • February 15, 2013
    Guest Post

    by Cathleen Caron, founder and executive director, Global Workers Justice Alliance. Ms. Caron is the 2010 recipient of ACS’s David Carliner Public Interest Award. The deadline to apply for this year’s Award is March 15.


    David Carliner’s ingenuity is still inspiring us -- it is quite clever really. Although he is no longer with us, the American Constitution Society’s David Carliner Public Interest Award helps to continue the good fight by giving progressive young attorneys with big ideas, the unprecedented opportunity to get the word out about what they do, why they do it, and have some fun at the same time. 

    I founded Global Workers Justice Alliance in 2005 to combat worker exploitation by promoting portable justice for transnational migrants through a cross-border network of advocates and resources.  Portable justiceis the right and ability of transnational migrants to access justice in the country of employment even after they have departed. Portable justice is an under addressed element in achieving justice for today’s global migrants. Global Workers’ core work is to train and support a Defender Network, comprised of human rights advocates in migrant sending countries to educate workers on their rights before they migrate, to work in partnership with advocates in the countries of employment on specific cases of labor exploitation, and to advocate for systemic changes. We currently operate programs in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central America and regularly provide advice and referral for cases around the world.

    But that description (developed over the years as we better framed the work) is certainly not how it started. It all started scrappy, as most brand new organizations do when founded by the non-famous underdogs. By 2010 we were just getting noticed by major funders.  

  • January 22, 2013
    Guest Post

    by Jacob Remes, Assistant Professor of Public Affairs and History, State University of New York, Empire State College. Prossor Remes is also David Carliner’s grandson.

    The problem I see for younger activists is that today it’s harder to get a good job. It’s harder to make the money you need. I mean, we lived so simply. I watch my students and the tuition is so much higher and they’re working two or three jobs trying to support themselves. I think it is harder for people to have the time to be able to do the kinds of work we did, just because we didn’t have as many other demands on us as people who are of college age and a little bit older do. – Sarah Weddington to Time magazine, January, 2013

    In June 1969, when Norma McCorvey needed a lawyer to demand her constitutional right to an abortion, she eventually found her way to two very young lawyers, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee. Weddington had graduated from law school in 1967; Coffee received her law degree in February 1968. When the Supreme Court handed them their victory in Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973, Weddington and Coffee were only six and five years out of law school.

    As progressive lawyers, reproductive rights activists, and others celebrate the 40th anniversary of Roe, it’s worth listening to Weddington’s concern about whether the work she did in her early 20s would be possible today. Both undergraduate and law school tuition have skyrocketed since the 1960s, and progressive lawyers faced increased pressure to enter higher-paying jobs instead of work for the movement.

    Progressive lawyering is difficult and poorly rewarded. ACS’s David Carliner Public Interest Award seeks to make it somewhat better rewarded. Each year, the Carliner Award’s all-star panel of judges gives a $10,000 prize to a rising star in civil rights, civil liberties, international human rights, or immigration law. Winners are between seven and twelve years out of law school (this year, that means having graduated between May 2001 and May 2006) -- long enough that they have racked up some victories and other accomplishments, but young enough that they are beginning to worry about buying a house and affording their children’s tuition all while still paying off their own student loans. The $10,000 prize isn’t enough to solve all their financial problems, but it can provide a much-needed help, and it gives recognition to lawyers who receive all too little of it.

  • January 11, 2011

    Applications are now being accepted for the 2011 ACS David Carliner Public Interest Award. The award recognizes outstanding mid-career public interest lawyers whose work best exemplifies its namesake's legacy of fearless, uncompromising and creative advocacy on behalf of marginalized people, with a $10,000 cash prize and an award presented at ACS's National Convention in Washington, D.C.

    Applicants must have graduated from law school between May, 1999 and May, 2004; have demonstrated a passionate commitment to public interest law throughout their career and be employed at a nonprofit organization, government entity, or law firm whose mission supports and furthers the causes for which David Carliner (pictured) stood; and receive an annual salary of $110,000 or less.

    The award was established in memory of one of the great public interest lawyers of the 20th Century, David Carliner (1918-2007), who was a champion of justice in his native Washington, D.C. and on the national stage. A tireless, innovative litigator, he also played a leading role in building institutions devoted to protecting civil and human rights and combating injustice on a systemic basis. A pioneering immigration lawyer, an ardent foe of Jim Crow laws, and a leading champion of full political rights for citizens of the District of Columbia, he also was the founding chair of the American Civil Liberties Union-National Capital Area and the International Human Rights Law Group (now Global Rights).

    In determining the recipient of the 2011 Award, ACS will be advised by the following panel of judges:

  • November 10, 2009

    Applications are now being accepted for the 2010 ACS David Carliner Public Interest Award. The award recognizes outstanding mid-career public interest lawyers whose work best exemplifies its namesake's legacy of fearless, uncompromising and creative advocacy on behalf of marginalized people, with a $10,000 cash prize and an award presented at ACS's National Convention in Washington, D.C.

    Applicants must have graduated from law school between May, 2000 and May, 2005; have demonstrated a passionate commitment to public interest law throughout their career and be employed at a nonprofit organization, government entity, or law firm whose mission supports and furthers the causes for which David Carliner (pictured) stood; and receive an annual salary of $110,000 or less. Applicants must submit a completed cover sheet accessible here; a resume or CV; an essay of no more than 1500 words double spaced setting forth their qualifications for the award and including a statement that the applicant's annual salary is $110,000 or less; and a letter of recommendation from a person familiar with the applicant's work and the criteria for the Award. Applications must be received by 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday, February 1, 2010.