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November 24, 2003

Public Interest Section to Present Andrew Hamilton Award to Capital Litigator

The Public Interest Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association will present the 2003 Andrew Hamilton Award to Robert B. Dunham, Director of Training for the Capital Habeas Corpus Unit of the Federal Defender Office, on Tuesday, Dec. 2 at the Section's Annual Cocktail Reception. The reception will be held at Maggiano's Little Italy, 12th and Filbert Streets in Philadelphia, from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.

The award acknowledges a legal services advocate or public defender employed by or associated with an organization whose purpose is to serve people who cannot afford to pay for legal representation, or, a public interest lawyer working with a nonprofit organization that services a charitable or public interest purpose. Substantial experience in legal services, indigent defense or public interest law and current employment as an advocate in one of these capacities is a requirement. In addition, the selection committee looks for the award winner to have the following: personal vision and commitment; critical nature of the problems addressed by the nominee's advocacy; innovative nature of the nominees' work; outcomes and results achieved through effective advocacy; the difficulty of achievement; and community commitment.

Since its inception in 1995, the Capital Habeas Unit, Federal Defender Office has had remarkable success in its post conviction litigation on behalf of Pennsylvania death row inmates. This past year has been particularly eventful for Dunham and the cases on which he has worked.

Last November, he argued Sattazahn v. Pennsylvania in the United States Supreme Court. In December 2002, Dunham along with his colleagues in the Unit, overturned the death penalty for a mentally retarded defendant in Pennsylvania's first contested grant of relief under Atkins v. Virginia, which prohibits the execution of persons with mental retardation. In January 2003, Dunham won a new trial for a capital defendant and, in May, he argued Hardcastle v. Horn in the Third Circuit, a case in which the federal district court granted a new trial.

"In the last year, Rob has continued to be in the forefront of the Unit's success and his expertise has been called upon to train lawyers across the Commonwealth and the country on issues at the cutting edge of state, federal and international law," said Peter G. Rossi, a member of the center city law firm Cozen O'Connor, who nominated Dunham for the award. "Rob's vision for representing indigent death row inmates across this Commonwealth, and extraordinary service on behalf of both death row inmates and Philadelphia law firms who are representing capital clients pro bono, made him an ideal candidate for this award. He is tireless in his work against the death penalty."

For many years, Dunham has recruited Philadelphia law firms to provide pro bono assistance in Pennsylvania capital cases and has provided ongoing training and legal consultation to the pro bono lawyers handling these cases. Dunham has been linked with many high profile, landmark cases. He is widely sought out as a speaker and trainer on issues of capital defense.

From July 1994 until joining the Habeas Unit, Dunham was executive director of the Center for Legal Education, Advocacy & Defense Assistance, Pennsylvania's former death penalty resource center. Prior to that, Dunham was a litigator with Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, where he handled his first capital case.

Cost of the reception, which includes an open bar and heavy hors d'oeuvres, is $15 for public interest and government attorneys, $40 for all others, and $75 to be a Raise-the-Glass sponsor which gives one ticket to the sponsor and one ticket to a public interest or government attorney. For more information about the Public Interest Section's annual reception contact Stephanie Krzywanski at (215) 238-6367.

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