NLADA HONORS MARY ANN TALLY WITH THE REGINALD HEBER SMITH AWARD
Washington, DC, November 2, 2001 — The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2001 Reginald Heber Smith Award is Mary Ann Tally, director of the trial assistance unit for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, Inc., in Durham, North Carolina.
The "Reggie" celebrates the outstanding achievements and dedicated services of an attorney for contributions made while employed by an organization providing civil legal services or indigent defense services. Tally is nationally recognized as a leader in the defense bar and as a keen strategist in the trial of capital cases.
"Tally's demonstrated and fearless advocacy has served as a shining example to all who are committed to providing a system of equal justice for the poor citizens of North Carolina," said Kenneth Rose, director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. "Her generosity of spirit and tireless devotion are unparalleled."
Tally distinguished herself early in her career as the public defender in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where, prior to her service in this position, few qualified attorneys were interested in working. Because she set the bar so high for achievement, Tally was able to recruit talented and committed young attorneys. It remains a badge of honor for attorneys to say that they began their careers working with her there. Former public defenders from her office now serve across North Carolina as a driving force in the reform of the criminal justice system.
Tally has continued to distinguish herself through commitment and excellence. She took the lead in establishing a legal strategy following the reinstitution of the death penalty after Woodson v. North Carolina. She also crafted a multi-dimensional strategy to oppose the execution of persons on North Carolina's death row, including efforts on the political front, organized and led a diverse coalition of groups in attempts to persuade the legislature to abolish the death penalty for persons with mental retardation and for juveniles, and advocated for a racial justice act.
One of Tally's more recent contributions involved playing a leading role in the legislative study commission that recommended the formation of the groundbreaking Indigent Defense Commission in North Carolina. In 2000, the state's legislature adopted the recommendations of the study commission and transferred authority and control of all indigent defense in North Carolina from the administrative office of the courts to an independent Indigent Defense Commission Board comprised primarily of attorneys engaged in indigent defense. This represents a dramatic turn of fortune for North Carolina, where currently more than 200 persons are sentenced to die, and which has the third highest per capita death-sentencing rate in the country. She is on the board of the Indigent Defense Commission and chairs the committee addressing policy in capital cases.
Tally dedicates her advocacy efforts not only to those impacted by the death penalty, but also to the plight of many poor and migrant farm workers across North Carolina. She has served as a member and chair of the board of Farm Worker's Legal Services, as general counsel for the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers and she has worked for many years on behalf of North Carolina's American Civil Liberties Union.
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The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), founded in 1911, is the oldest and largest national, nonprofit membership organization devoting all of its resources to advocating equal access to justice for all Americans. NLADA champions effective legal assistance for people who cannot afford counsel, serves as a collective voice for both civil legal services and public defense services throughout the nation and provides a wide range of services and benefits to its individual and organizational members.