On October 6, organizers of the Professional Women in Advocacy Conference announced that TCP President Virginia Sloan is one of three finalists for an Excellence in Advocacy Award in a Federal Campaign. She was selected from among 47 nominees in the category for her leadership efforts last year in securing improved funding for federal public defenders. These defenders provide the vital “right to counsel” required by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ensuring that those too poor to hire their own lawyers have quality legal representation.
In 2013, mandatory reductions in the federal budget, known as sequestration, resulted in heavy layoffs in many federal defender offices. Given that 90 percent of federal defendants qualify for court-appointed counsel, the impact of these cuts was felt throughout the federal criminal justice system, including delays in criminal cases because a public defender was unavailable.
Ms. Sloan organized a campaign to reverse these draconian cuts. She helped convince Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) to hold a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the effects of sequestration on the federal judiciary. TCP coordinated messaging for the hearing with federal defenders and submitted a statement from more than 40 former prosecutors and judges in support of full funding. TCP also obtained positive media coverage in papers and magazines throughout the country, such as the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, and regional media outlets.
In the end, the efforts paid off: in January, 2014, Congress adopted a spending bill that spared federal public defenders from further cuts; in February, the Judicial Conference restored the rates for private attorneys; and in March, many federal defenders’ offices were able to replace some of their lost staff. Without Ms. Sloan’s concerted efforts, these results would not have been possible.
Judging for the award is conducted by the esteemed Bryce Harlow Foundation, an organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of professional advocacy and increasing the understanding of the essential role of advocacy in the development of sound public policy.
There were 190 total nominees for the awards which judges narrowed down to three finalists in each of the five categories: Excellence in Advocacy in a Federal Campaign; Excellence in Advocacy in a State Campaign; Excellence in Advocacy in a Campaign for Women Serving Women; Excellence in Advocacy by an Up and Coming Practitioner; and Excellence in Advocacy by a Veteran Practitioner. One awardee from each category of finalists will be announced at the Excellence in Advocacy Reception on Thursday, November 20th at 6pm at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C.