Professor Michele LaVigne of the UW Law School clinical faculty has been selected to receive the 2009 David Niblack Award from the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (WACDL).
LaVigne, director of the Public Defender Project at the Law School's Frank J. Remington Center, came to teaching after a distinguished decade working for the Wisconsin State Public Defender. The Public Defender Project places UW law students as interns in public defenders offices throughout Wisconsin.
Dozens of LaVigne's students have gone on to be hired by the State Public Defender or to take their deeper understanding of public defending into other spheres of law or other states.
The David C. Niblack Award was created in 2001 by WACDL to honor and preserve the memory of Wisconsin's State Public Defender from 1979 to 1983, who died unexpectedly in 2000, an outstanding attorney who devoted his life and considerable talents to the defense of those who needed it but could not pay for it.
Recipients of the award are attorneys being recognized for contributions to the effective defense of the indigent, either through cumulative career contributions or through outstanding individual accomplishments.
The nomination of LaVigne for the award reads in part:
Michele is a fitting recipient to honor the memory of David Niblack because she pushes her students to understand the importance of representing and serving their clients. While the situations they face may be difficult and require great effort, Michele encourages her students to never lose sight of the fact that another individual's life and freedom are at stake, and that they always deserve the best representation that a lawyer can provide. There are few individuals across the state who would better embody the values of this award than Michele LaVigne.
LaVigne will receive the Niblack Award officially at a luncheon on December 12, 2009, at WACDL's annual ethics seminar in Madison.