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Kutak-Dodds Prizes Awarded to Children’s Advocate, Criminal Justice Reformer

News | June 14, 2019

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) presented the 2019 Kutak-Dodds prizes at the annual Exemplar Dinner held June 12 in Washington, D.C. Established in 1989, the prizes are jointly sponsored by the Robert J. Kutak Foundation and NLADA in memory of Robert J. Kutak and Kenneth R. Dodds. Both men were partners in the Omaha, Nebraska office of Kutak Rock and advocates of public service, legal education, and high ethical standards.

Frank P. Cervone is the 2019 Kutak-Dodds Civil Prize winner. Executive Director at the Support Center for Child Advocates (CHILD ADVOCATES), Mr. Cervone has been serving abused and neglected children in Philadelphia for almost 30 years. He has spearheaded efforts to improve civil rights of children through policy, legislation, and reform of the child welfare system nationwide. He helped lead the American Bar Association’s creation of the first-ever ethics and practice standards for children’s lawyers, and more recently in Pennsylvania, Mr. Cervone led the development of the state’s model to calculate responsible caseload sizes for lawyers representing children and parents in child welfare cases.

John Schoeffel is the 2019 Kutak-Dodds Defender Prize winner. Over the past decade, Mr. Schoeffel, a staff attorney with The Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Practice, led a statewide effort to reform New York’s criminal discovery rules. The “Blindfold Law” formerly allowed prosecutors to withhold critical evidence from the defense until the eve of trial, leaving the accused “blindfolded” and unable to prepare. For many decades it resulted in coerced and uninformed pleas, the inability to investigate cases, and wrongful convictions and incarcerations. In April of this year, New York’s legislature enacted “open file” discovery. Instead of being among the most antiquated and unfair in the country, New York’s discovery statute is now a model for the nation.

Kutak Rock litigation attorney Jennifer Blunt presented the awards. Please visit NLADA.