NANCY T. BENNETT, Thurgood Marshall Award. The Thurgood Marshall Award honors a person or persons who champion the cause of zealous representation for the poor, and the right to effective assistance of counsel for all.
Nancy T. Bennett devoted almost four decades of her professional life to championing and advancing the cause of zealous representation for the poor. She was relentless, dedicated and effective in vindicating the right of the indigent not only to receive legal representation, but to receive zealous and effective assistance of counsel.
Nancy was a talented trial attorney, but made her most significant mark advancing the cause of justice as a member, and then Deputy Chief Counsel, of the Private Counsel Division. For 27 years, Nancy was a fierce advocate for improving the leadership, training, support and oversight of the private indigent defense bar. She was the catalyst for, and oversaw the development of, performance guidelines considered by many to be the national standard.
Nancy’s leadership and support were pivotal to CPCS’s development of a skilled bar to represent clients facing registration as sexual offenders, a renowned Immigration Impact Unit, and the remarkably successful CPCS Innocence Program. Nancy promoted access to high quality forensic services, and has relentlessly pursued access to forensic social work services for clients represented by assigned counsel.
Throughout her stellar career, Nancy had a steadfast commitment to client-centered advocacy. She set the bar high for every lawyer representing an indigent person in Massachusetts. Nancy Bennett is the key reason that Massachusetts has the best assigned counsel program in the country.
Nancy has been devoted to improving the national assigned counsel bar. She chaired the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) Standards and Best Practices Committee, served on the NLADA Defender Council, Texas Mentoring Advisory Board, and Executive Committee of the American Council of Chief Defenders, as well as the NAPD Steering Committee.
Nancy’s lifetime contribution to the cause of justice for our most vulnerable residents makes her the ideal recipient for this year’s Marshall Award.