News Release

Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar Presents Champion of Justice Legal Award to President and CEO of The Taifa Group LLC Nkechi Taifa

Washington, DC (Oct. 12, 2021) – Nkechi Taifa was awarded the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) Champion of Justice Legal Award on October 7 during the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice (NFCJ) 20th Anniversary Gala. Champion of Justice Awards are bestowed upon those individuals who—through legislative, journalistic, philanthropic, or humanitarian pursuits—have staunchly preserved or defended the constitutional rights of American citizens and have endeavored to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime.

“Today Nkechi is receiving the Champion of Justice Award, but most what folks don’t know is that criminal defense has been Nkechi’s home base. Decades ago, she was a court appointed attorney, when the War on Drugs was taking root…she represented her clients zealously and has sought to fulfill the mandates of the sixth amendment,” said Former Project Manager of Clemency Project 2014, Deputy Director of Policy, Justice Division, ACLU Cynthia Roseberry. “We know what the Champion of Justice Award is for, and Nkechi is most deserving of this honor. There are few as deserving as she. Indeed, she is a staunch defender of constitutional rights who has labored tirelessly to ensure the guarantees of justice and due process. She has made and makes us proud to call her a colleague…It is my honor to present this award to the attorney, the activist, the author, the NACDL 2021 Champion of Justice, Nkechi Taifa.”

Nkechi is an attorney, activist, academician, and author. She focuses her vast experience in several ways, including as a litigator, lobbyist, academician, advocate, policy analyst, community activist, convener, and grant-maker. Nkechi is President and CEO of The Taifa Group LLC. She convenes the Justice Roundtable Coalition and serves as Senior Fellow for the Center of Justice at Columbia University. Over her career Taifa has worked for the Open Society Foundations, ACLU, Women’s Legal Defense Fund, Howard University School of Law, National Prison Project, and Washington Office on Africa. She has taught seminars on Law, Race, and Justice and has litigated high-profile civil and criminal cases as a private practitioner in DC and federal court.

“A long time ago, Sam Cooke mesmerized us with the song, ‘A Change is Gonna Come.’ And change has come and is coming, thanks in no small part to the work of NACDL, Justice Roundtable, and our many allies across the political spectrum. Change came with the 2008 Second Chance Reentry Bill, it came with the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, it came with Clemency Project 2014, it came with William Underwood coming home in January, and it came just last week with the MacArthur Foundation giving genius awards to two formerly incarcerated people. And that change must come now with the passage of the EQUAL Act, the Safer Detention Act, the Acquitted Conduct Act, the Second Look Act, and more,” said criminal justice advocate and Principal and CEO of The Taifa Group LLC Nkechi Taifa. “Yes, defense community, a change is gonna come. But it doesn’t come over night, it comes with determination, it comes with dedication, it comes with hard work,” and with a nod to an earlier comment about little things making huge differences in people’s lives, Taifa continued, “and most importantly, it sometimes begins with just a scrap of paper. Thank you very much for this honor.”

Nkechi’s work covers many aspects of the criminal legal system, including sentencing, policing, prisons, voting, reentry, clemency, racial justice, political prisoners, and reparations. She has received numerous accolades including Essence Magazine’s 2019 WOKE 100 Black Women Advocating for Change; the Wiley Branton Award from both the National Bar Association and the Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights; the Washington Council of Lawyer’s President’s Award; the Equal Justice Award from the UDC School of Law; and numerous awards and honors from Howard University School of Law. Nkechi received her B.A. from Howard University and J.D. from George Washington Law School.

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Contacts

Kate Holden, NACDL Public Affairs and Communications Associate, (202) 465-7624 or kholden@nacdl.org

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.

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