On January 27, two NYU Law alumni were honored at the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers annual dinner. Manuel Vargas '84 was presented with a lifetime achievement award and Joel Rudin '78 received the Hon. Thurgood S. Marshall Award for Outstanding Criminal Practitioner.

Vargas, who joined the Legal Aid Society in 1988, has dedicated his career to immigrant’s rights. In 1997, he founded the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) in response to major amendments to immigration law. "There was a safety valve in immigration law," Vargas told Super Lawyers in 2008. "Unfortunately, Congress, in their zeal to tighten immigration laws in 1996, largely eliminated those safety valves." IDP’s work includes ensuring that immigrants accused of crimes know their rights; training lawyer and advocates; and promoting immigrant-protective impact litigation.

Rudin, a wrongful-conviction specialist, was also named in Village Voice’s 2010 Thanksgiving Honor Roll after he helped win the release of Jabbar Collins, who spent 16 years in prison after he was convicted of murder in 1994. During that time, Collins dedicated himself to uncovering the story behind his conviction. With the help of Collins’ extensive research, Rudin filed a motion in federal court on Collins’ behalf that exposed myriad prosecutorial abuses. Federal Judge Dora Irizarry ordered Collins’ release and barred a retrial.

Posted February 4, 2011