Ira Mickenberg '72
2017 Bicentennial Medalist

In recognition of your distinguished achievement in public legal defense, Williams College is proud to honor you with its Bicentennial Medal.

Your goal at graduation was to become an activist lawyer. Well, mission accomplished. While representing countless indigent defendants, including before the U.S. Supreme Court, you chafed at the great flaw in the system. For the scales of justice to balance, the counsel for the prosecution and for the defense must have equal heft, but in too many cases poor clients were represented by inexperienced and untrained public defenders. To help right the matter, you gave up your tenured teaching position to launch the National Defender Training Program. Through it you have devoted almost half of each year to running trial, appellate, and post-conviction training programs for public defenders across the country. You have now become recognized as the nation’s leading trainer in public defense and death penalty law. The heart of your work is encouraging publicly appointed lawyers to connect with the humanity of their clients, however down and out, and make them an integral part of the case. The training works. As one of your protégés has said, he no longer feels “isolated and alone with the huge responsibility for a client facing a long, long time in prison.” Another goes even further to say “I am a better lawyer and person because of Ira, and many thousands of lawyers feel the same way.”

For more information on Ira Mickenberg, click here to see his classmate bio page.