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NACDL - National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Mar 02, 2023

Nation’s Defense Bar and LACDL Commemorate Billy Sothern at ‘Justice and Jazz’ Reception in New Orleans – New Orleans, LA (March 2, 2023)

New Orleans, LA (March 2, 2023) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), joined by the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (LACDL), posthumously honored Billy Sothern during "Justice and Jazz in the Quarter," a charitable fundraiser at the historic Toulouse Theatre in New Orleans’ French Quarter on March 2, 2023.  Billy was a committed member of NACDL and LACDL who is remembered for taking on some of Louisiana’s toughest capital cases. Near the top of that list is a successful legal campaign to secure the release of Albert Woodfox, an acclaimed memoirist and Black Panthers organizer who spent nearly 44 years in solitary confinement – thought to be the longest in U.S. history – for a crime he did not commit. The reception, which featured live entertainment by Soul Brass Band – led by acclaimed percussionist Derrick Freeman – also honored Champion of Justice Awardrecipient James "Jim" Boren.

A graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, Billy earned his law degree at New York University. While in law school, Billy worked for Bryan Stevenson at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Billy began his legal career as a lawyer at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, and went on to direct the Capital Appeals Project, representing individuals on death row from across Louisiana in trial and post-conviction appeals. He was a member of the legal team in Kennedy v. Louisiana, in which the Supreme Court greatly cut back on the availability of capital punishment. 

NACDL President Nellie King stated: 

"Billy understood the importance of fighting for justice in communities with the greatest need and taking on the toughest cases. Through his compassion for his clients and commitment to his adoptive home of New Orleans, Billy put his heart and soul into improving the lives of those around him. He left us far too soon, and NACDL and LACDL join with his family, friends, and community, in recognizing the positive impact he made." 

"With his cherubic grin, energetic idealism and impressive legal chops, Mr. Sothern could have been a character out of a John Grisham novel,"  statesThe New York Times’ October 8, 2022 obituary of Billy Sothern. "He arrived in New Orleans from New York City in 2001, right out of law school and intent on fighting on behalf of impoverished clients across what he and others called the Death Belt: the stretch of the Deep South from lower Alabama to East Texas where numerous capital punishment cases unfold…. Mr. Sothern did more than defend people in court; he stayed in touch afterward, often forming close friendships. Before he defended people, he got to know them intimately — their families, their lives, their communities — and in the process often became a part of those communities himself." 

This article was syndicated from the NACDL website and originally appeared on:

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NACDL - National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Founded in 1958, NACDL is the largest organization for criminal defense lawyers fighting to preserve fairness within America's criminal justice system. The organization has more than 10,000 direct members including criminal defense attorneys in private practice, public defenders in state or federal court, U.S. military defense counsel, law professors and judges.