2019 Keynote & Honorees

At every NLG #Law4thePeople Convention, we honor members and friends of the Guild whose exemplary work and activism capture the spirit of “law for the people.” Please join us in celebrating this year’s distinguished awardees!

Keynote Speaker: Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson

AshLee Woodard Henderson is a 34 year old, Affrilachian (Black Appalachian), working class woman, born and raised in Southeast Tennessee. AshLee is the first black woman Executive Director of the Highlander Research & Education Center, a social justice leadership training school and cultural center founded in 1932. Through popular education, language justice, participatory research, cultural work, and intergenerational organizing, they help create spaces — at Highlander and in communities — where people gain knowledge, hope and courage, expanding their ideas of what is possible. AshLee is a long-time activist working against environmental racism in central and southern Appalachia, and has fought for workers rights, racial justice, women and LGBTQUIA+ rights, reproductive justice, international human rights, and led-intergenerational social movements across the South. She serves on the governance council of the Southern Movement Assembly and is a nationally recognized leader in the Movement for Black Lives.

Law for the People Award: Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, Louisiana Office

Founded in 1985, the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center is one of the premier civil rights law firms in the United States. In addition to New Orleans, the MacArthur Justice Center has offices in Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri and Washington, DC. For over 30 years, the MacArthur Justice Center has fought cases to right individual wrongs, confront racial and social inequality and demand real reform in the criminal justice system.

The Louisiana Office is receiving the Law for the People Award for their work defending protesters following the July 2016 police killing of Alton Sterling. In the lawsuits filed by the MacArthur Justice Center, a total of 14 Baton Rouge area residents arrested during the protests allege violations of their constitutional rights, physical injury and denial of necessary medical treatment while in jail; all experience ongoing trauma as a result of their unlawful arrest and brutal treatment by law enforcement officer. The lawsuits claim that several law enforcement agencies conspired as the protests began to stifle dissent against police misconduct against Black residents of the area.

Debra Evenson “Venceremos” Award: Judy Somberg

A longtime Guild activist, Judy has led the International Committee’s Task Force on the Americas in recent years. She has organized NLG delegations to Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Bolivia. In 1989-90, she was the NLG representative in Nicaragua. She co-led an emergency delegation to Honduras after the murder of renowned environmental activist Berta Cáceres in 2016, which led to the Guild’s ongoing participation in the international observer group to the trial of the accused. Judy has participated in the Guild as a student member at Northeastern Law School, longtime board member of the Massachusetts chapter, Regional VP, National VP, and Executive VP, and she is currently co-treasurer of the NLG Foundation. In addition to Guild and other activism, she was a founder of the Cambridge-El Salvador Sister City Project, established in 1986 to support the civilian population during the war years and which continues to this day.

Ernie Goodman Award: Azadeh Shahshahani

Azadeh Shahshahani is Legal & Advocacy Director at Project South and a past president of the National Lawyers Guild. Azadeh has worked for almost 15 years in the U.S. South to protect the human rights of immigrants and Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities. Azadeh is also active in support of social justice movements in the Global South and has served as a member of the jury in people’s tribunals on Mexico, the Philippines, and Brazil. She is the author or editor of several human rights reports, including a 2017 report titled “Imprisoned Justice: Inside Two Georgia Immigrant Detention Centers.”

Legal Worker Award: Leoyla Cowboy

Leoyla Cowboy is a citizen of the Dine Nation born to the Salt Water Clan (To’dikozhi). Leoyla studied Business Administration and Native American Studies at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. She has worked as a grassroots organizer with the Red Nation Coalition in Albuquerque and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Leoyla testified at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hearing on the criminalization of Indigenous people fighting resource extraction and worked with various groups on dismantling settler colonialism. Currently, she is an organizer for the Water Protector Legal Collective, prison abolitionist, and an active member of the NoDAPL political prisoners support committee.

Arthur Kinoy Award: Brigada Legal Solidaria

Brigada Legal Solidaria (BLS) was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in Puerto Rico in 2018, with the objective of providing free legal representation and counsel, as well as legal observing to organizations, groups and individuals involved in the struggle against austerity and the PROMESA law, which imposed a fiscal control board on Puerto Rico. We do educational work on civil and constitutional rights with particular attention to freedom of speech. Most recently, BLS is also providing legal support to protesters who successfully demonstrated to oust governor Ricky Roselló in July 2019. Our motto is “No person without a lawyer and no person left alone.”

Carol Weiss King Award: Denyse Sabagh

Denyse Sabagh is a recognized leader in all aspects of immigration and nationality law, with a lengthy career representing individual and corporate clients. She has represented clients seeking asylum and in deportation proceedings including terrorism cases. She has an active federal court litigation practice representing clients in mandamus actions, APA actions, and naturalization actions. Throughout her career she also has provided legal assistance to the Arab American and Muslim community having represented many clients in post 9/11 and NSEERS proceedings and FBI interviews. Denyse has received numerous awards and recognitions, and has been an active member of NIPNLG since 2007.

C.B. King Award: Michael Podgurski

Michael Podgurski is a 3L at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. He serves as co-president of The John Marshall chapter of the NLG. Michael volunteers as a legal observer coordinator with NLG-Chicago. He has also volunteered with the Chicago Community Bond Fund. Prior to law school Michael led “Know Your Rights” workshops as a member of First Defense Legal Aid’s “Street Law Corps.” During law school, Michael has interned with the Hamilton Law Office and Uptown People’s Law Center, in Chicago. Since June 2019, Michael has worked as a law clerk with criminal defense attorney and NLG member Molly Armour.