The University of Texas at Austin   School of Law

Main menu:

Clinical Education at UT Law

Real Cases. Real Experience.

Capital Representation in Transition:
Emerging Standards and Effective Enforcement

Eidman Courtroom, UT Law School
February 8, 2007, 8:15– 5:00

Photo of a statue of Justice

Panelist Biographies

Scott J. Atlas is a senior partner in the Houston office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, with thirty years of trial and appellate experience in complex litigation. A former chair of the ABA 's 70,000-member Section of Litigation, Mr. Atlas has also received national recognition for his pro bono and community service. He assists the judges of the Fifth Circuit in identifying qualified counsel to handle federal appeals, and serves by gubernatorial appointment as an ex officio member of the Texas Criminal Justice Advisory Council. Mr. Atlas led the legal team that won the exoneration and release of Ricardo Aldape Guerra, an innocent Mexican national convicted and sentenced to death in Texas .

John H. Blume (contributing non-speaker) directs the Death Penalty Project at Cornell Law School , where he is an Associate Professor of Law. The Project fosters empirical scholarship on the death penalty, offers students an opportunity to work on death penalty cases, and provides information and assistance for defense lawyers handling capital cases. Since 1996, Professor Blume has worked with the Habeas Assistance and Training Project to improve representation in capital federal habeas corpus proceedings. In addition to being a scholarly authority on capital punishment, Professor Blume himself is a longtime capital defense lawyer who has served as lead counsel in death penalty cases at all stages of the process, including in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Catherine Greene Burnett is Vice-President, Associate Dean of Clinical Studies and Professor of Law at the South Texas College of Law. Before joining the South Texas faculty in 1988, she clerked for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, handled post-conviction litigation as an Assistant Attorney General and later represented felony clients as a criminal defense lawyer. A recognized leader in clinical legal education, Professor Burnett also teaches criminal procedure, international criminal law, and death penalty law. She was recently recognized as a "Pro Bono Champion" by the Texas Access to Justice Commission.

Richard Burr is a partner in the Houston firm of Burr & Welch, and since 1979 has devoted his practice entirely to death penalty cases. He led the penalty phase defense for Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing trial and has argued two capital cases in the United States Supreme Court, including Ford v. Wainwright , 477 U.S. 399 (1986), which protects the mentally incompetent from execution. Mr. Burr has testified before Congress on death penalty legislation three times, and has trained capital defense attorneys in twenty states. He has served as Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel since October 1997, and in 1998 received the Life in the Balance Achievement Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, honoring his career in capital defense.

Larry A. Hammond is an attorney specializing in commercial litigation and criminal defense with the Phoenix firm of Osborn Maledon.  A former clerk to both Justice Hugo Black and Justice Lewis Powell of the United States Supreme Court, Mr. Hammond has more than thirty years' experience in litigation and is extensively involved in pro bono and public service activities related to indigent defense and human rights.  He is a former President of the American Judicature Society and currently serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Arizona Capital Representation Project and a member of the Arizona State Bar Association's Indigent Defense Task Force.  He writes and speaks frequently concerning efforts to restore public confidence in the criminal justice system by improving the quality of counsel. 

Judge Patrick Higginbotham is a senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Formerly a highly regarded trial and appellate litigator with the Dallas firm of Coke & Coke, Judge Higginbotham served as a United States District Judge for the Northern District of Texas from 1975 to 1982 and was in active service on the Fifth Circuit from 1982 to August 2006. Judge Higginbotham served for many years as a faculty member of the Federal Judicial Center and as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Southern Methodist University's Dedman School of Law. He is a tireless proponent of improving trial advocacy and through his leadership of the Center for American and International Law has promoted top quality training for capital defense lawyers in Texas.

Judge Cheryl Johnson has served on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals since November 3, 1998. She was formerly a member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, where she served on the Board of Directors and as Treasurer from 1994 to 1997. She also served as Director of the Texas Association of Attorneys Board Certified in Criminal Law from 1996 to 1997. She has been actively involved in the community, serving on the Community Justice Council's Committee on Offenders with Mental Impairments, as a volunteer attorney for Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas, and as a volunteer for Literacy Austin.

Andrea Keilen is Executive Director of Texas Defender Service (TDS), a nonprofit law office that has worked since 1995 to improve the quality of representation afforded to indigent Texans charged with a capital crime or under sentence of death. TDS not only directly represents indigent death-sentenced clients but trains capital defense lawyers and gathers data about the administration of the death penalty in Texas to promote needed reforms. Before joining TDS, Ms. Keilen, a 1993 graduate of the University of Denver College of Law, practiced criminal defense both in a private setting and as a public defender, and represented numerous clients charged with homicide offenses, both in capital and non-capital proceedings.

George H. Kendall is a senior counsel in the New York office of Holland & Knight, LLP. He works exclusively on the community services team that devotes all of its attention to pro bono matters. A former attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Mr. Kendall has handled capital cases at trial, on appeal, and in state and federal post-conviction proceedings, and regularly consults with attorneys throughout the country representing clients in capital cases. He has also taught courses on criminal justice issues at Yale Law School , Florida State University College of Law and St. John's School of Law. In 1999, Mr. Kendall was awarded the Life in the Balance Achievement Award by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.

Maurie Levin is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Texas School of Law.  She is co-director of the Capital Punishment Clinic, and supervises students working on the clinic's capital cases.  Ms. Levin has practiced in the field of death penalty litigation since 1993, both representing death sentenced clients, and assisting in efforts to implement systemic changes.  She also works part time at Texas Defender Service, a private non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of counsel provided to Texas inmates facing a sentence of death.

Robin M. Maher is Director of the American Bar Association's Death Penalty Representation Project, which works to raise awareness about the lack of representation available to death row inmates and to address this need by recruiting qualified volunteer attorneys and providing them training and assistance. The Project also pursues systemic changes in the criminal justice system that would assure that those facing death are represented at all stages of the process by appropriately qualified, adequately compensated counsel. Before joining the ABA , Ms. Maher, a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School, was in private practice, where she began working on death penalty cases as a volunteer lawyer. She lectures frequently on the death penalty and the crisis of counsel.

Jim Marcus is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Texas School of Law, where he co-directs the Capital Punishment Clinic, teaching courses on the death penalty and supervising law students working on death penalty cases in a clinical setting. Mr. Marcus' practice from 1993 to 2006 focused exclusively on capital post-conviction litigation. In addition to representing death-sentenced clients, Mr. Marcus provides consulting assistance in capital cases, presents training seminars, coordinates representation for indigent inmates, and frequently lectures on the death penalty.

Mark E. Olive is an attorney in private practice in Tallahassee , Florida . One of the nation's leading capital defense lawyers, Mr. Olive has specialized in death penalty defense since 1978, representing clients facing the death penalty at all levels from trial through federal habeas corpus proceedings in nine different states. He has also founded or led capital defense offices in three states, and has served as counsel in many death penalty cases in the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Olive has worked with the Habeas Assistance and Training Project since its inception in 1996 to improve representation in capital federal habeas proceedings.

Judge Morris L. Overstreet is an attorney in private practice.  He was previously Professor of Law and Director of the Clinical Legal Studies Program at Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law.  From 1990 to 1998, Judge Overstreet served on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA), authoring more than 500 opinions.  He was the first African-American ever elected by popular vote to a statewide office in Texas .  Judge Overstreet also spent five years as a prosecutor in the 47 th Judicial District of Texas and four years as presiding judge in Potter County Court at Law No. 1 in Amarillo . He is a frequent lecturer and public speaker and has taught continuing legal educational classes statewide for Justices of the Peace, Constitutional County Judges, local Bar Associations, and the State Bar of Texas Advanced Criminal Law Seminar.

Rob Owen is Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Texas School of Law, where he co-directs the Capital Punishment Center. Prior to joining the faculty, Professor Owen spent six years as an attorney with the Texas Resource Center in Austin , followed by three years as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in Seattle , Washington and eight years in private criminal defense practice in Austin . He has defended capital cases since 1989 and speaks frequently at death penalty defense trainings around the country. Professor Owen teaches courses at the Law School on capital punishment and leads a freshman seminar on the death penalty in the undergraduate Plan II Honors Program.

Danalynn Recer is founder and Executive Director of the Gulf Region Advocacy Center (GRACE), a Houston-based nonprofit that since 2002 has worked to improve trial-level capital defense in Texas.  Ms. Recer also represents the government of Mexico in protecting the rights of Mexican nationals facing the death penalty in Texas and Oklahoma. Ms. Recer holds B.A., M.A., and J.D. degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, and is currently completing a Ph.D.  After spending the first years of her legal career in capital post-conviction defense in Texas, she moved to Louisiana.  There, she helped win reduced sentences or acquittals for more than a dozen clients in capital trials, negotiated sentences less than death for seven others, and developed investigative standards and protocols that are now widely copied. 

Carol Steiker is Professor of Law and Special Advisor for Public Service at Harvard Law School . Professor Steiker, who joined the Harvard law faculty in 1992 after serving as a judicial clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court and as a public defender in Washington , D.C. , has written numerous articles on the subject of capital punishment. She is co-author of a leading casebook on criminal procedure and edited the Criminal Procedure Stories volume in the Foundation Press' innovative Law Stories series. She is co-counsel for the death-sentenced petitioner in Smith v. Texas in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jordan M Steiker is Cooper K. Ragan Regents Professor of Law at the University of Texas School of Law. He is a nationally recognized authority on the death penalty and has served as counsel in a number of capital post-conviction appeals; he is presently lead counsel for the death-sentenced petitioner in Smith v. Texas in the U.S. Supreme Court. Before joining the faculty, Professor Steiker served as a law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court. Professor Steiker teaches constitutional law, criminal law, and capital punishment law, and is Co-Director of the law school's Capital Punishment Center.

Mandy Welch practices law in Houston . She has more than twenty years' experience representing death-sentenced clients in post-conviction proceedings. Formerly Executive Director of the Texas Resource Center , she is also the founder, former Director and current Board member of Texas Defender Service. Ms. Welch has argued and won two death penalty cases in the United States Supreme Court: McFarland v. Scott , which established the right to appointment of counsel in federal capital habeas proceedings before the filing of a petition, and Maynard v. Cartwright , which struck down part of Oklahoma 's death penalty statute as unconstitutionally vague. As a Regional Habeas Assistance Attorney for the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, Ms. Welch trains and supports appointed capital habeas counsel in Texas cases.

Return to Conference Homepage