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Speaking to a Chicago audience gathered to honor in his name some of the area’s most prestigious lawyers and dedicated public servants, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens shared his views about representing the needy and the importance of the court’s reaffirmation this year of Miranda v. Arizona. “In the law, as in other professions, the primary reward for human toil is not what you get for it, but what you become by it,” Stevens told the crowd of about 600 Wednesday night at the Chicago Hilton & Towers. “There is no substitute for pride in a job well done and the knowledge that your talent and training has served others badly in need of help.” Such was the theme as eight legal heavyweights were honored by The Chicago Bar Association and Chicago Bar Foundation as the first recipients of the John Paul Stevens Award. Created by nearly 80 veteran Stevens law clerks, the award honors lawyers who best exemplify the illustrious justice’s commitment to public service and integrity. Honored were: Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal counsel Jean Allard; 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge William J. Bauer; personal injury lawyer Philip H. Corboy; Altheimer & Gray partner Milton H. Gray; former U.S. District Judge George N. Leighton; one-time Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dawn Clark Netsch; Jenner & Block co-chairman Jerold S. Solovy; and his partner and former U.S. Attorney Thomas P. Sullivan. While Stevens noted during his keynote address that he didn’t have anything to do with the awards program, he said he was moved by the sentiments of the honorees, many of whom praised the justice as a role model and mentor. None of those chosen by the selection committee, Stevens said, would have received a dissent from him. He praised their good works and the notable “pro bono” efforts by two others — Northwestern University School of Law Professor Larry Marshall, whose contribution to the exoneration of death row inmates also contributed to a moratorium on executions in Illinois, and University of Utah College of Law Professor Paul Cassell, whose arguments in Dickerson v. United States persuaded the court to reexamine Miranda. Harkening back to a case he took in the 1950s, Stevens linked the need for lawyers to take on difficult and sometimes unpopular cases to the 7-2 decision in Dickerson. The majority ruling favored keeping the often-controversial Miranda rights, rather than accepting an obscure law passed by Congress in 1968 that would have allowed confessions elicited without a police advisory to be admissible at trial as long as the “totality of circumstances” showed the statements were voluntary. To illustrate how important he deems Miranda and how appreciative he was that the court had the opportunity to rule on the issue in Dickerson, Stevens told the audience about representing a man convicted of murdering a theater cashier in 1937. Stevens, then with Chicago’s Rothschild, Stevens, Barry and Myers, was appointed to the case after the man was granted an evidentiary hearing on his claims that police beat him until he confessed. With the help of several partners, Stevens was able to confirm that his client had not only been beaten and mistreated, but that the brutality included being strung up over a door by a rope tied to the handcuffs behind his back. While Stevens lost the case at that evidentiary level, he ultimately prevailed in the Illinois Supreme Court, and his client was freed. About the trial court loss, Stevens, a vocal proponent of merit selection of judges, said, “In retrospect I have often thought that he [the judge] must have given greater weight to an unstated but powerful presumption that a police officer is a more reliable witness than a person held to answer to a capital or an otherwise infamous crime. “Such a presumption may have special force when the trier of fact is a judge who must stand for election periodically.” He also has thought since then about when exactly his client’s rights were violated — at the time of his beating, when his confession was admitted at his initial trial, or when he was first detained for questioning. Stevens said it is clear now that it was the latter. “The Constitution is implicated,” he said, “the moment that custodial interrogation commences. “Unless the suspect knows that he has a right to remain silent and perhaps more importantly also is assured that the police will respect that right, it is proper to view his responses to the first question as compelled testimony.” He concluded by saying he believes Miranda not only has improved civil rights, but that it also has contributed to better law enforcement. “The fact that the Keystone Cops of the 1930s have been replaced by trained and respected individuals is, at least in part, attributed to that decision,” he said.

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