Theodore Simon
Theodore Simon ()

High-profile attorney Theodore “Ted” Simon, known for representing clients in criminal cases spanning the globe, is set to be inaugurated as the president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Simon is set to be inaugurated Aug. 2 and deliver remarks today in the courtyard of Philadelphia City Hall at the kickoff of the association’s three-day annual meeting and CLE event, culminating with remarks from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. on Friday.

A private practitioner for 40 years, Simon has handled some very notable criminal cases in recent years, including the defense of Amanda Knox during her internationally publicized murder trial.

Simon said it was an honor, not only to be elevated to the head of an organization that fights for those whose freedom is threatened—one that has the motto of “liberty’s last champion”—but to be a member of the legal profession in general.

“I believe it’s a gift to be a lawyer,” Simon told The Legal, “providing care, assistance and representation to individuals at some of the worst times of their lives, whether it’s facing the possible loss of liberty or [helping] those entitled to be redressed for wrongdoing.”

Simon pointed to his decades of experience in defense as preparation for his role at the helm of the NACDL, “having lived the life of a criminal defense lawyer in the trenches and understanding what it is like to hold the liberty of someone in your very hands.”

Simon said, “That’s the kind of experience that all criminal defense lawyers have, and I think it’s a shared experience and one that helps to propel me in the important mission of NACDL.”

That mission is multifaceted, Simon said, observing there is no “most important” initiative that the NACDL takes on: they are all equally crucial to the rights of citizens.

“We do too many important things. NACDL trains more lawyers than any other organization, files more successful amicus briefs than anyone else [and] is the most respected voice in the courts and in Congress,” Simon said.

Additionally, the NACDL works to promote institutional change in the criminal justice system. One such example Simon pointed to was a multi-year report put out by the organization called “Collateral Damage: America’s Failure to Forgive or Forget in the War on Crime.” The study details the difficulty convicted felons face in returning to society.

During his tenure as president, Simon said, the NACDL will be at the forefront of the Clemency Project 2014.

The participants in the project, according to the NACDL’s description, include Federal Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association and the NACDL, as well as individual attorneys.

Simon said as part of the project, the U.S. Department of Justice will consider applications for clemency on a widespread basis for nonviolent offenders who have served at least 10 years in federal prison and served “a sentence that, if imposed today, would be substantially shorter.”

As far as the administration of the NACDL is concerned, Simon said his priorities are “to grow our membership, create a significant endowment, and continue to be the most respected voice of criminal justice issues in the community, courts and Congress.”

To do that, Simon said he plans to develop ways to increase retention of existing members and, in terms of funding, identify possible contributors and supporters.

Simon noted that he has been a member of the NACDL since 1979, but became an active member in 1991. What prompted him to become more involved, and eventually to pursue leadership roles, Simon said, was the 1991 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in Commonwealth v. Edmunds, a ruling on search warrants. When the ruling came down, the president of the NACDL at the time reached out to Simon based on his experience in the area of searches and seizures.

Through his time spent at the organization, Simon said, “I’ve learned that NACDL members are the most dedicated, most committed, most passionate lawyers I have ever come across,” Simon said.

The native New Yorker added, “As great as I feel about being a lawyer, I do also have a special feeling as I think many other lawyers do, about being a Philadelphia lawyer.”

P.J. D’Annunzio can be contacted at 215-557-2315 or pdannunzio@alm.com. Follow him on Twitter @PJDannunzioTLI.