Professor given four accolades

Photo of Aliza Kaplan
Courtesy of Lewis & Clark

Professor of Lawyering and Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic (CJRC) Aliza Kaplan received four distinct awards this summer and fall for her work in criminal justice. 

These awards include the American Constitution Society Oregon Lawyer Chapter’s 2022 Hans Linde Award, the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (OCDLA) President’s Award, the Oregon State Bar (OSB) Award of Merit and the Juneteenth Award from the Uhura Sassa Culture Group at the Oregon State Penitentiary which she received on behalf of the CRJC.

Associate Dean of Law School Faculty and Professor of Law John Parry, a colleague of Kaplan’s, is thrilled to see her work be given such credit.

“Aliza Kaplan’s unrelenting determination to seek justice is admirable and inspiring,” Parry said to the Lewis & Clark Law Newsroom. “We have watched her question the huge forces of status quo and advocate for those who have little voice in our criminal justice system in Oregon. We are so proud of what she and her Criminal Justice Reform Clinic students and staff have accomplished.”

Each award recognizes a different aspect of Kaplan’s work. The Hans Linde Award is “intended to honor Oregonians who promote the values of individual rights and liberties, genuine equality, access to justice, and the rule of law,” according to the American Constitution Society website. The OCDLA, affiliated with National Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, is an organization of defense lawyers as well as public defenders. They specifically honored her work in legislation, litigation, and teaching.

“The defense community in Oregon is filled with so many terrific attorneys and fighters for justice,” Kaplan said to the LC Law Newsroom. She expressed that she was honored to receive this award from her peers.

The Uhura Sassa Culture Group, a Black cultural group in the Oregon State Penitentiary that offers vocational and educational opportunities, presented their first ever Juneteenth Award to the CJRC as part of their Juneteenth celebration this summer. As director, Kaplan accepted this award on behalf of the clinic.

The SJRC allows students to get hands-on experience with casework in a variety of issues including clemency, parole, court access for incarcerated youth, and forensic science. Under Kaplan’s guidance, students have researched and drafted petitions that have been successfully granted by the governor.

“Anything that we can do in our representation or in shining a light on a system or working on policy changes to make it better,” Kaplan said. “That’s what we do here in the clinic and I feel really lucky to work with all the players on this.” 

Lastly, the OSB Award of Merit is considered the highest honor that the Oregon Bar gives. This award is not always given annually, but is instead reserved for recognizing select “lawyers and judges who have made outstanding contributions to the community and the profession,” as stated on the OSB website. In order to be granted this prestigious award, one must be nominated with multiple letters of support from members of the legal community.

The former OSB President, David Wade, was proud to award Kaplan with this honor. Most recently, Kamron Graham became the newest OSB president.

“Ms. Kaplan has offered hope to vulnerable individuals, while also advancing the law itself in meaningful ways. It is my honor to recognize her with our bar’s highest award,” Wade said in an LC Law Newsroom article. 

However, these recent instances are not the first time Kaplan’s work has been acknowledged. In 2015 she received LC Law School’s Leo Levenson Award for Excellence in Teaching. 

Kaplan has done critical research on the cost of the death penalty, the origins of the nonunanimous jury law in Oregon and, most recently, the Oregon parole system. New legislation has been passed as a result of her efforts, such as Oregon SB819, a bill that establishes a procedure so that people convicted of felony offenses can petition the sentencing court.

In addition to working as a professor and director of the CJRC, she serves as counsel to the Forensic Justice Project, an organization dedicated to preventing and correcting wrongful convictions.

“Anytime you’re dealing with crime and people’s lives, it’s always heavy,” Kaplan said. “But that’s what we do. So we’re just excited to learn more … so we can try to make some good changes.”

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