Legal Excellence Award, Maryland Bar Foundation, 2011
In 2011, Zuckerman Spaeder LLP partner John J. Connolly recently received the Maryland Bar Foundation’s Legal Excellence Award for the Advancement of Unpopular Causes. Mr. Connolly was recognized for his advocacy on behalf of a Yemeni national and orthopedic surgeon who was held for more than eight years at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“As lawyers, representing unpopular people, or presenting unpopular arguments, is part of our charter,” said Mr. Connolly. “It is an honor to be recognized by the Maryland Bar Foundation for advancing the cause of justice at Guantanamo Bay.”
Mr. Connolly began representing the detainee in March 2005, several months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay had a statutory right to file petitions for habeas corpus in the federal courts, challenging their continuing detention without trial. Mr. Connolly’s client had been operating a medical clinic in Afghanistan when, in the fall of 2001, he was injured in an air attack and captured. The Afghans who captured him turned him over to the U.S. military, which sent him to Guantanamo Bay in 2002 for confinement and interrogation as an alleged enemy combatant. After five years of litigation and other advocacy by Mr. Connolly and his colleagues, the client was returned to his homeland.
Additionally, Mr. Connolly has represented other individuals detained by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, and has spoken on issues pertaining to the detainees of Guantanamo Bay.
Each year, the Maryland Bar Foundation honors five professionals with Legal Excellence Awards for the advancement of the profession in five categories: Unpopular Causes, Professional Competence, Public Service Responsibility, Rights of the Disadvantaged, and Public Understanding of the Law. Nominations for the Legal Excellence Awards are submitted by members of the Maryland Bar Foundation and then reviewed by the Legal Excellence Awards Committee, who makes the final selections. One professional is chosen for each award category.