On Nov. 20, Skadden and The University of Alabama School of Law will award the 2008 Morris Dees Justice Award to Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. Ms. Little is considered one of the country's leading experts on immigration law, and she was recognized by the selection committee for her dedication to upholding the rights of immigrants throughout her career, which spans more than two decades. The Morris Dees Justice Award was created in 2006 by Skadden and The University of Alabama School of Law to honor Dees, an Alabama graduate, for his lifelong devotion to public service; Dees is the co-founder and chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala. The award is given annually to a lawyer who has devoted his or her career to serving the public interest and pursuing justice and whose work has brought about positive change in the community, state or nation.
Ms. Little's leadership of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center has seen the organization grow from 10 employees with a budget of $400,000 to 49 employees in three offices with a budget in excess of $4 million. She and her staffers have monitored conditions of Immigrations Customers Enforcement detention, documented concerns regarding the physical and sexual abuse of detainees at Miami's Krome Detention Center and called attention to complaints of mistreatment of immigrant detainees at Florida's Jackson County Jail. Ms. Little has testified before the Organization of American States InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the U.S. House and Senate Immigration Subcommittees; and she has discussed immigration issues on 60 Minutes, Nightline, The McNeil-Lehrer Report, Frontline, The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show and CNN.
The 2007 winner of the Morris Dees Justice Award was Arthur N. Read, who was honored for his tireless and courageous representation of farmworkers and immigrants, including his 25 years as the General Counsel of Friends of Farmworkers, Inc. The inaugural winner of the award in 2006 was Judge William Wayne Justice, for his lifelong efforts to protect civil rights and safeguard constitutional rights, including more than 30 years of service as a federal district court judge. His notable cases dealt with integration, prisoners’ rights, procedural due process, equal access to education, treatment of immigrants, dilution of voting rights and care for the mentally challenged.