Professor Herschella Conyers of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Project, a clinic within the Law School’s Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, has been honored for her work on behalf of young people in the criminal justice system.
Conyers is the recipient of the Illinois Judicial Council’s Edith Sampson Award. The council, a service organization of judges, gives the award in honor of Sampson, the first black woman to be a judge in Illinois and a representative of the United States to the United Nations and NATO.
“I was honored because of who Edith Sampson is,” Conyers said. “She is a woman whose name I had always heard as a young lawyer, a woman of many firsts who did a lot of things ahead of her time. So to get that award, I’m proud of that.”
Conyers received the award in August for reasons both specific and general, said Cook County Circuit Court Judge Carol Howard, who is on the council’s executive board. In particular, Conyers organized a juvenile justice symposium in April that was incredibly important and informative, Howard said. More broadly, Conyers works hard every day as an advocate for juveniles in the legal system, both in juvenile and adult court, Howard said.
“Herschella embodies all of Edith Sampson’s qualities,” Howard said. “In everything she does, she goes the extra mile. She’s very conscientious. You can tell she’s genuinely interested in her clients.”
For the April 20 symposium, titled “Living Like We’re Bulletproof: The Public Health Crisis of Youth Trauma and Violence,” Conyers brought together educators, public health officials, faith and community leaders, and academics to try to forge new, integrated strategies for curbing youth violence. The goal was to discuss the problem honestly, especially the effect of violence in minority neighborhoods. The council and the clinic co-sponsored the event.
“The system, for so many kids, is not getting better,” Conyers said. “We’re failing our children.”
Conyers and her partner in the clinic, Professor Randolph Stone, have a reputation for being skilled lawyers who work very hard on behalf of youth who need the best representation available, Howard said.
“After all these years working with Herschella, I’m not surprised when she is honored for her work,” Stone said. He was Cook County Public Defender from 1988 to 1991, and Conyers worked for him. “Her intelligence, creativity, and passion for improving outcomes for children make her an excellent and effective advocate.”