On March 8 at 6:00 pm at the Silicon Valley Capital Club, Santa Clara University School of Law will host a dinner in San Jose to present Mario Joseph with the second annual Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize.

Mario Joseph is widely considered one of Haiti’s most influential and respected human rights attorneys. Since 1996, he has served in Port-au-Prince Haiti as Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), which uses prominent human rights cases to force open the doors of Haiti’s justice system for the country’s poor majority. Joseph’s "victim-centered approach” combines traditional legal representation with capacity-building for victims’ organizations and political strategies to advance the interests of his clients while maximizing his cases’ impact on the broader Haitian society.

"We honor Mario Joseph for his passionate fight to improve the justice system in Haiti, and his selfless work on behalf of political prisoners, victims of political violence, and the poor,” said Santa Clara Law Dean Donald Polden. "He is a fierce voice calling for justice amid threats to his own life. Mr. Joseph has not only freed individuals from injustice but has placed systematic pressure on the dictatorship to respect the rule of law. We honor him for his courageous leadership, his tireless service to those in need, and his dedication to preserving the rights of all.”

For more information on the dinner, contact Joanie Schuller — jschuller@scu.edu or 408-554-5473.

The Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize, an annual award and substantial monetary prize presented by Santa Clara University School of Law, recognizes a member of the legal community who has used his or her skills, knowledge, and abilities to correct an injustice in a significant manner. The hope of the donors is that the Prize will not only give the public a higher regard for the legal profession but will also be an inspiration within the legal profession and a recognition of the good work of so many in the law. Selection criteria include the innovative nature and sustainability of the programs the individual has implemented, the courage and self-sacrifice required, the number of people benefited, and any other indications that the recipient is committed in both heart and mind to alleviating injustice and inequity. For more information on present and past winners, or to nominate someone for a future prize, visit law.scu.edu/alexanderprize.

Santa Clara Law, founded in 1911 on the site of California’s oldest operating higher-education institution, is dedicated to educating lawyers who lead with a commitment to excellence, ethics, and social justice. One of the nation’s most diverse law schools, Santa Clara Law offers its 975 students an academically rigorous program, including graduate degrees in international law and intellectual property law; a combined J.D./MBA degree; and certificates in intellectual property law, international law, and public interest and social justice law. Santa Clara Law is located in the world-class business center of Silicon Valley and is distinguished nationally for our top-ranked program in intellectual property. For more information, see law.scu.edu

Mario Joseph, Haiti’s most prominent human rights lawyer, has led the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti since 1996. Attorney Joseph and the BAI represent political prisoners and victims of political violence, and fight to make Haiti’s justice system work for poor people.

The BAI was established by the Haitian government to help victims and the justice system prosecute human rights cases, mostly from Haiti’s 1991-1994 de facto military dictatorship. From 1996 to 2004, the office fought to make the justice system work for Haiti’s poor, by representing human rights victims in court and helping them advocate both inside and outside of the courtroom. The BAI worked closely with judges, prosecutors, police and government officials, providing legal, technical and material assistance, as well as policy advice. The BAI trained Haitian law school graduates, hosted U.S. law student interns and worked with U.S. law school clinics through its clinical program. Attorney Joseph was the attorney of record for the victims, and the chief trial lawyer, and helped supervise the BAI training program.

Under Mr. Joseph’s leadership, the BAI has pioneered a "victim-centered approach,” that combines traditional legal representation with capacity building for victims’ organizations and political strategies to advance the interests of his clients while maximizing his cases’ impact on the broader Haitian society.

Attorney Joseph was the lead lawyer for the victims in the prosecution of the BAI’s most successful case, the Raboteau Massacre trial. After six weeks of trial ending in November 2000, the Raboteau Massacre jury convicted 53 defendants for a 1994 attack on a pro-democracy neighborhood, including the de facto dictatorship’s top military and paramilitary leaders. The Raboto case is considered Haiti’s best complex criminal case ever, and one of the most important human rights prosecutions anywhere in the Americas. Three members of the military high command were deported from the U.S. to Haiti to face charges in Raboteau, including the former Assistant Commander-in-Chief, the highest ranked soldier ever deported from the U.S. to face human rights charges.

Attorney Joseph helped the Center for Justice & Accountability pursue perpetrators of the Raboteau Massacre in U.S. courts, by providing expert testimony and legal advice, and helping to coordinate with his clients. These efforts led to a historic damage recovery of $430,000 for the victims in May, 2008.

Under Haiti’s brutal and unconstitutional Interim Government (2004-2006), Attorney Joseph represented political prisoners, including top former government officials, journalists and grassroots organizers. His courageous advocacy generated frequent threats- his family was forced to leave the country, and Amnesty International issued an urgent action on his behalf in October, 2004. For most of these prisoners, especially those who could not afford legal fees, Attorney Joseph was the only lawyer who would take their cases.

Attorney Joseph’s political prisoner work went beyond freeing individuals from injustice, to place systematic pressure on the dictatorship to respect the rule of law. His work became a focal point for international pressure on the regime, and he was regularly consulted by members of the U.S. Congress, human rights organizations, journalists and grassroots activists throughout the world. Perhaps most important, by standing up for the wrongfully imprisoned, Attorney Joseph gave confidence to other political dissidents, who knew that Attorney Joseph would help them if their own political activities led to arrest.

One of Attorney Joseph’s most prominent cases under the Interim Government was that of Catholic Priest and human rights activist Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, who was arrested while feeding hundreds of children their only meal of the day. "Fr. Gerry” had been imprisoned and forced into exile several times since he opposed the Duvalier dictatorship in the 1980’s. The University of San Francisco conferred an honorary degree on him on September 11, 2006, in recognition of his social justice work. Fr. Jean-Juste was arrested three times in 2004 and 2005, and brought in for questioning three more times. He spent a total of seven months in prison. Attorney Joseph represented Fr. Jean-Juste at the police station, at hearings and before trial and appellate courts. He managed to obtain pre-trial release for Fr. Jean Juste twice, in October 2004 and January 2006. The second release probably saved Fr. Jean-Juste’s life, as he was suffering from treatable but untreated leukemia. The charges were finally dismissed following Attorney Joseph’s successful appeal of them, in June 2008. Fr. Jean-Juste is now free to return to his parish work, and to his feeding program, which now feeds over 7,000 meals a week.

Attorney Joseph’s work on Fr. Jean-Juste’s behalf extended beyond the courtroom, and even the borders of Haiti. He collaborated closely with Bill Quigley, Fr. Jean-Juste’s U.S.-based lawyer, and a professor at Loyola New Orleans University Law School, Fr. Gerry’s doctor, Dr. Paul Farmer, and with U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, who pressured the U.S. government to intervene on Fr. Gerry’s behalf.

In January 2007, Attorney Joseph testified as an expert on Haitian law before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica, in the case of Yvon Neptune v. Haiti, the only Haitian case ever decided by the Court. His testimony helped convince the Court to find that Haiti had violated 11 provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights during its persecution of Mr. Neptune. He also helped convince the Court to transcend Mr. Neptune’s case, and order the Haitian government to adopt a plan to improve its inhuman prison conditions within two years.

Attorney Joseph also provided expert testimony to the New York State court handling the criminal prosecution of Haitian death squad leader Emmanuel Constant, who Mr. Joseph had helped convict in the Raboteau massacre case. Mr. Constant’s New York charges were for bank fraud, but Attorney Joseph helped convince the court that Mr. Constant’s crimes in Haiti justified a rejection of a plea deal giving him a light sentence.

Since the return of democracy to Haiti in 2006, Mr. Joseph has worked to free the remaining political prisoners, and launched pioneering projects on prisoners’ rights and children’s right to primary education.

Under Attorney Joseph’s leadership, the BAI has become a model for training lawyers to represent the poor in human rights cases. He has trained Haitian lawyers who are no judges, prosecutors, and high Ministry of Justice officials. He has trained lawyers from North America, Europe and Africa, who went on to successful careers throughout the world. BAI alumni include Nicole Lee, the Executive Director of TransAfrica Forum, and Matthew Carlson, a legal officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The BAI has also partnered with U.S. law student clinics from the University of San Francisco, Hastings, Seton Hall, Harvard and Yale law schools.

Before joining the BAI, Mr. Joseph worked on human rights cases for the Catholic Church’s Justice and Peace Commission. Also an educator, Mr. Joseph has held a variety of teaching and administrative posts. He is a graduate of the Ecole Normale Superieure, Haiti’s leading teaching college, and the Gonaïves Law School. Since 2005, he has been a member of the governing Bureau of the International Association of Democratic Jurists.