SANTA CLARA, Calif., March 1, 2024— A dedicated advocate who helps long-term incarcerated persons achieve rehabilitation, parole, and humane treatment in prison will be the recipient of the 2024  Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize. The award from Santa Clara University School of Law honors top legal advocates who have used their careers to help alleviate injustice and inequity.

At an event on March 20, the Alexander Prize will be awarded to Santa Clara Law alumnus Keith Wattley J.D. ’99, the founder and executive director of UnCommon Law. The winner receives a substantial cash award to be used as he or she chooses, and in addition is invited to participate in lectures and classes and to serve as a teacher, mentor, and scholar for a limited period at Santa Clara Law.

Wattley has been advocating for the rights of people in prison and on parole for more than 20 years. Prior to launching UnCommon Law in 2006, Wattley was a staff attorney at the Prison Law Office, a nonprofit law firm in Berkeley. At UnCommon Law, he has focused on helping people transform their lives and demonstrate to the parole board that they can safely be released from their life sentences. He also has engaged in impact litigation and individual cases involving unlawful prison and parole conditions, and he has trained hundreds of lawyers, law students, and others in advocating for the rights of incarcerated people.

In 2018, Wattley was selected as one of the Obama Foundation’s inaugural Fellows, recognizing his unique legal model and vision, and in 2020, he was awarded the James Irvine Foundation’s Leadership Award. Wattley has been active on several boards of directors and is co-chair of the Institutional Review Board (human subjects committee) for the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. He was also a member of the Founding Board of Directors for the Prison University Project (San Quentin’s College Program) and a member of the Board of Directors for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. Wattley currently teaches a course titled “California Prisons and Discretionary Parole” at UC Berkeley School of Law where he also supervises the Post-Conviction Advocacy Project.

He received his B.A. in Psychology from Indiana University and his J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law. Since graduation, Wattley has remained active in the Santa Clara Law community through speaking at graduation events and class seminars. 

“Keith Wattley exemplifies the compassionate and optimistic spirit that comes with viewing each person as a gift from God,” said Michael Kaufman, dean of Santa Clara Law. “We could not be more proud that this Santa Clara alumnus has devoted his legal talents to ensuring incarcerated people who have turned their lives around have a chance to contribute their gifts to the world. We are delighted to honor him with the Alexander Prize.”

“Like UnCommon Law, Santa Clara is training lawyers who fight for communities that have been harmed by our legal and justice systems,” said Wattley. “I am honored to receive this award from my law school, and look forward to engaging another generation of advocates leveraging the law to achieve justice for the thousands of people in our nation’s prisons.”

About the Katharine & George Alexander Law Prize
The first Katharine & George Alexander Law Prize was presented in March 2008 and has been awarded annually thereafter. This award has been made possible through the generosity of the late former dean of Santa Clara Law, George Alexander and his wife Katharine, a public defender for 25 years, to bring recognition to legal advocates who have used their legal careers to help alleviate injustice and inequity. The hope is that recognition of such individuals will improve the image of lawyers around the world.  

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