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From the Editor

Lest anyone think that the only time we show our appreciation for PLN supporters is when they die, we are very pleased to announce that PLN columnist John Midgley was awarded the 1997 William O. Douglas Award by the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (WACDL) on June 13, 1997. The Douglas Award, WACDL's most prestigious award, is given in recognition of extraordinary courage and commitment, and outstanding achievement, in the criminal justice system.

In nominating John for the award a WACDL member wrote: "For more than 20 years John has tirelessly fought for the rights of prisoners, including those on death row. In an era in which prisoners' very access to the courts is coming under unprecedented legislative and judicial attack, John is a national leader in the fight to preserve gains already won and, where possible, to win new victories."

Since February, 1996, John has been regional director of the Tacoma office of Columbia Legal Services. Except for a brief period in private practice (1984-89), he was with Evergreen Legal Services from 1975 through January, 1996. He has represented prisoners, juveniles and mentally ill detainees. He has also been the chair of the WACDL Corrections Committee since it was formed in 1989.

John is well deserving of the award and the recognition is, if anything, long overdue. Being on the brunt end of bad prison conditions, I have a good appreciation of the work John has done on behalf of Washington prisoners over the years. This includes important cases, spanning two decades, such as Hoptowit v. Ray, (unconstitutional conditions at the Washington State Penitentiary); Gotcher v. Wood, (whether WA prisoners have a due process liberty interest in our good time credits); Lopez v. Riveland, (translation services for Hispanic prisoners) and many others. Alas not all the battles have been won, but even when we lost it wasn't due to a lack of skilled, competent and aggressive counsel. That is why we were very pleased when John agreed to do a quarterly column for PLN that was specifically designed to assist pro se prisoner litigants. It is also another example of John's commitment to prisoner rights issue, since PLN can't afford to pay him for his column. So on behalf of everyone at PLN, we'd like to congratulate John for winning the Douglas Award!

Another PLN supporter who received a WACDL appreciation award was Seattle attorney Jeff Steinborn who has been in the forefront, nationally and locally, challenging draconian drug laws and providing zealous representation to drug defendants. Jeff has also been a pioneer in the struggle seeking to decriminalize marijuana and allow its medical use, as well as the release from prison of those convicted of drug offenses. WACDL recognized Jeff's efforts in the Washington legislature on their behalf.

With still more good news, Patrick Duran and Jerry Jones recently won writs of habeas corpus in the ninth circuit on grounds they had ineffective counsel at their trials in San Francisco, CA and Everett, WA, respectively. Patrick is currently free awaiting a new trial and Jerry is undergoing further proceedings in the district court. Both have been subscribers and supporters for several years now and we're happy to see that someone we know has won the habeas corpus "jackpot lotto" lottery. All too often all we hear is the bad news. Of course, if they'd had competent counsel to begin with they probably wouldn't have wound up in prison in the first place.

We would also like to welcome Fred aboard the PLN project as PLN's new mailing list manager. A long time prisoner rights activist and ex-con, Fred has generously volunteered his time over the past year to PLN on various projects. Now he is willing to handle the growing, vital (but thankless) task of handling PLN's database.

A small correction that got past us in the June, 1997, issue was the page 27 article "Massachusetts Prisoners Awarded Back Pay." The first sentence in the fourth paragraph should have read: "About 20 prisoners were awarded up to $2,000 apiece after they prevailed in a suit over the unpaid raises in 1995." Occasionally typos and scanning errors do get past us.

We would like to thank Ronald Del Raine for his recent, generous donation to PLN. The March, 1997, PLN had his letter where he settled his long running lawsuit against the Bureau of Prisons for $20,000. Ron donated $400 to PLN in order to sponsor subscriptions for other prisoners, many in control units, across the BOP. We appreciate Ron's support and can't think of a better way to spend the BOP's money.

Enjoy this issue of PLN and please encourage others to subscribe.

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