Charles Driscoll Award

About Charles Driscoll

NMCDLA’s Charles Driscoll Award is given annually to a person who has fought diligently and creatively for his or her clients, and has also made an important contribution to improve criminal defense in New Mexico.

The award is named after Charles Driscoll, a career criminal defense lawyer who practiced in New Mexico for more than 30 years beginning in the mid-1950s. Charlie and his wife Amalie made New Mexico home after they both completed stellar careers as students at Columbia University Law School, and a brief teaching career for Charlie at St. Mary’s University Law School in New Orleans, and the University of Nebraska. Charlie then took a position teaching at UNM’s School of Law before beginning his own criminal law practice in Albuquerque, where he, Amalie, and their growing family took root.

Charlie had a long, successful, and often colorful criminal law practice long before the development of a Public Defender System. He, along with colleagues Paul Phillips, Dan McKinnon, Mel Robins and Bill Dixon, among others, established the tradition of fearless, aggressive, and compassionate representation of any and all who needed their help. Charlie became the “Dean” and leader of the effort to give meaning to the right to counsel in this state. In addition to his own practice, he mentored an entire generation of criminal defense lawyers.

Charlie Driscoll had a passion and love of the law, and saw the law as a critical instrument of positive social change. He was heavily involved in civil rights cases both in the south and as similar issues arose here at home. During the late 1960’s he lent his support to the growth and development of the Legal Aid Society of Albuquerque, and spearheaded the effort to create the state-wide Public Defender System.

Charlie expressed himself outside the courtroom as well, where he was well known as a leading thespian in the then growing world of local theater. His radical, anti-establishment politics grated on many, including some judges, but made him the leader of a new breed of progressive political and legal activists.

Throughout his career Charlie remained a champion to aid the plight of prisoners and the effectiveness of the correction system. He helped establish the Committee of Citizens Concerned About Corrections, and later the creation of Dismas House—which continues today as a primary organization to help

released prisoners return to the community. Charlie’s passion for justice was rooted in a deep, religious conviction about the frailty of human nature and the value of every person. The New Mexico State Penitentiary riot in 1980 had a profound influence on him. While representing clients involved in the atrocities of that event, Charlie was drawn back to his roots in the Catholic Church. He entered a seminary in Rome and studied for the priesthood. Charlie was ordained as a Catholic priest, chose to say his first mass at the Pen, and began a brief second career ministering to prisoners and parishioners before his untimely death in 1989.

This award in his memory honors Charlie Driscoll’s courage, dedication, and love, and those whose outstanding work follows in his tradition. Beginning in 1992, NMCDLA has given an award for the Outstanding Criminal Defense Lawyer in New Mexico.

Past recipients are:

1992: Gary Mitchell
1993: Tova Indritz
1994: Sheila Lewis
1995: Mike Lilley
1996: Michael Stout
1997: Mark Donatelli
1998: Susan Gibbs
1999: Billy Blackburn
2000: Ray Twohig
2001: Charles Daniels
2002: Peter Schoenburg
2003: Rebecca Reese
2004: Richard Winterbottom
2005: Jacquelyn Robins
2006: Jeffrey Buckels
2007: Nancy Hollander
2008: Joseph Gandert
2009: Rory Rank
2010: Ousama Rasheed
2011: Trace Rabern
2012: Susan Roth
2013: David Serna
2014: Jesse Cosby
2015: Barbara Bergman
2016: Stephen McCue
2017: Theresa Duncan
2018: Charles McCormack
2019: Raymond Maestas
2020: Marc Lowry
2021: Herman Chico Gallegos
2022:  Kim Chavez-Cook
2023: Sydney West