Valerie Newman, a 1992 graduate of Wayne State University Law School, will be honored April 27 by the Women of Wayne Alumni Association.
Newman is an assistant defender of the State Appellate Defender Office (SADO) in Detroit, and last year was named one of Michigan Lawyer Weekly’s 20 Women in the Law and also honored with the first Thomas Award for Excellence in Appellate Advocacy by SADO. In 2012, Lawyers USA named Newman a Lawyer of the Year — one of only seven from across the country. In 2010, she was nominated and accepted as a Fellow of the Michigan State Bar Foundation, an honor accorded to no more than 5 percent of Michigan lawyers. Newman often speaks at the Law School to benefit students, and is an adjunct clinical professor at Wayne Law and at the University of Michigan Law School.
In 2011, Newman successfully argued for her client before the U.S. Supreme Court in Lafler v. Cooper. The court’s decision has been recognized as a watershed opinion clarifying that the constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel includes guilty plea negotiations. She also recently litigated the highly publicized case of People v. Thomas (and Raymond) Highers, which resulted in the release of two men who each had served 25 years of incarceration for crimes they did not commit.
Newman has represented hundreds of clients on appeal since she started working at SADO in 1995. She’s also an active community volunteer. She received the 2010 Community Role Model Award from Alternatives for Girls, and the 2009 Volunteer of the Year Award from the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan Foundation. In 2012, the Justice Caucus honored Newman, a founding board member of the group and chair of its Judicial Endorsement Committee, with its Spirit of Millie Jeffrey Award for her commitment to equal access to justice.
She is active within the State Bar of Michigan, and has served on numerous committees, including as co-chair of the Task Force on the Recording of Custodial Interrogations. In 2012, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law important legislation that was prepared and lobbied for by this Task Force. The new law will mandate the recording of custodial interrogations in serious felony cases. Newman was instrumental throughout the process.
She currently co-chairs the Criminal Issues Initiative, the Task Force on Eyewitness Identification Issues and is a member of Justice Initiatives. She was a featured panelist at the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police Conference in February 2013, speaking about the work of both task forces.
She’s an active member of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan and of the National Lawyers Guild, of which she’s a former president.
The Women of Wayne Alumni Association will recognize Newman and three other WSU alumnae —Catrina Hurst, Sultana Nurun Nahar and Barbara Phillips — during a luncheon for their headline-making achievements, calling attention “to the fact that Wayne State women are making their marks in society.”
The awards luncheon will take place at the Western Golf Club in Redford. Reservations are needed by April 6.
Note: Assistant Defender Valerie Newman, an expert on arguing before the Supreme Court, on the importance of the Gideon ruling and on the modern day application of a criminal defendant's right to counsel, is available to speak to media. Contact Carol Baldwin, director of communications and marketing for the Law School, at 313-577-4629 or firstname.lastname@example.org.