Nov. 7, 2023
By William Cracraft

Federal Public Defender Rene Valladares is presented with the Champion of Justice Legal Education Award, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, by Juval Scott, director of the National Sentencing Resource Counsel, a project of the Federal Public and Community Defenders.


Federal Public Defender Rene L. Valladares of the District of Nevada was honored for the positive changes he brings to the U.S. criminal legal system, receiving the “Champion of Justice Legal Education Award” from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The award was presented during the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice Redemption Gala held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., on October 19.

Valladares has been the federal public defender for the District of Nevada since 2011. He joined the office in 1993 and served as chief of the Trial Unit in Las Vegas before becoming FPD. Valladares supervises 62 attorneys and 48 support staff.

Along with his official duties, Valladares is an adjunct professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law. He lectures nationally on all aspects of federal evidence law and serves on the U.S. Judicial Conference Evidence Rules Advisory Committee and the Federal Defenders’ Death Penalty Working Group. He authored “A Defender’s Guide to Federal Evidence: A Trial Practice Handbook for Criminal Defense Attorneys,” the only federal evidence guide exclusively devoted to criminal defense attorneys.

“Our court recently appointed Rene to his fourth term as the Federal Public Defender for Nevada, one of the largest defender offices in the nation,” said Ninth Circuit Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, chair of the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit’s Standing Committee on Federal Public Defenders. “He is an exceptional leader, with the vision, dedication and high standards to manage the office, even through the difficult days of COVID, when his office continued to offer the highest quality of representation to indigent defendants. Rene has promoted diversity and improved the management of the Criminal Justice Act panel, while remaining dedicated to vigorous representation of his clients and the ideal of equal justice for all. He has even donated all the royalties from his recently published Defender’s Guide to advancing criminal justice reform. He is truly deserving of the NACDL Champion of Justice Award.”

Born in Nicaragua, Valladares emigrated to the United States when he was 16 and is deeply proud of his mixed background: his father is Nicaraguan and his mother is a farm girl from Missouri. “I am deeply thankful to NACDL for this award,” said Valladares. “The true recipients should be my parents. In 1979 they had to completely uproot their lives because of the Nicaraguan Civil War and move to the United States. They had seven young children; I was the oldest at 16 years old. From my father I learned an exacting work ethic, and from my mother a moral commitment to serve the underprivileged.”

Valladares received his Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida in 1984 and 1987, respectively, and a Master of Laws from the University of Miami in 1993. While in law school, he served as editor-in-chief of the Florida International Law Journal.

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