NACDL Remembers Past President Albert J. Krieger
Washington, DC (May 15, 2020) — Legendary criminal defense attorney and Past President (1979–80) and Life Member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) Albert J. Krieger passed away last night at the age of 96. Among his many accomplishments over a long career, Krieger is one of the founding fathers of the National Criminal Defense College. Additionally, he chaired the ABA Criminal Justice Section in 2002–03 and was the recipient of the section’s Charles R. English Award in 2005. He also received NACDL’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987, and was awarded the Association’s most prestigious honor, the Robert C. Heeney Award, in 1995. NACDL remembers Krieger’s steadfast support for its members and ceaseless devotion to the values it holds dear.
Speaking of how Albert Krieger changed the public perception of the criminal defense lawyer, NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer said: “Through his eloquence, his integrity, his dignity and his example, he transformed a nascent group of dreamers into an organization respected by every branch of government, whose briefs are routinely cited in Supreme Court opinions and whose members command the respect of the entire profession and the public.”
NACDL President Nina J. Ginsberg, upon learning of the passing of her predecessor, observed: “We have lost a giant of the profession, but Albert Krieger’s legacy of devotion to the Sixth Amendment right to counsel will inspire generations.”
During Albert Krieger’s tenure as NACDL president, the Board of Directors passed a resolution to establish the position of executive director and laid the foundation for the Association’s current headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Board also unanimously passed a resolution to provide defense to those subject to prosecution as a result of the New Mexico State Penitentiary riot in 1980.
Prior to his presidency, Krieger made a name for himself on the national scene. One of his proudest moments was the pro bono defense of Native Americans involved in protests concerning the Wounded Knee Incident in 1973. After nearly two months of trial, all defendants charged with the illegal occupation of the Wounded Knee trading post were acquitted, including Krieger’s client. Of his representation, the presiding Judge Warren K. Urborn of the District of Nebraska said that Krieger’s “mind was expansive, his speech was powerful, and his attitude was irreproachable. He was a complete trial lawyer.”
Krieger is perhaps best known for representing infamous New York Mafia chieftains John Gotti and Joe Bonanno, and he once noted that criminal defense law is not always the most beloved field. Speaking in an interview surrounding the Association’s 50th anniversary gala, he said:
“The criminal defense lawyer marches into the pit, often unloved by everyone in the courtroom, but with the courage, strength and mind to make our Constitution live as a vibrant being in that courtroom on behalf of someone who at that moment stands for all the principles of freedom and dignity that have been preserved in our constitution. It is a chore in many respects. It is difficult in all respects. It is tiring. It is demanding. But it is what we signed up for.”
And reflecting on his core values upon receiving the Selig Goldin award from the Florida Bar Criminal Law Section, Krieger wrote that “as a citizen, I will accept the pronouncement of our highest court, regardless of whether I agree or disagree,” but, he added that “as a lawyer, if that rule fails to establish what is right, I am equally bound to struggle for its change. It is here that liberty’s definition thrives.”
Kate Holden, NACDL Public Affairs and Communications Assistant, (202) 465–7624 or firstname.lastname@example.org.