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Fidel Receives Learned Hand Award
Noel Fidel Receives Learned Hand Award
Noel Fidel, Associate Dean of Students at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and a former judge, has been chosen to receive the Public Service Award of the 2007 Judge Learned Hand Awards.
Fidel was chosen for his sustained contributions to the advancement of equality and democratic principles through his work in the non-profit and public sectors.
"Judge Fidel is respected throughout the community for his devotion to individual rights and equality for all regardless of race, status or wealth," wrote Stanley G. Feldman, a former judge on the Arizona Supreme Court, in a letter supporting Fidel's nomination. "Everyone who has had the privilege of working with him or appearing before him knew that on any issue and in every case he would be fair, just, patient and compassionate."
Two other attorneys also are being honored. Paul Eckstein, of the Phoenix law firm Perkins Coie Brown & Bain, will be given the Community Service Award for demonstrating sustained contributions to the advancement of equality and democratic principles. Jill Harrison, an in-house counsel for W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc. in Flagstaff, will be presented with the Emerging Leadership Award, a tribute to an attorney practicing 10 years or less who has demonstrated a commitment to the values of public or community service.
"These are outstanding lawyers who embody the legal profession's highest ideals," said Stephen Bressler, vice president of the American Jewish Committee and a partner in Lewis and Roca's Phoenix office.
Fidel went to Dartmouth College, where he majored in English, then to Harvard Law School. He came to Arizona in 1969 as a Vista volunteer, and was assigned to work on the Migrant Opportunity Program.
The following year he received a Robert Kennedy Fellowship to become the first full-time Arizona lawyer for the United Farm Workers. He also advised Chicanos por la Causa and formed the Barrio Youth Project.
"It was a time when Hispanics were working hard to eliminate discrimination and poverty, strive for equal opportunity and to participate in the political process," wrote attorney Daniel Ortega Jr., in a letter supporting Fidel's nomination. "At the time the air was filled with racial tension and there was a great distrust of anyone who was not Hispanic. Despite this tension and distrust, Noel continued his work in the community with the strong commitment that he could contribute to the struggle to fight racial bias and poverty."
Afterward, Fidel worked for nine years with Langerman, Began & Lewis, the law firm that had helped in his efforts with the Farm Workers.
He married his wife, Anne, in 1976, and they have three sons, Nathan, Louis, and Alexander.
In 1982, he became a judge in the Superior Court of Arizona. Five years later, he moved to the Arizona Court of Appeals, where he served for 15 years, two as the chief judge.
"Mr. Fidel was clearly a leader on the bench," wrote Eckstein, in a nomination letter. "His opinions were learned and logical and his writing crisp and instructive. While Mr. Fidel was a 'judge's judge' and the most highly regarded legal scholar on the Arizona Court of Appeals, he never lost sight of the fact that he was resolving real disputes for real people."
Fidel came to the law school in 2002 as the Merriam Distinguished Visiting Professor.
"It was a chance to look at the law, think about the law in a different way," Fidel said. "I could try to think closely and concretely about a lot of things I had taken for granted and try to get enough perspective on them to open them up for the students."
In 2003, he became an associate dean.
"Noel approaches hard issues with a wonderfully impressive sense of fairness and balance," said Patricia White, dean of the College of Law. "He is never glib or unconsidered. Students and colleagues alike benefit on a daily basis from his presence. He makes us all more thoughtful."
In 2006, Fidel became president of the Board of Directors of the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, which provides free legal services to immigrants, refugees and U.S. citizens detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona.
The Project also advocates for change in federal policies and practices toward those detained and serves as a resource-development and training center for detention program "best practices."
Fidel has been awarded the City of Phoenix "Living the Dream" Award and has received the Maricopa County Bar Association's Henry S. Stevens Award for outstanding service to the legal profession.
The American Jewish Committee created The Learned Hand Award in 1964 to honor the memory of a jurist many refer to as "the best judge never to become a Supreme Court Justice." The award recognizes distinguished members of the Bar from across the nation for their adherence to the values and standards of excellence associated with Judge Learned Hand.
Bressler is chairing the event. Honorary co-chairs are Dean Patricia White of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, Dean Toni Massaro of the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona, and Dean Dennis Shields from the Phoenix School of Law.