The Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers awarded this week its "Champion of Justice" honor for the first time in more than a decade to state Sen. Bill Stanley.
The organization wanted to recognize Stanley, R-Franklin, for his years persistently fighting for a fairer and more just criminal justice system.
Stanley is a criminal defense attorney and has served in the Senate since 2011. He has proposed numerous criminal justice reform bills.
Among the bills the association highlighted was one in 2017 to require that police reports, witness lists and witness statements be provided to the defense before a trial. That bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate, but a Republican-controlled House of Delegates Courts of Justice subcommittee known for killing criminal justice reform legislation blocked it from moving forward.
The next year, Stanley submitted the same legislation, which prompted the Supreme Court of Virginia to adopt new rules by the Virginia State Bar to effectively accomplish what his bill set out to do. The adoption marked one of the most substantive changes to criminal discovery in Virginia in over three decades.
READ MORE: Sen. Bill Stanley's fight isn't over
The association praised Stanley for his ongoing fight to end the practice of suspending driver's licenses of anyone who doesn't promptly pay court fines and costs. Stanley has called this essentially a "debtor's prison." After the same bill-killing House subcommittee thwarted his bill from passing this year, Stanley worked with Gov. Ralph Northam to temporarily halt the practice.
If re-elected next month, Stanley is expected to continue to work on finding a permanent solution to the problem.
The group also noted his bill this year that would have given more recourse to people convicted of crimes on the basis of “junk science." The bill would allow people to challenge their criminal convictions on grounds that advances in forensic science now exonerate them or that the forensic science technique has been discredited. A House appropriations subcommittee killed the bill, citing financial concerns.