The Civil Rights Section presented the 2013 Leonard Weinglass in Defense of Civil Liberties Award to James E. McElroy, for going above and beyond for the cause and support of justice.
Mr. McElroy has spent more than 25 years taking on civil rights cases in San Diego. The University of San Diego law school graduate successfully represented a black Camp Pendleton Marine attacked and left a quadriplegic by white supremacists. Mr. McElroy assisted the Southern Poverty Law Center in Keenan vs. Aryan Nations in Idaho and its founder, Richard Butler. Mr. McElroy has also worked with Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics to protect patients, staff, and doctors from violence.
In 1994, Lt. Governor Leo McCarthy appointed Mr. McElroy to the State Commission on the Prevention of Hate Violence. He has testified before various congressional committees on hate crimes legislation, taught courses to lawyers on how to prosecute civil hate crime cases, and has published on the collection of judgments in civil rights cases.
“I am a very lucky lawyer in that I get to do a lot of cases that are of great public interest and of great personal interest to me and my staff,” says McElroy. “But it seems that the more interesting and more important they are, the more likely they are to be pro bono cases. I tell other lawyers that must be an inverse relationship between how much you get paid and the satisfaction you get from handling a particular case.”
In 1996, Mr. McElroy joined the Southern Poverty Law Center’s board of directors and serves as Chairman of the Board. He has received the National Civil Rights Achievement Award from the Anti-Defamation League, the Margaret Sanger Award from Planned Parenthood, and the San Diego County Bar Association’s Outstanding Attorney of the Year.