March 15, 2021
BOSTON – Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly has named Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP Boston partner James S. “Jim” Rollins as an honoree for the 2021 Excellence in the Law in the category of pro bono excellence.
He will receive this recognition at a virtual event on May 13, 2021, and a special section devoted to these awards will be published on May 10.
Rollins is being recognized for his pro bono work, including his devotion of 16 years to the cause of freeing a wrongfully convicted Pennsylvania inmate, who was released after 23 years on death row when his conviction was finally overturned this past June.
Walter Ogrod, at the time, was a prisoner on death row who had been sentenced to be executed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Although Mr. Ogrod confessed to a 1988 murder of a 4-year-old child, evidence showed that he had not committed the crime. Decades after his conviction and incarceration, a reinvestigation by the Philadelphia District Attorney's office, spurred on by Mr. Ogrod’s defense team, determined that no forensic evidence tied Mr. Ogrod to the crime, eyewitness descriptions did not match Mr. Ogrod, and police had coerced a false confession from him. The Commonwealth had presented false testimony, unconstitutionally withheld exculpatory evidence, and relied on unreliable jailhouse informant testimony to convict an innocent man of a brutal murder.
On June 5, 2020, after an emergency session of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Mr. Ogrod was released from prison and his sentence subsequently. He had spent 23 years on death row.
Rollins has served as chair of the Nelson Mullins Pro Bono Committee and has served for many years as committee member. He is actively involved in the Committee’s firm Approval Subcommittee to review all new pro bono requests.
Throughout his practice, he has been actively involved as counsel in many pro bono matters and was instrumental in a case that was resolved through a significant settlement over Massachusetts' practice of isolating prisoners with serious mental illness. [Disability Law Center, Inc. v. Massachusetts Department of Correction, et al., C.A. No. 07-10463-MLW, United States District Court, District of Massachusetts.] Under the terms of the settlement, the Massachusetts Department of Correction must maintain systemic reforms, including a mental health classification system and two maximum-security mental health treatment units as alternatives to segregation. He is currently involved in a similar case in Rhode Island.
Established in 1897, Nelson Mullins has more than 850 attorneys and government relations professionals with offices in 11 states and Washington, DC. For more information on the firm, go to www.nelsonmullins.com.
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