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News and InformationOn Friday, June 10 at Campbell's Resort on Lake Chelan, we honored our 2022 award winners.
William O. Douglas
The highest award presented by the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; presented in recognition of extraordinary courage and commitment in the practice of criminal law.
Brad Meryhew, venerating among his peers as an expert on the standard of practice in sex crime litigation, is this year’s William O. Douglas award winner. Brad overcame breathtaking obstacles to reach his current status. Thrown out of his own home by his parents as a sophomore in high school, he had to make his way through life rejected and alone. Despite this rough start, he excelled in school, where he was quickly identified as a dramatically persuasive advocate, and took first place in the State Tournament for Impromptu Speaking. Directly recruited by Western Washington’s Debate Team, he took the team to the National Debate for only the second time in the school’s history. Thereafter recruited by the University of Utah’s Debate team, he ultimately placed ninth the National Tournament on behalf of himself and his team.
After college, Brad held many positions of influence, working on Presidential campaigns, writing press releases and political speeches, and generally living out his political activism. And it was during this march to destiny that he and his partner acquired HIV in 1982, although it was not until 1986 that available testing made the diagnosis official. After learning this diagnosis Brad and his partner moved home to Seattle and prepared to die, but he soon grew tired of waiting around. He started law school in 1991 even as his health was deteriorating. In 1993 he was diagnosed with full blown AIDS, which at that time amounted to a death sentence. And for the next ten years of his life, he lived with the understanding that he had two years to live.
It was during this dark period, when many would give up all hope, that he enrolled in law school and engaged his activism, determined to make his final years count. Against the odds, he graduated with honors and graded into Law Review, surviving while his partner of 12 years died. A year later, Brad was down to 143 pounds and breathing what he believed were his final breaths, going nearly blind at the time.When new medications arrived, Brad reacted positively and his life miraculously resumed its upward trajectory. He took the Bar Exam in 1997 and went immediately to SCRAP, where he believed he could save the lives of others he was meant to save.
Brad is a mover and shaker. Never content to be on the sidelines, he moved into the SCRAP Felony Unit and Management Team and got busy using his newfound influence. He went out of his way to bring to the attention of policy makers the deplorable conditions in the county jail, and worked to bring change. He approached the ACLU and Disability Rights groups and ultimately persuaded them to bring litigation against the county, resulting in the county’s entering into a consent decree, giving Brad and other lawyers full access to the jail as Court appointed monitors.
In 2007 Brad was invited to participate in the Governor’s Discussion Group regarding the systemic response to a widely publicized child abduction/murder case in Tacoma. Out of these discussions, the Washington Sex Offender Policy Board was created by the Legislature and Brad was appointed to the Board by WACDL/WDA. He has been a member ever since and has chaired the Board the last two years, and has been re-elected to act as Chair for another term. Through this organization, Brad has helped steer policy toward drastically needed reforms in the sex offender realm, including dramatic legislation providing more equitable and sensible management of sex offenders.
Somehow, during all this activity, Brad has maintained a frequent presence on the WACDL Listserv, always there to answer anyone’s questions regarding sex crimes and sex offender policy. He is the go-to-person on sex offense topics, and never hesitates to help his colleagues.
Presented in recognition of achievement in a particular case or series of related cases, or long-time service to the criminal defense bar.
Richard Lechich’s best-known work is State v. Blake, 197 Wn.2d 170 (2021). In Blake, the Washington Supreme Court declared the state’s felony drug possession statute unconstitutional. This resulted in the vacation of thousands of convictions across the State, wiping the slate clean for many and offering the opportunity for resentencing for many more. Blake was a significant step in rectifying the criminalization of addiction and the disparate impact of the War on Drugs on communities of color.
Richard has represented clients in every type of case defenders face, from family defense cases to murder cases. For each client, Richard has a desire to meet the client’s needs and a willingness to attack a system too often ignores them as people. He has been a resource to colleagues in their own efforts to attack and alter systems of oppression. His skill as an attorney has led to a reshaping of the law to force an appreciation of his clients and a more just process. Richard epitomizes all that a public defender should be; compassionate, outraged, and skilled at his craft.
Joe Kuhlman works tirelessly on behalf of his clients. He had remained steadfast in his work to combat racism in Spokane County’s legal system, often facing threats and harassment as a result. When it was revealed that an elected prosecutor’s spouse held white supremacist views, Joe worked quickly to enlist a coalition of attorneys to draft a motion to remove that prosecutor’s office from cases involving non-white defendants. In more than one instance, he has advocated on behalf of his client when he sees prejudiced treatment by the judge or prosecutor, or both. He is being honored for his courage and tenacity.
Dan Norman and Yvonne Curtis
Dan and Yvonne are being honored for their advocacy for James and Jerome Taafulisia, two homeless youth who at 17 and 16 years-old were charged with homicides occurring in Seattle’s “jungle” homeless encampment and tried as adults. Dan and Yvonne represented the Taafullisia brothers in a series of three trials, hanging the first two in spite of video-recorded confessions of the brothers to the murders, before a jury convicted them in December 2019. Dan and Yvonne’s relentless fight to advance the authentic narrative of this tragic event is chronicled in Season 2 of the “Somebody, Somewhere” podcast. The Taafulisia brothers’ convictions are currently on appeal, and Dan has partnered with Columbia Legal Services to file a class action lawsuit against DSHS to provide due process to youth who are eligible to remain in JRA until age 25 but are transferred to DOC facilities.
Champion of Justice Award
Recognizing individuals who — through legislative, judicial, journalistic, or humanitarian pursuits — have staunchly preserved or defended the constitutional rights of Washington residents and endeavored to ensure justice and due process for those accused of crimes.
Jeannie Darneille, currently Asst. Secretary for Women’s Prisons in the WA Department of Corrections, is being honored for her years of advocacy as a state senator. During her tenure as the senator from the 27th district, she served on the Supreme Court Commission on Foster Children; the oversight board for the Department of Children, Youth, and Families; the Children’s Behavioral Health Task Force; the Juvenile Justice Partnership Council; the Sentencing Guidelines Commission; the Behavioral Health Oversight Board; the Attorney General’s Children’s Sexual Exploitation Commission, and others.
She has worked tirelessly to reform the juvenile justice system and address the conditions of incarceration and reentry for individuals affected by the adult justice system. She sponsored and helped pass legislation removing Robbery in the second degree from the felony three-strikes list, and then advocated to make the change retroactive. She has been instrumental in felony mental health sentencing alternatives, juvenile diversion, visitation, and more. Her work will benefit those involved in the criminal legal system for decades to come.
Certificates of Appreciation
In recognition of and appreciation for distinguished service to the organization and its goals.
Neil Beaver, for his legislative work on behalf of the criminal defense bar.
Jason Lantz, for co-chairing our legislative committee and working effectively with legislators.
Kari Reardon, for her legislative work.
David Trieweiler, for his work creating and sustaining the End Mass Incarceration Project.
Sarah Perez, for co-chairing the successful 2021 holiday party.
Greg Scott, for co-chairing the successful 2021 holiday party.
Rachel Forde, for not only co-chairing the CLE committee, but also helping plan successful webinars.
Cooper Offenbecher, for work on the CLE committee during a challenging year.
Chad Dold, for work on the CLE committee during a challenging year.
Emma Scanlan, for work on the CLE committee during a challenging year.
Do you know someone sentenced as a juvenile who is seeking resentencing after the Houston-Sconiers, Ali and Domingo-Cornelio decisions?
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