This Year's Award Winners

WACDL's 2023 Award Winners


Certificates of Appreciation 

In recognition of and appreciation for distinguished service to the organization and its goals.
Bob Butler, for his creation and support of the Past Presidents group, and supplying the annual holiday party with quality liquor.
Kelly Canary, for planning our first ever Trial Skills CLE.
Adam Hodgin, for getting WACDL’s books squared away and helping us access tax refunds.
Vitaliy Kertchen, for his unending support on the email list, and for sharing his expertise through CLEs and articles.
Nathan Poston, for his enthusiastic recruitment and sponsorship of new members.
Anna Tolin, for chairing the executive search committee with grace and good humor.
Kent Underwood, for planning our first ever Trial Skills CLE.
Camille Winslow, for her dedication and hard work during WACDL’s leadership transition.


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.

Robert Schiffner

Robert was born and raised in Moses Lake (Grant County, WA). Trained as an Engineer, he worked in that capacity for the first five (5) years of his career. He quickly realized he could do the work of the lawyers in his group, and he decided to go to law school to work as a construction lawyer. However, first he got his MBA in Finance. When the construction law firm in Seattle where he had planned to work fell apart, he returned to his home town of Moses Lake to practice law with the law firm of Garth Dano. Shortly thereafter he began working as a prosecuting attorney at the Grant County prosecuting attorney’s office where he worked for 6-7 years. As a prosecutor in Grant County in the early 2000’s, Robert had a front seat view of the serious problems with the defense being provided to indigent clients there. Not one to be quieted, Robert found his job terminated for speaking out against the problems with the contract defense attorneys failing to meet with clients, file motions, and carrying case loads in excess of 600 felonies. Robert left the prosecuting attorneys office and has been doing criminal defense since that time. A detailed and zealous advocate for his clients, Robert has his share of detractors in the police force and prosecuting attorney’s office in Grant County. However, those same detractors are the first to hire him or refer to him the cases of friends or family. Robert’s wit and dry sense of humor always entertains on the WACDL listserve. During the same time that Robert was experiencing disillusionment with the criminal system in Grant County, he began traveling the world to broaden his perspective and horizons. He has visited over 29 countries, and nearly died of altitude poisoning in Peru at the base of Machu Pichu at 11,000 feet.
He first traveled to Zimbabwe on a trip with the Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce in 2017. It was then that he saw the poverty and suffering in that country. On that trip he met the Rose of Charity orphanage and fell in love with the orphans of Zimbabwe. His work began when he built a pre-school and kindergarten for the orphanage children. He has expanded into building a K-12 school for the orphanage youth and low-income children in the region. In addition, on the property of the orphanage he has funded a 
5-acre garden that supplements the produce for the orphanage children and the local food bank. Robert can summarize his passion for the children in Zimbabwe with a quote by Viktor Frankl- “When a person cannot find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.” Robert’s heart, purpose and future is with the children of Zimbabwe.


President's Awards
Presented in recognition of achievement in a particular case or series of related cases, or long-time service to the criminal defense bar.

Peter Mazzone

Pete Mazzone has been practicing law since 1995, focusing primarily on criminal defense. Following law school, he became a trial attorney at the Snohomish County Public Defender’s Association where he practiced for five years before entering private practice in 2000. Since that time, his law firm has evolved to become Mazzone Law Firm, PLLC. During his twentyeight years of practice Pete has handled all types of cases, including many high profile cases and has consistently obtained very favorable results for his clients. He has successfully argued before the Washington State Supreme Court, is frequently invited to lectures at seminars, and is also an adjunct professor at the Seattle University Law School. Over the years, he has earned a reputation for being a well-respected and highly skilled litigator in both State and Federal Courts. Pete has had great success in our state and federal courts throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Notably, he tried State v. Opel, a Snohomish County capital case, to a life verdict, obtained dismissals of multiple counts of aggravated murder in the Yakima County State v. Harper matter, litigated the first big federal US District of Western Washington cell tower case in U.S. v. Dorsey and secured acquittals and self-defense reimbursements in numerous murder 1 and murder 2 matters, including State v. Gregory, State v. Leenders, and State v. Fortner. His federal work has taken him to Alaska, Montana, and Vietnam. Pete is not only an exceptionally talented trial attorney but a generous mentor to younger lawyer and his students. On a personal note, he is also a true and loyal friend.


Rachel Forde
In Rachel’s nearly 17 years of practice, she had handled misdemeanors, felonies, sexually violent predator cases and was the former felony supervisor for the Snohomish County Public Defenders Association. Those that know her or have seen her in court know that Rachel embodies criminal defense. Her unwavering commitment to both her clients and her role as their advocate required Rachel to do back-to-back murder trials when a judge refused to grant a continuance. In 2019, she tried State v. Taylor, a second-degree murder case with a diminished capacity mental defense in San Juan County Superior Court and then about one week after the conclusion of Taylor, Rachel was back in trial on two counts of first-degree murder in a Snohomish County Superior Court case where DNA evidence identified her client as a possible contributor of DNA found on a murder victim’s pants back in 1987. Unfortunately, Rachel lost both trials but fortunately her ability to make a record resulted in both convictions being overturned by Division I of the Court of Appeals. The Court reversed Taylor after Rachel’s ability to make a record was instrumental to the Court of Appeals finding her client was deprived of a fair trial after the State repeatedly violated motions in limine. The COA reserved in Talbott finding that a juror should have been removed for cause after expressing potential bias. Neither of these reversals would have been possible without Rachel’s ability to make a record. During the Taylor retrial, Rachel’s brutal cross examination of the State’s expert resulted in her failing to show up the following day for her rebuttal testimony. Rachel prevailed in the retrial of Mr. Taylor. Rachel’s ability to make a record for the Court of appeals resulted in Mr. Taylor’s ultimate victory. Further, since she was originally nominated Rachel again prevailed on appeal again in the case of State of State v. Alexander. Not only did Rachel’s advocacy result in the Judge becoming apoplectic when Rachel reached out to the jury to make a record for appeal, it also resulted in a new trial for her client. Rachel is often required to fight with one hand tied behind her back. She knows that the Court’s often don’t want her clients to prevail, so she fights and fights until she gets what her clients deserve: to be tried fairly. She exemplifies what it means to be a zealous advocate. She is creative, thoughtful, funny and above all else fearless. One time when it was Rachel’s turn to get up and do her closing, the jury was half asleep. So, Rachel started singing. Once the jury was awake, she began her closing. 


Tom Phelan
Tom was born in Butte, Montana and eventually settled in Portland at a young age. He graduated from the University of Puget Sound Law School and settled in the Portland-Vancouver area after law school. He originally worked for a small Vancouver law firm for five years before opening up a successful solo practice in 1986. Tom has handled virtually every type of criminal and personal injury case over his career and is highly respected by peers, former clients, judges and even adversaries for his skilled and effective representation of his clients. He has handled, and tried to a jury, many high-profile cases over the years, including Wesley Alan Dodd and the Happy Face Killer. Tom has lectured and taught at seminars for other attorneys and has appeared in courts in throughout Oregon and Washington. Perhaps what is most remarkable about Tom is not his amazing grasp on the law or his sheer brilliance, it is his extraordinary care and compassion for his clients and the legal community. He has never backed away from the ugliest cases, and puts clients’ needs ahead of his own. He also has a wonderful sense of humor while maintaining the utmost professionalism. He is held in the highest regard for his quality of work by his peers, and even by those on the other side. Tom has been a mentor to and advised other lawyers throughout his career. He is generous with his time and expertise, and he has inspired others to become criminal defense attorneys, including Brit Mercer (presenting the award this evening) and his daughter, Christina Phelan, who won WACDL’s Anthony Savage Award in 2021. 


William O. Douglas Award
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.

Jackie Walsh

Jackie Walsh, a partner at Walsh & Larrañaga, is this year’s William O. Douglas winner. She is being honored for the astonishing depth and breadth of her death penalty work, and for her unwavering dedication to her clients and the defense community. Jackie has practiced law for more than two decades and is a member of the Washington and California State Bar Associations. Washington State and Federal Courts have appointed her as learned counsel on capital cases at the trial level. As learned counsel, she, along with her team, has successfully obtained less than life sentences through plea negotiations in capitally charged cases, convinced federal and state prosecutors not to authorize the case as capital and has convinced the United States government to dismiss a triple homicide indictment in a potential capital case. She has presented at national and international conferences on various aspects of capital defense representation. WACDL honored Jackie previously with the President’s Award in 2005 for her distinguished service to the criminal defense bar.
In 2014, she was added as resource counsel with the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project. The Project monitors all federal death penalty cases and consults with counsel in areas ranging from the Department of Justice authorization process to developing mitigation and working with experts. Jackie has spoken at national and international conferences about capital punishment, and has been faculty at numerous death penalty training seminars throughout the country and Europe.