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The Davis Wright Tremaine Heart of Justice Award

The Davis Wright Tremaine Heart of Justice Award is presented each year to an associate who has exhibited exceptional pro bono commitment and performance. The recipient is selected each year from nominees put forward by the partner-in-charge from each of our offices. The recipient receives a commemorative trophy and the opportunity to direct a $1,000 donation to the legal services organization of his or her choice.

2018: Geoffrey S. Brounell, New York, N.Y.
Geoff has been on the forefront of many of our pro bono efforts this year:
  • He filed multiple amicus briefs—including briefs before the 4th Circuit, 9th Circuit, and the Supreme Court—on behalf of over 130 members of Congress in cases challenging President Trump’s “Travel Ban” executive orders.
  • He filed multiple amicus briefs in various litigations across the country on behalf of United We Dream, which organizes and advocates nationally for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status. The cases all involved the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, whose beneficiaries include many of United We Dream’s members. Most recently, he filed an amicus brief in the EDNY litigation that enjoined enforcement of DACA on February 13, 2018.
  • He is representing an immigrant child to obtain “special immigrant juvenile status,” partnering with attorneys from Audible and KIND.
  • He organized a one-day “Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts” (“VLA”) clinic at our New York  office, in partnership with attorneys from Amazon, Audible, and VLA, and elicited participation from numerous attorneys throughout the firm to volunteer to see one or more clients on that day.

“I strongly believe that lawyers have an obligation to provide assistance to those that have unequal access to the justice system,” Geoff says. “I am grateful for the tremendous platform provided by DWT to accomplish this.”

2017: Kate Tylee Herz, Bellevue, Wash.
Kate Tylee Herz represented an individual who was sentenced to 75 years in prison at the age of 18 in his personal restraint petition before the Washington State Supreme Court. The young man was part of a gang that committed a drive-by shooting, resulting in the death of an innocent woman. His sole alleged role was to act as a lookout, an order that the evidence indicated he defiantly disobeyed. He was also the only defendant to plead not guilty to the crime, and he maintained his innocence throughout the trial.

He was ultimately convicted of Murder in the First Degree under a theory of accomplice liability, Conspiracy to Commit Murder in the First Degree, and First Degree Assault. The actual shooter and other more culpable defendants took plea deals and were given lesser sentences, ranging from 11 to 35 years.

Kate and Christine Hawkins submitted a personal restraint petition that raised a number of issues and sought relief in the form of dismissal or remand for a new trial. In attendance at Mr. Sandoval’s oral argument before the Washington Supreme Court were two rows of his family members.

“Getting to know Mr. Sandoval and his family is an eye-opener to the inherent problems and inequality in our criminal justice system,” says Kate, “and a reminder that there are many incarcerated people with similar stories and legal issues who need representation and a voice." The ruling is pending.

2016: Robbie Miller, Bellevue, Wash.
Compassion and commitment are the hallmarks of Robbie’s approach to serving his pro bono clients. Keith Baldwin and Kate Tylee describe Robbie as "a tireless advocate" and "someone his clients will never forget."

As an associate in the Energy & Environmental group, Robbie stepped out of his practice area to represent an asylum seeker and his wife from Ethiopia, both of whom are physicians. He also helped a veteran screened at the Seattle Stand Down to clear certain offenses from his traffic record, improve his credit, restore his right to drive, and eliminate unpaid medical bills. This allowed Robbie’s client to move into his first-choice permanent housing.

In addition, Robbie assisted a veteran with sealing his juvenile records, and another client in an effort to vacate a reckless driving conviction. Robbie’s work helped both clients move forward to improve their lives.

Robbie’s commitment to pro bono service is driven by the knowledge that, without attorneys donating their time, there is simply no access to justice for many people — and the amazing feeling he gets when a client expresses how much of a difference he’s made in their life.

2015: James Corning, Seattle
James has distinguished himself by providing pro bono legal service on behalf of low income tenants, and others. Among his accomplishments, he negotiated a settlement on behalf of a family living in an apartment with no heat, no water, and inoperable toilets. As a result of his efforts, the family received a refund of four months’ rent, which enabled them to move into a better apartment. James also volunteers regularly at the Housing Justice Project, where he provides counseling and represents tenants facing eviction.

In addition to housing matters, James has a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals pro bono client, a resident alien seeking a stay of removal in proceedings, and has worked with New Horizons Ministries, an organization that cares for homeless youth, to help them recover their nonprofit status following actions of their former accountant.

James came to DWT with a strong pro bono ethic that he has put into action, and is making a real difference in improving the lives of others.

2014: Kathleen Cullinan, Los Angeles 
Los Angeles associate Kathleen Cullinan has been involved in numerous important pro bono projects, primarily public records cases under the guidance of San Francisco partner Tom Burke. In First Amendment Coalition v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, our client sued under the Freedom of Information Act for a set of memos that set out the government’s legal analysis and purported justification for the targeted killing of Americans abroad. The case was prompted by the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda leader and an American citizen. The memos have been the subject of widespread international news coverage and speculation. Kathleen largely drafted our summary judgment reply brief, which was submitted last month in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Kathleen has also assisted Tom with two other FOIA-related matters. The first involved writing a letter to the IRS on behalf of Public.Resource.Org seeking the release of data on tax-exempt organizations in a format that would enable our client to use and analyze it. In the second, we represented an immigration lawyer in his bid to compel the government to release the interview notes it keeps on asylum-seekers. For years, the Department of Homeland Security had released these records, which are key to effectively representing asylum seekers, but then abruptly stopped. Tom Burke’s team won a national ruling that set aside that policy.

2013: Jeff Glasser, San Francisco
San Francisco associate Jeffrey Glasser has represented numerous entities and individuals seeking to invoke their rights under California’s Public Records Act or the federal Freedom of Information Act. He took the lead in representing a UCLA Professor and parent of a high school student in a lawsuit seeking access to public records of a high school teacher disciplined for violating the district’s policy against sexually harassing students. This case ultimately led to Jeff’s first oral argument in the court of appeal and a published opinion establishing important rights of requesters to intervene in actions brought by third-parties seeking to block disclosure of public records through preemptive injunction proceedings. The case also helped clarify that the public’s right of access to investigations into public employee wrongdoing extends to teachers or others who may not be considered public officials or public figures.

Jeff took on substantial briefing responsibilities in a high-profile Freedom of Information Act lawsuit where DWT represents the First Amendment Coalition, a California nonprofit organization, seeking the release of a memorandum prepared by the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, purporting to justify the legality of the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda leader and an American citizen. He also took on the lion’s share of the briefing on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment in a Freedom of Information Act case where our client, a local branch of a non-profit organization that for decades has tracked the human rights violations of graduates of a U.S. military school called the School of Americas (now Western Hemisphere Institute of Security and Cooperation), seeks access to the names and military units of the graduates and instructors at the school.

2012: Alan Galloway, Portland, Ore.
Alan Galloway joined DWT in October 2008, and in his first three months of practice, provided 88 hours of pro bono work. He has continued to display that kind of commitment since. In his first year as an associate in our Portland office, Alan worked on a trademark issue for Mercy Corps, the international relief agency based in Portland. He also assisted a non-profit educational institution, and began an ongoing commitment to providing legal services at Outside In, a social service agency serving homeless youth. The following year, he took on several additional clients, including work for the non-profit Mark’s Prairie Community Club and two projects on behalf of the ACLU of Oregon. In 2010, he continued work on behalf of the ACLU, ultimately prevailing on a matter contesting the legality of a proposed ballot initiative. The State of Oregon withdrew its appeal following briefing that Alan submitted to the Oregon Court of Appeals. In 2011, Alan provided 195 hours of pro bono service, managing the legal clinic at Outside In and working with the ACLU of Oregon to raise objections to a proposed bill in the Oregon Legislative Assembly that would have prohibited picketing.

Alan was also closely involved in DWT’s representation, though the ACLU, of anti-war protesters who were arrested in 2009 for an overnight vigil on the Oregon Capitol steps. Alan did much the research for the First Amendment and state constitutional issues in the case, in which the protesters questioned the validity of a rule, created by a Legislative Administrative Committee, banning activity on the Capitol steps between 11 p.m. and 7 p.m. Alan also co-wrote the opening and reply briefs to the Court of Appeals. The trial court finding in the case was reversed and remanded this year, as the Appeals Court found that the defendants should have been allowed to subpoena state legislators to ask about their motivations in enforcing the rule. Construing the Debate Clause of the Oregon Constitution for the first time ever, the court held that the protections that the Debate Clause grants state legislators from being “questioned” extend only to legislative work, and do not insulate them from inquiries into discussions they might have had about enforcement of the prohibition on use of the Capitol steps. Depending on the content of those discussions, the court found, the defendants speech rights might have been violated.

2011: Bill Miner, Portland, Ore.
Bill has assisted at least two dozen individual pro bono clients with quiet title actions, will or trust disputes, dissolutions, child custody matters, contractor disputes, timber trespass advice, small claims actions, landlord-tenant problems, small contract disputes, and challenges to garnishments. Currently, Bill has four pro bono cases going: assisting two Holocaust survivors with obtaining pension benefits; assisting a widow with ensuring that she receives her fair share from her late husband's estate; assisting a small nonprofit (that Bill helped form) in a dispute with its former treasurer; and assisting a single disabled woman in recovering funds that were bilked by her contractor.

Bill's main ongoing pro bono commitment is his work with the St. Andrews Legal Clinic in Multnomah County, Ore. At least once a month, Bill volunteers to do intake at "the clinic." St. Andrews is staffed by paid lawyers who assist low income people (primarily women) with domestic relations cases (dissolutions, restraining orders, and child custody).

One of Bill's proudest pro bono accomplishments was assisting a family in obtaining a guardianship over their two pre-teen nieces. At the time, the girls were living with an alcoholic grandmother who was not providing for their emotional and educational needs. The girls were struggling in school, had no family structure, and were on a destructive path. As a result of Bill's work in obtaining a guardianship, the girls went to live with their aunt and uncle. Bill continues to receive regular updates and the girls are now doing well in school, in a stable family environment, and looking forward to a bright future.

Bill also served on DWT's pro bono committee for three years, including a stint as the committee's vice chair. Prior to that, he served on the Multnomah County Young Lawyers Pro Bono Committee where he worked with Carol Noonan, Scott Warnick and others in creating the Outside/In Legal Clinic, which serves Portland's homeless youth and continues to operate to this day. Bill is committed to this firm's pro bono philosophy and often encourages other associates to take on more pro bono work.

2010: Boris Gaviria, Bellevue, Wa.
Boris consistently serves pro bono clients each year, and 2009 was no exception. In 2009, Boris handled two asylum matters. One matter involved obtaining derivative asylum for a client's children living in Haiti, based on the client's asylum granted in 2007. In the other, Boris is preparing the client for her individual immigration court trial. This client was forced to flee Columbia in 2000 and leave two of her three children behind. Boris has prepared for her trial, which was delayed for years for "security" reasons by the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In addition to his asylum work, Boris took on a workplace disability matter, in which he obtained a lifetime pension in 2009 for a Latino client who had been injured on the job in 2002. The client's benefits had been prematurely and incorrectly terminated before Boris began representing him.

Throughout his tenure at Davis Wright Tremaine, Boris has shown a consistent commitment to pro bono service, and has represented the firm and the Puget Sound community as a leader in pro bono matters over the years. In addition to handling his own cases, Boris has developed expertise in the area of asylum law which he has brought to bear helping other Davis Wright Tremaine lawyers on their pro bono cases. He is currently supervising another associate on two asylum cases, and he has also done language interpretation and document translation. Boris has also done pro bono work for Mujeres of the Northwest, Bellevue Philharmonic Orchestra, and Eastside Latino Leadership Forum.

2009: Lisa Zycherman, Washington, D.C.
Muhammad Saad Iqbal returned home to Pakistan in 2008 after more than six years in U.S. custody, most of which was spent at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Iqbal was imprisoned without charges and was subjected to severe mistreatment including torture. His freedom came amid exhaustive pro bono work performed by Lisa Zycherman and partners Bud Walsh, San Francisco, and Rick Cys, Washington, D.C.

The team’s litigation efforts include filing a Detainee Treatment Act (DTA) petition on Iqbal’s behalf seeking review of his detention. In June 2008, after a Supreme Court decision relating to DTA cases, Iqbal’s earlier petition for habeas corpus and other statutory relief was reactivated in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and is currently pending.

Although Iqbal has since been released, our team plans to prosecute his habeas corpus action and various statutory claims they have made on his behalf against the U.S. government for unlawful torture. Because Iqbal has been released, the habeas action may not be heard for many months. But we consider his release—and the fact that he is now getting the medical treatment he has long required—a substantial victory.

Lisa also was recognized for her work on behalf of a student at Valdosta State University who was expelled for peacefully protesting the university’s construction of a garage. She succeeded in getting the expulsion revoked, and is now helping the student seek damages for civil rights violations.

2008: Emilio Gonzalez, Los Angeles
In 2002, when Emilio was still an associate, he signed on to represent Anthony Jimenez, a convicted felon who brought an action alleging excessive use of force in violation of his civil rights by sheriff ’s deputies while he was in the Los Angeles County jail in 1998.

Jimenez claimed he was unjustifiably beaten on three different occasions, when deputies punched him and kicked him; attacked him with pepper spray and hobbled him; placed a black bag over his head; struck him with a large metal flashlight; and used a "carotid" head-lock and straps to choke him.

“I did considerable soul-searching before I decided to take responsibility for the case,” Emilio says. “I had never first-chaired a trial. All of us had thought from the beginning that the case was a long shot. The trial would pit the testimony of a convicted felon against that of 10 law enforcement officials, and there would be no video evidence of the beatings themselves, nor any corroborating testimony.

“But I felt that Mr. Jimenez had been victimized and beaten, and he deserved his day in court—even if we lost. So I had to try.”

After five years of work and a three-week jury trial, Emilio and his team prevailed: they were awarded compensatory and punitive damages against four of the defendants on behalf of Jimenez. The court also awarded Davis Wright Tremaine attorneys’ fees and costs. The final court order praised the “tenacious work” of Emilio and his team.

2007: Kristina Silja Bennard, Seattle
In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006), Kristina worked with partners Jeffrey Fisher and Monty Gray on an amicus brief on behalf of The American Jewish Committee, People for the American Way Foundation and others, arguing that the military commissions established by the President to try Guantanamo Bay detainees lacked the most time-honored element of the adversarial process: the right of the defendant to be present and to confront witnesses against him. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the military commissions, but the Supreme Court reversed. The majority and concurring opinions reflected Davis Wright Tremaine’s arguments, and Mr. Hamdan's counsel had high praise for the quality and impact of the amicus brief. Drafting the brief required significant historical research into the right of confrontation, military commissions, and the adoption of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

In addition, Kristina prepared an amicus brief for Americans United for Separation of Church and State in a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit challenging the practice of a Missouri school district that allowed the distribution of Bibles to its students during instructional hours. The 8th Circuit agreed that the program violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Doe v. South Iron R-1 Sch. Dist., 498 F.3d 878 (8th Cir. 2007).

2006: Sarah Bhagwandin, Seattle
Sarah received the award for her expertise and determination in working to have custody of two children awarded to their aunt.

Sarah, whose practice is focused on employee benefits law, proved to be a formidable litigator, especially when her custody case became very challenging because of a highly aggressive opposing attorney and a neglectful mother who appeared and disappeared unpredictably.

Sarah also received an award from the King County Bar Association for her work on the custody case.