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  • April 17, 2019

    Celebrate Those Who Make a Difference: Honoring 16 Award Recipients

    Here are judges, lawyers, legal workers, and law students honored for making a difference. Join the State Bar in honoring them at the annual Member Recognition Celebration on June 13.

    April 17, 2019 – Recognized by their peers and colleagues, these lawyers, law students, and legal workers will be celebrated for their leadership in Wisconsin and the world.

    Join the State Bar of Wisconsin in honoring recipients of these 16 awards at the Member Recognition Celebration at on Thursday, June 13, at the State Bar of Wisconsin 2019 Annual Meeting & Conference in Green Bay.

    Lifetime Jurist: Hon. James Evenson

    James EvensonRetired Sauk County Circuit Court Judge James Evenson is the 2019 recipient of the State Bar of Wisconsin Bench and Bar Committee Lifetime Jurist Award. The award recognizes a jurist who, during their tenure on the bench, was fair and impartial, demonstrated high ideals and personal character, and demonstrated outstanding, long-term judicial service.

    Judge Evenson possesses a high amount of legal knowledge, compassion, and integrity, who applied the law fairly and consistently, said retired Columbia County Circuit Court Judge Alan White. “There is no judge whom I admire more.”

    Judge of the Year: Hon. Michael Dwyer

    Michael DwyerMilwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Michael Dwyer will receive the Bench and Bar Committee Judge of the Year Award. The award recognizes an outstanding circuit court judge who has improved the judicial system during the past year by his or her leadership in advancing the quality of justice, judicial education, or innovative programs.

    Judge Dwyer improved the quality of mediation and the role of guardians ad litem in family court. His commitment to mediation and the drafting of settlement documents by mediators has improved the justice system for family litigants, family court commissioners, judges, and attorney litigators, said Judge Thomas Walsh of Brown County Circuit Court. “Through his work, Wisconsin’s children are now better served. He has had an impact on all participants in the family court process.”

    Diversity & Inclusion Trailblazer Award: Miriam R. Horwitz

    Miriam R. HorwitzMiriam R. Horwitz, Milwaukee deputy city attorney, is the inaugural recipient of the Diversity & Inclusion Trailblazer Award from the State Bar Diversity & Inclusion Oversight Committee. The award celebrates an individual who contributes to and enhances diversity and inclusion within the Wisconsin legal profession.

    Horwitz is being honored for her initiative to go before the City of Milwaukee Common Council to obtain funding to allow the Milwaukee City Attorney’s Office to participate as an employer in the State Bar Diversity Clerkship Program.

    Pro Bono Attorney of the Year: Talita Bornholdt

    Talita BornholdtThe Pro Bono Attorney of the Year is awarded to Talita Bornholdt of Madison. The award, presented by the Legal Assistance Committee, recognizes outstanding pro bono service.

    Bornholdt demonstrates her ability and passion for pro bono service as a volunteer with the Immigration Legal Services program at the Catholic Multicultural Center in Madison (CMC), logging 279 volunteer hours in the past year. With her help, CMC has been able to provide services to 142 vulnerable immigrants and refugees since October 2017. “She volunteers two days per week with CMC, allowing the center to dramatically increase the number of clients they could serve,” said Jeff Brown, State Bar Pro Bono Program manager.

    Pro Bono Firm/Organization of the Year: Perkins Coie LLP, Madison

    The attorneys in the Madison office of Perkins Coie LLP are recognized for their outstanding pro bono contributions. The 23 attorneys in the firm’s Madison office contributed 1,962 hours of pro bono time in 2018, averaging more than 90 hours per attorney.

    The Madison office has focused much of its pro bono work on taking court-appointed cases to represent prisoners in their civil rights cases, including an inmate on death row in Alabama. Attorneys also represented military veterans in disability benefits cases, immigrants before the Board of Immigration Appeals, and detained asylum seekers who had been separated from their children at the border.

    The award, presented by the Legal Assistance Committee, recognizes outstanding pro bono service.

    Hon. Charles Dunn Author Award: Joseph S. Diedrich

    Joseph S. DiedrichThis year’s Dunn Award winner is Joseph S. Diedrich of Husch Blackwell LLP, Madison, for his article, “Transgender Rights in Wisconsin,” in the March 2018 issue of Wisconsin Lawyer magazine. The award, presented by the Communications Committee, recognizes writing excellence in the magazine.

    With approximately 60,000 transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals living in Wisconsin alone, raising awareness of these issues has never been more timely, said Brandon Evans, chair of the Dunn Awards subcommittee. “’Transgender Rights in Wisconsin’ touched on constitutional, statutory, and case law and matters related to employment, health care, incarceration, and public accommodations. With various issues that uniquely affect transgender individuals, the author provides an invaluable resource for Wisconsin lawyers as they seek to advocate in what has been called the next civil rights frontier.”

    Senior Lawyers Division Leonard L. Loeb Award: Daphne Webb

    Daphne WebbDaphne Webb of Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, Madison, is the recipient of the Senior Lawyers Division’s Leonard L. Loeb Award for her lifetime of exceptional contributions to his community and to the goal of justice for all Wisconsin citizens. The award recognizes the work of a senior lawyer whose outstanding leadership has advanced the fundamental goals of the legal system.

    Webb’s career demonstrates a love for the law and what it seeks to accomplish. Her leadership and commitment to improving the legal system included a fight for the rights of pregnant women, and elevating family law practice to the highest degree of professionalism. Webb’s contributions reflect her commitment to improving the legal system.

    Government Lawyers Division Service Award: Keith R. Zehms

    Keith R. ZehmsThe Government Lawyers Division’s 2019 Service Award goes to Keith R. Zehms of Eau Claire.

    Zehms has worked as Eau Claire County corporation counsel for 36 years, and has been an integral part of the county’s leadership. He has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to public service in the legal community and beyond, and acted as a mentor to many inside and outside the legal profession.

    The award recognizes division members who provide services not only to the government and citizens, but also to other government attorneys, and is involved in activities that increase the public’s respect for government lawyers while promoting government legal work as a rewarding career choice.

    Nonresident Lawyers Division Founder’s Award: Debra Kuper

    Debra KuperDebra Kuper of Overhead Door Corporation in Lewisville, Texas, is recipient of the 2019 Nonresident Lawyers Division (NRLD) Founder’s Award.

    Kuper is an active participant in State Bar leadership, serving currently as a NRLD board member and as the division’s president in 2014. She served on the State Bar Board of Governors from 2013-18 and as a member of the Executive Committee in 2014-15. Kuper is viewed by her colleagues as an attorney who brought leadership and dedication to the NRLD and the State Bar as a whole.

    This award recognizes a nonresident member who has brought positive change to the NRLD and has actively participated in State Bar activities for many years.

    Young Lawyers Division Outstanding Mentor Award: Stacy Ann Alexejun

    Stacy Ann AlexejunStacy Ann Alexejun of Quarles & Brady, Madison, will receive the Young Lawyers Division’s Outstanding Mentor Award. The award pays tribute to a Wisconsin attorney with six or more years of practice who has made an exceptional contribution to the life and career of a young attorney.

    Alexejun is a “shining example of both an amazing mentor and an outstanding young lawyer, leading by example,” said Jessica Lewis of Quarles & Brady, Madison. “What sets her apart is her drive and commitment to being present for others in her life and for the causes she supports. Her coaching makes a difference in helping our new lawyers succeed.”

    Young Lawyers Division Outstanding Young Lawyer Award: Laurna Anne Kinnel

    Laurna Anne KinnelLaurna Anne Kinnel of Fox, O'Neill & Shannon S.C., Milwaukee, is the 2019 Young Lawyers Division’s Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year. This award is given to a young lawyer who has made an impact in his or her practice area, and in service to the State Bar of Wisconsin and to the community.

    Kinnel "provides exceptional services to her clients, consistently goes above and beyond to serve the Milwaukee Young Lawyers' Association and other bar associations, and is devoted to serving her community through volunteering, including with the House of Peace's Volunteer Legal Clinic since she was in law school," said Diane Slomowitz of Fox, O'Neill & Shannon S.C., Milwaukee, who nominated Kinnel.

    Gordon Sinykin Award of Excellence: David E. Schultz

    David E. SchultzDavid E. Schultz, Madison, will receive the 2019 Wisconsin Law Foundation’s Gordon Sinykin Award of Excellence. This award recognizes a lawyer, law firm, or group of lawyers for their work on an individual law-related education or public service project.

    Among other achievements, Schultz, associate dean and emeritus professor of law at U.W. Law School, served as reporter for the Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instructions Committee for four decades. “His instrumental contribution to this ongoing project exemplifies the ideals of service of the Sinykin award,” said Fran Deisinger, a member of the award committee.

    Dan Tuchscherer Outstanding Public Interest Law Attorney: Roberta M. Rieck

    Roberta M. RieckThe Dan Tuchscherer Outstanding Public Interest Law Attorney Award is given to Roberta M. Rieck of Legal Action of Wisconsin Inc. (LAW) in Milwaukee. This award recognizes a lawyer who demonstrates a selfless, lifetime commitment to working in the public interest, both inside and outside the field of law.

    Rieck served for more than 30 years as an advocate for low-income, domestic violence survivors in the Milwaukee community. Throughout her years of practice, she supervised and mentored new and seasoned attorneys at LAW and in the family law community. Among other organizations, she served as a commissioner on the Milwaukee Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and as a member of the Milwaukee Domestic Violence Homicide Review Commission.

    Ryan Klesh Public Interest Legal Worker: Esperanza Arias

    Esperanza AriasEsperanza Arias of Legal Action of Wisconsin Inc. (LAW), Milwaukee, is the recipient of the Public Interest Law Section’s Ryan Klesh Public Interest Legal Worker Award. The award recognizes an individual who captures the essence of Ryan Klesh's selflessness, work ethic, and humor in working to seek justice for low-income neighbors, family, or friends.

    Retired in January 2019, Arias began work for LAW in 1974, staying with the firm through the years while it expanded to cover more areas in Milwaukee County. Fluent in Spanish and English, she establishes a strong rapport with people of Hispanic heritage.

    On working for Legal Action, she says, “I wouldn’t work anywhere else – we help people in need.”

    Outstanding Public Interest Law Students: Shannon Strombom and Margaret Straughan

    Shannon StrombomMargaret StraughanThrough the Public Interest Law Student awards, Public Interest Law Section honors law students who demonstrate commitment to public interest, to volunteer work or activism in their community, and to helping others in their communities.

    Shannon Strombom, a 3L at Marquette University Law School, is recognized for her leadership and her extensive commitment to public service with the Guardianship Clinic, Eviction Defense Project, and the Domestic Violence Injunction Project. Her goal is to practice immigration law.

    U.W. Law School 1L Margaret Straughan is honored for her volunteer work throughout law school, including organizing fundraisers for the Multiple Sclerosis Society and for volunteering with, among other organizations, the Fox Valley Memory Project, and the Legal Assistance for Disaster Relief at U.W. Law School.

    Join the Celebration at the Annual Meeting & Conference in June in Green Bay

    Want to celebrate a friend, family member, or colleague being honored at the Member Recognition Celebration? Join us for this free event at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 13, at the Hyatt Regency Convention Center in downtown Green Bay.

    The celebration takes place at the State Bar Annual Meeting & Conference. Earn up to 12 CLE credits from more than 24 separate CLE sessions, hear three outstanding plenary speakers, visit the Legal Expo, join the networking luncheons, celebrate at the Presidential Swearing-in Ceremony, and enjoy the Lawyers at Lambeau All-Conference Tailgate Party.

    Register now

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