Nov. 4, 2020 – In this pandemic year, we are finding new ways to “gather” and celebrate.
We invite you to join us in giving a virtual round of applause to the 15 leaders recognized this year as those who make a difference – by mentoring others, by offering their services in pro bono work, by leading the way in bettering the practice of law in Wisconsin.
These leaders and their awards are typically celebrated at the Member Recognition Celebration at the State Bar of Wisconsin Annual Meeting & Conference, held each June. Because the Celebration could not be held in person this year due to the pandemic, we are celebrating each award recipient via video.
It’s easy to attend this Celebration – and we invite you to watch their video acceptance speeches, now available on WisBar.org.
A Celebration – COVID Style
Since 1993, State Bar members have gathered to honor and celebrate the contributions of our members and volunteers to the legal community. Nominations are solicited, and awarded by State Bar committees, divisions, and sections.
This is the first time the celebration is held via video, and is hosted by Waukesha attorney Saveon Grenell. “Things are a little different this year,” he said in his opening remarks. "With all the presentations recorded, you can attend at your convenience. Please share the videos with friends, family, and colleagues.”
“Thank you for making the time to join us in this unique celebration,” Grenell said in his closing remarks.
Thank You from a Justice
The celebration kicks off with a welcoming address from Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler.
“To many people, you lawyers are heroes,” she says to the award recipients. “Your work deeply and profoundly impacts the lives of people in Wisconsin.”
Justice Zielger thanked the recipients for their service to the law. “And, in a larger sense, for your dedication to the reputation of our profession as a whole.”
“The law is an amazing profession,” she said. “You – Wisconsin lawyers – have used your legal education to significantly and powerfully effect change for people.”
Douglas Hoffer: Hon. Charles Dunn Wisconsin Lawyer Author Award
Douglas Hoffer, Eau Claire Deputy City Attorney, is recipient of this year’s Dunn Award for his January 2019 Wisconsin Lawyer magazine article, “Threshold Issues in State Court Litigation.”
According to the chair of the award subcommittee, “Once almost taken for granted, threshold issues are becoming more and more important as pleadings are scrutinized and cases are decided by motions. This thorough and practical look at case law surrounding plausibility pleading, court competency, and standing is beneficial for legal practitioners across the state and beyond.”
Hoffer said he is grateful for having his article recognized by his colleagues as a contribution to a very important issue. "It is gratifying to work alongside so many dedicated members of the State Bar of Wisconsin who protect the rights and property of our fellow citizens."
Peter M. Koneazny: Dan Tuchscherer Outstanding Public Interest Law Attorney Award
Peter Koneazny, recipient of this award from the State Bar Public Interest Law Section, is litigation director at the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee. Pete has spent his entire legal career – more than three decades and counting – working in the public interest at Legal Aid, the ACLU of Wisconsin, and the public defender’s office.
The award, he says, honors the work of those who devote their careers to working on the behalf of those who otherwise would not have access to justice. Programs like Legal Aid Society are dedicated to bettering systemic equity issues such as housing, consumer law, among others – and most importantly this year, civil rights and race equity issues.
Having known Tuchscherer, “I am particularly honored to receive this award bearing his name,” Koneazny said.
Harvey L. Wendel: Leonard L. Loeb Award, Senior Lawyers Division
This year’s award – which recognizes a senior lawyer who has made significant contributions to the legal community, shown respect for the legal system, and demonstrated a love for the law and what it seeks to accomplish – goes to Harvey L. Wendel of Murphy Desmond S.C., in Madison.
Wendel’s deep respect for the legal system and love of the law is evident by his past and present involvement in multiple associations, boards, and committees. Wendel is currently a mentor for young lawyers.
“I’m very much grateful to be in a position now – semi retired – to give back to the State Bar,” Wendel said.
Grant Langley: Grant F. Langley Service Award, Government Lawyers Division
Milwaukee City Attorney Grant Langley is recipient of the award named in his honor – previously known as the Government Lawyers Division Service Award. The award honors outstanding government service to the profession, his work, and the community.
“Beginning this year, the division is naming its service award in honor of Grant Langley,” said Grenell.
According to his nominators, Langley a remarkable public servant and legal professional who has honorably represented the City of Milwaukee for more than 48 years, and has “set the gold standard” of government lawyer work.
“Grant Langley epitomizes what it means to be a government lawyer,” said Melanie Rutledge, retired Milwaukee assistant attorney, who nominated Langley for the award. “Grant has for decades selflessly and generously given his time, incredible intelligence, and high ethical standards to the GLD, the State Bar, and as a government lawyer.”
David Zubke: Founder’s Award, Nonresident Lawyers Division (NRLD)
David Zubke of Minneapolis is recipient of the NRLD Founder’s Award, which recognizes a nonresident member who has brought positive change to the division and has actively participated in State Bar activities for many years.
Dave is the recipient of this year’s award due to his longtime involvement with the Nonresident Lawyers Division. Over the years, he’s been an active member of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter, been on the NRLD Board multiple times, and served as NRLD president in 1997-98.
“I have a lot of pride for the State Bar’s ongoing inclusive efforts to find benefits, programs, and opportunities for the thousands of us who live and work outside Wisconsin,” Zubke said. “We’re a diverse group united with pride in an energetic, progressive State Bar.”
Michael Rosenberg: Outstanding Mentor, Young Lawyers Division
The Young Lawyers Division’s Outstanding Mentor Award is Michael Rosenberg, managing attorney at Community Justice, Inc. He focuses his practice on criminal defense, including appeals, and as a court-appointed guardian ad litem in family law cases. And fortunately for many young lawyers, he is not shy about sharing the wisdom he’s gained in that time.
As the awards committee found, “Michael’s mentorship has enabled many young lawyers to flourish, both inside Community Justice and beyond as they take their experiences with them to new and challenging opportunities."
Rosenberg said he is grateful to those nominating him for the award. “The fact that the members of the office believe I have done much to help them means a lot to me,” he said.
Sofia Ascorbe: Outstanding Young Lawyer, Young Lawyers Division
Sofia Ascorbe of the Legal Action of Wisconsin is recipient of this year’s award, which honors a young lawyer who making an impact in his or her practice area, and in service to the State Bar of Wisconsin and the community.
Ascorbe is honored for her commitment to helping the underserved, including in her commitment to coordinating the Eviction Defense Project (EDP), a project that provides in-court representation for low-income tenants facing eviction in Milwaukee County. Since opening in 2018, EDP has serve more than 1,000 clients.
“Eviction defense advocacy is crucial right now, as so many people are experiencing economic losses as we move through this global health crisis,” Ascorbe said. “This pandemic illustrates how many people are close to the edge of poverty in this country – and how a missed paycheck can lead to the risk of eviction from their homes. As lawyers, we can work against the systems of poverty, racial inequity, and oppression that many vulnerable communities battle against every day.”
Sharon Fitzpatrick: Ryan Klesh Public Interest Legal Worker Award
Sharon Fitzpatrick is this year’s award winner. Sharon worked as a legal secretary at Legal Action of Wisconsin in Milwaukee for more than 44 years. She passed away in December 2019.
Executive Director Deedee Peterson says that Fitpatrick understood the deep effects of civil legal problems and the need for equal justice to mitigate them. “Sharon listened. She understood. She encouraged. She was street smart and shared her wisdom with others.”
“It means so much that she is recognized for the work that she did,” said Fitzpatrick’s daughter, Sarah Matson, accepting the award on her mother’s behalf. Legal Action meant a lot to her mother. “She dedicated her life for being part of the fight for social justice. My family is so genuinely touched that she is recognized for her dedication.”
Charles Bowen: Outstanding Public Interest Law Student
Charles Bowen of Marquette University Law School is recipients of this award from the Public Interest Law Section, which recognizes exceptional public interest volunteer work or activism in the community, the community at large, or the law school community. One student is honored from U.W. Law School and one from Marquette Law School.
Upon graduation, Bowen was inducted into the Pro Bono Society for completing over 500 hours of pro bono service for organizations like the ACLU of Wisconsin, the Legal Action of Wisconsin’s Eviction Defense Project, and the Milwaukee Justice Center’s family law forms clinic.
“It is incredibly inspiring to work in an environment that encourages advocacy work and caring for your community,” Bowen said.
William Grau: Outstanding Public Interest Law Student
William Grau, graduate of the U.W. Law School, is recipient of this award from the Public Interest Law Section, which recognizes exceptional public interest volunteer work or activism in the community, the community at large, or the law school community. One student is honored from U.W. Law School and one from Marquette Law School.
While attending U.W. Law School, Grau logged 277 pro bono hours. According to his nominator, the Director of the Office of Career and Professional Development and the Pro Bono Program at U.W. Law School, this was “far and away the most hours of any graduating student.”
Grau’s nominators were in agreement that he is a true believer in the importance of pro bono work and set an example to his fellow students “by doing.” “Bill always is seeking to help those around him [to] be better, and never seeks reward,” they said.