April 15, 2020 – Join the State Bar of Wisconsin in celebrating those who are making a difference in the legal profession and in their communities. Recognized by their peers and colleagues, these lawyers, law students, and legal workers are celebrated for their leadership in Wisconsin and the world.
Typically, these award recipients are honored at the Member Recognition Celebration during the State Bar Annual Meeting & Conference in June. Unfortunately, with the challenges we are all facing regarding the coronavirus, the conference for 2020 has been canceled, including the Celebration. The State Bar is working diligently to find a way to celebrate these recipients at a later date.
Please join us now in giving these recipients a virtual round of applause for their dedication and hard work to improving the practice of law in Wisconsin.
Hon. Gregory Grau: Lifetime Jurist
Retired Marathon County Judge Gregory Grau is the 2020 recipient of the 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 Grau served as Marathon County Circuit Court Judge from 1995 until his retirement in 2016. While he served on numerous committees during his time, his work to create a Truancy Citation Court Program is a highlight of his career, says Marathon County Circuit Judge Jill Falstad. “Without his guidance, this program would never have been established. And without truancy court, hundreds of students would not have graduated from high school,” said Judge Falstad. “His efforts directly and positively impacted the lives of countless teens.”
Hon. John P. Anderson: Judge of the Year
Bayfield County Circuit Court John P. Anderson is recipient of 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 Anderson is proactive with judicial education – as one of the more senior judges in his judicial district, he often has new judges shadow him. He actively seeks out innovative criminal justice programs, educating himself on new case law, and researching how to improve the current justice system. Judge Anderson was nominated by the Bayfield County District Attorney Kimberly Lawton and State Public Defender William Appleton. Of Judge Anderson, saying that he embodies the ideals we all hope for in a judge. “His dedication is palpable, and his energizing community engagements brings community faith in his courtroom,” Lawton said.
Anza D’Antonio: Diversity & Inclusion Trailblazer Award
Anza D’Antonio of Johnson Controls, Milwaukee, is this year’s recipient of the Diversity & Inclusion Trailblazer Award. The award, from the Diversity & Inclusion Oversight Committee, celebrates an individual who contributes to and enhances diversity and inclusion within the Wisconsin legal profession.
Starting in 2019, D’Antonio led a company-wide effort to re-imagine the “summer intern experience” and piloted opportunities for both high school and Marquette University Law School students in way that expands the legal pipeline and access to opportunities.
D’Antonio contacted regional law firms to enhance regional diversity and inclusion efforts at their firms, using an “exchange program” in a mutual exchange of interns for events that provided skills training, interviewing preparation, and mentoring opportunities.
“Through the partnership of Johnson Controls Legal Department and Marquette University Law School, D’Antonio created a strong partnership with academia, law firms, and in-house departments focused on providing legal experience and opportunities for high school students, many of whom are from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in the legal profession,” said Judge Carl Ashley, chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Oversight Committee.
Alexander Lodge: Pro Bono Attorney of the Year
Pro Bono Attorney of the Year is awarded to Alexander Lodge. The award, presented by the Legal Assistance Committee, recognizes outstanding pro bono service.
Lodge, a patent attorney at Foley & Lardner LLP in Madison, “is a leader in expanding access to legal assistance for expungement issues in Wisconsin. In 2019, Lodge led recruitment efforts to train over 40 volunteers for free expungement clinics, where more than 220 low-income clients received assistance,” said Miri Pogoriler, committee chair.
Lodge built a coalition of stakeholders to respond to a significant gap in services. This coalition includes the Urban League of Greater Madison, the Urban League of Racine and Kenosha, the State Bar of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Association of African American Lawyers, Foley & Lardner LLP, City of Racine, County of Racine, U.W. Law School, Legal Action of Wisconsin, and volunteer attorneys.
“The legal services at these events is critical in assisting low-income clients find meaningful and stable employment and to lessen poverty in Wisconsin,” Pogoriler said.
Douglas Hoffer: Charles Dunn Wisconsin Lawyer Author Award
This year’s Hon. Charles Dunn Author Award recipient is Douglas Hoffer, an Eau Claire deputy city attorney, for his article, “Threshold Issues in State Court Civil Litigation,” in the January 2019 issue of Wisconsin Lawyer magazine.
Presented by the Communications Committee, which serves as the editorial board for Wisconsin Lawyer magazine, the Hon. Charles Dunn Author Award recognizes writing excellence in the publication. The award was named in honor of Wisconsin’s first Supreme Court chief justice.
“Once almost taken for granted, threshold issues are becoming more and more important as pleadings are scrutinized and cases are decided by motions,” said Emily Kelchen, chair of the award subcommittee. “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.”
Michael Rosenberg: Young Lawyers Division Outstanding Mentor Award
Michael Rosenberg, managing attorney with Community Justice, Inc. (CJI), Madison, is recipient of 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.
“Michael goes above and beyond in helping young attorneys at CJI to attain the experiences and skills they need to succeed,” said Jose Castro, a member of the award committee. “His mentorship enables many young lawyers to flourish, taking their experiences with them to new and challenging opportunities.”
Sofia Ascorbe: Young Lawyers Division Outstanding Young Lawyer Award
Sofia Ascorbe 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 and to the community.
Ascorbe is honored for her commitment to helping the underserved, including in her commitment to managing the Eviction Defense Project, which helps people who are facing eviction connect with lawyers and work out manageable solutions that allow them to remain in their homes, said Ben Roovers, chair of the awards committee. “We were also impressed that Sofia extends these resources outside of the project by training other attorneys about landlord and eviction law.”
Harvey Wendel: Senior Lawyers Division Leonard L. Loeb Award
Harvey Wendel of Murphy Desmond S.C., Madison, is the recipient of the Senior Lawyers Division’s Leonard L. Loeb Award for a 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.
Wendel has a deep respect for the legal system and love of the law, demonstrated in his years of dedication to the State Bar and the Dane County Bar Association, his involvement on the board of the James E. Doyle American Inns of Court, and his involvement with the Senior Lawyers Division,” said Dean Dietrich, division president.
Grant Langley: Government Lawyers Division Grant F. Langley Service Award
The 2020 Government Lawyers Division (GLD) Service Award recipient is Grant Langley, who has served more than 35 years as an attorney in the Milwaukee City Attorney’s Office.
Beginning with this year, the division is naming its service award in honor of Langley.
“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.”
The award is presented to an attorney with accomplishments in the legal profession who provides services not only to the government and citizens, but also to other government attorneys. This attorney is someone involved in activities that increase the public’s respect for government lawyers while promoting government legal work as a rewarding career choice.
David Zubke: Nonresident Lawyers Division Founder’s Award
David Zubke, an attorney with Best & Flanagan, Minneapolis, is recipient of the 2020 Nonresident Lawyers Division (NRLD) Founder’s Award.
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.
Over many years, Zubke served nonresident Wisconsin attorneys by being heavily involved in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Chapter, serving on the NRLD board multiple times, and serving as NRLD president in 1997-98. “David's service to nonresident Wisconsin attorneys is extensive over a long period of time, and because of that, he richly deserves this award,” said Jim Casey, NRLD board member.
Godfrey & Kahn S.C., Milwaukee: Pro Bono Firm/Organization of the Year
The law firm of Godfrey & Kahn of Milwaukee is recipient of the Pro Bono Firm/Organization of the Year from the Legal Assistance Committee. The award recognizes outstanding pro bono service.
“Over the past year, Godfrey attorneys donated over 2,000 hours to an impressive range of pro bono clients and causes,” said Miri Pogoriler, chair of the committee. “They provided direct representation to indigent litigants, advocated for law reform, staffed ‘brief legal advice’ clinics, raised funds for legal services organizations, and helped other firms and businesses develop their own pro bono initiatives.”
On behalf of the Wisconsin State Public Defender clients, Godfrey attorneys donated hundreds of pro bono hours handling four criminal appeals involving ineffective assistance of counsel, Chapter 51 commitment, racial profiling in traffic stops, and involuntary medical treatment of inmates. Other attorneys at the firm helped a victim of sex trafficking regain time with her children, represented dozens of tenants in court through the Eviction Defense Project, and helped staff the Mobile Legal Clinic in Milwaukee. One attorney alone represented 35 families in eviction cases.
Peter M. Koneazny: Dan Tuchscherer Outstanding Public Interest Law Attorney
This award, given to Peter M. Koneazny of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Inc., recognizes a lawyer who demonstrates a selfless, lifetime commitment to working in the public interest, both inside and outside the field of law.
Koneazny has spent his entire legal career – spanning more than three decades – working in the public interest, at legal services and legal aid programs, at the ACLU of Wisconsin, and at the public defender's office, serving clients in individual cases and on impact cases seeking to change systems and practices that disadvantage low-income communities.
“Peter is also a mentor and advisor to other lawyers, and is a champion for low-income and marginalized people outside the office, too,” said Karen Bauer, a coworker at Legal Aid Society and one of several nominating Koneazny for the award. “He is truly selfless in his dedication to Milwaukee and our state.”
Sharon Fitzpatrick: Ryan Klesh Public Interest Legal Worker
Sharon Fitzpatrick of Legal Action of Wisconsin is the recipient of this year’s 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.
Fitzpatrick worked as legal secretary in the Milwaukee office of Legal Action of Wisconsin for more than 44 years. In December 2019, Fitzpatrick passed away at age 70. “This is a bittersweet nomination,” said Deedee Peterson, executive director of the organization.
“Sharon understood the deep effects of civil legal problems and the need for equal justice to mitigate them. She listened. She understood. She encouraged. She was street smart and shared her wisdom with others. By being her authentic self, she made us more capable of doing equal justice work,” Peterson said.
“It is especially noteworthy that Sharon worked with Ryan Klesh,” writes Cathy Coleman, manager of the Milwaukee office. “She helped train Ryan and was one of his biggest cheerleaders. She encouraged him all the way, and he took to the work of legal aid, at least partly, because of her encouragement.”
William Grau & Charles Bowen: Outstanding Public Interest Law Students
Through its Public Interest Law Student awards, the 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.
2019 U.W. Law School grad William Grau is honored for his dedication to pro bono work, having completed 277 hours during his law school career.
“He helps his community and is an example to his fellow students because he believes in the importance of pro bono work,” says Megan Heneke, director of the law school’s office of career and professional development, who nominated Grau. “He is a dedicated leader and a responsive and effective communicator who has earned the respect of faculty, administration, and his peers at the law school.”
Charles Bowen, a 2020 graduate from Marquette University Law School, is honored for “his commitment to public service, his energy to work for a better world, and his leadership,” says Angela Schultz, the law school’s assistant dean for public service. Bowen, among other efforts, performed more than 450 hours of pro bono work as a law student and is a leader in the law schools Public Interest Law Society and has a “passion for expanding access to justice for all. He is a natural leader who will take on public interest causes dear to his heart, and make a difference.”