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  • April 20, 2022

    Superstars: 14 State Bar Award Recipients Demonstrate Outstanding Service

    They are members of the legal community who make a difference – by mentoring others, offering their pro bono services, and going the extra mile. Congratulations to these 14 award recipients.
    Collage of award winners

    April 20, 2022 – Join the State Bar of Wisconsin in celebrating those who make a difference in the legal profession and in their communities. Recognized by their peers and colleagues, these jurists, lawyers, law students, and legal workers are celebrated for their leadership.

    Since 1993, State Bar members have gathered to honor the contributions of those in Wisconsin’s legal community. These award recipients will be honored in person at the Member Recognition Celebration during the State Bar Annual Meeting & Conference in June in Lake Geneva.

    Join us in celebrating these leaders who are dedicated to improving the practice of law and the administration of justice in Wisconsin, and serving their communities.

    Judge Christopher Foley: Lifetime Jurist

    Judge Christopher FoleyJudge Christopher Foley of Milwaukee County Circuit Court is the 2021 recipient of the Bench and Bar Committee Lifetime Jurist Award. The award recognizes jurists who, during their tenure on the bench, were fair and impartial, demonstrated high ideals and personal character along with outstanding, long-term judicial service.

    This year, the committee presenting this award chose a judge with exemplary character, community involvement, and judicial competence and service. He is truly passionate about the law and those they serve, say those who know him, with the judicial temperament and wisdom that comes from more than 35 years of experience on the bench. He has a rare combination of compassion, decisiveness, and a commitment to equal justice.

    Judge James Babler: Judge of the Year

    Judge James BablerJudge James Babler of Barron County Circuit Court is recipient of the Bench and Bar Committee’s Judge of the Year Award. The award recognizes an outstanding circuit court judge who has improved the judicial system during the past year through leadership in advancing the quality of justice, judicial education, or innovative programs.

    Judge Babler, say those who know him, is considered to be one of the most forward-thinking judges in the state. An innovator, mentor, and teacher, he looks at best practices and evolves his own procedures when there is a better way. When the pandemic hit, Judge Babler went to a virtual courtroom with speed and efficiency because of his leadership and dedication to using technology in the courtroom.

    Marisol González Castillo: Diversity & Inclusion Trailblazer Award

    Marisol González CastilloMarisol González Castillo of Hawks Quindel’s Madison office 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.

    One of González Castillo’s passions is to help increase diversity in the legal field. She pursues this passion by constantly volunteering to be a mentor and reaching out to first generation students and students who have been historically excluded from the legal field. She has been instrumental in designing the State Bar of Wisconsin Ready.Set.Practice Law Student Mentoring Program, specifically with outreach to diverse law students. She also conducts presentations in Spanish in her areas of practice to reach Spanish-speaking individuals all over the state and inform them about their rights.

    Wisconsin Association of African American Lawyers: Gordon Sinykin Award of Excellence

    Amber Raffeet August, president of Wisconsin Association of African American LawyersThe Wisconsin Association of African American Lawyers (WAAL) is recipient of the Wisconsin Law Foundation’s 2022 Gordon Sinykin Award of Excellence. The award recognizes a lawyer, law firm, or group of lawyers for their work on an individual law-related education or public service project. Pictured, left, is WAAL President Amber Raffeet August.​

    The organization has many goals, one of which is to advocate needed legal and judicial reform to make justice available to all people – and it is in this capacity that the organization is being honored.

    “WAAL’s pro bono clinics, including regular expungement and driver’s licenses reinstatement clinics, make a huge impact on Wisconsinites,” said Joseph Troy, award committee chair. “With these clinics, WAAL is filling a need that is unfilled anywhere else, and that helps with access to justice. That’s what this award is all about.”

    Kelly Mould and Kate Trudell: Charles Dunn Wisconsin Lawyer Author Award

    Kelly Mould Kate TrudellPresented by the State Bar 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 the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s first chief justice.

    This year’s award recipients are Kelly Mould and Kate Trudell, for their article “#FreeBritney: When Protections Turn Toxic,” in the October 2021 issue of Wisconsin Lawyer.

    Using a news story that has made headlines across the country as a hook, the authors clearly explain how Wisconsin residents facing similar situations fare under state law. The article, the product of significant research, takes the story of pop singer Britney Spears’ conservatorship and makes it relevant for a wide legal audience. In short, the article demonstrates why Wisconsin lawyers from all practice areas should be attuned to the ways vulnerable individuals can be denied decision-making authority.

    Maggie Niebler-Brown: Pro Bono Attorney of the Year

    Maggie Niebler-BrownMaggie Niebler-Brown of Legal Action of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, is the recipient of this year’s Pro Bono Attorney of the YearAward. The award, presented by the State Bar’s Legal Assistance Committee, recognizes dedication to the development and delivery of legal services to the poor or those who develop innovative ways to deliver volunteer legal services. This year, the committee presents the award to Niebler, who leads the Volunteer Legal Clinics program though Legal Action of Wisconsin.

    When 2020 and 2021 brought tremendous change to the field of law, it also brought tremendous need. While the pandemic impacted the clinic’s ability to serve, the need for service grew exponentially. Niebler-Brown, showing innovative leadership, guided her team through that very difficult situation, and created a functional program that served – and serves – hundreds of Wisconsin residents.

    Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S.C.: Pro Bono Firm/Organization of the Year

    Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S.C.Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S.C., Milwaukee, is the recipient of the Pro Bono Firm/Organization of the Year from the State Bar’s Legal Assistance Committee. The award recognizes outstanding pro bono service. This year’s award recognizes Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren’s demonstrated commitment to pro bono service, and in particular the firm’s service benefiting domestic abuse victims in 2021.

    The firm made a special effort to assist low-income clients seeking legal protection through domestic abuse injunctions. Last year, the firm expanded its pro bono commitment to helping domestic abuse survivors beyond in-person injunction hearings in Milwaukee County. The firm’s lawyers also handled remote hearings in other counties, including Waukesha and Winnebago counties. Over the last 10 years, the Reinhart volunteers have helped over 172 abuse victims.

    Katherine Alft: Dan Tuchscherer Outstanding Public Interest Law Attorney

    Katherine AlftThe 2021 Dan Tuchscherer Outstanding Public Interest Law Attorney is Katherine Alft, of Legal Action of Wisconsin.

    The award, presented by the State Bar Public Interest Law Section, recognizes a lawyer who embodies the elements of the award: demonstrating a lifetime commitment to working in the public interest, a commitment to volunteerism beyond employment responsibilities, a selfless commitment to helping others, and dedication to helping their community.

    Alft helped build the Reentry Legal Services program within Legal Action of Wisconsin. This program works to ensure that people who are incarcerated and who have severe mental health diagnoses can fight both the stigma of mental health and the stigma of incarceration, with the goal of reducing the chances of re-incarceration. Along the way she has helped thousands of people in the state of Wisconsin reintegrate with the care they need. A mentor and teacher of other attorneys, she has also opened the eyes of the legal community to the value and necessity of addressing mental health in our legal system.

    Jolene Dufek: Ryan Klesh Outstanding Public Interest Legal Worker

    Jolene DufekJolene Dufek of Legal Action of Wisconsin is the recipient of this year’s Public Interest Law Section’s Ryan Klesh Outstanding Public Interest Legal Worker ​Award. The award recognizes an individual who captures the essence of the late Ryan Klesh: selflessness, work ethic, kindness, intellect, authenticity, and humor in working to seek justice for low-income neighbors, family, or friends.

    Dufek has been a paralegal with the Elder Rights Project (ERP) at Legal Action of Wisconsin since 2016. The project provides free civil legal assistance to individuals aged 60 and older who have been a victim of elder abuse, especially financial exploitation. During her time with ERP, she has demonstrated her commitment to clients through humor, kindness, and determination. “She actively seeks out opportunities to present on the work that we are doing to spread the word. As a result, community members who have seen her speak regularly ask for her to present at future meetings or write articles for newsletters on a variety of topics affecting seniors. Dufek developed an entire “Know Your Rights” series for Wisconsin seniors and continues to present in a variety of forums,” writes nominator Lauren Hamvas, Elder Rights Project Director.

    Paul Kuglitsch: Government Lawyers Division Grant F. Langley Service Award

    Paul Kuglitsch​Paul Kuglitsch of Milwaukee is the recipient of the 2021 Grant F. Langley Service Award from the Government Lawyers Division (GLD). The award is presented to an attorney with accomplishments in the legal profession who serves not only the government and citizens, but also 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.

    Those who worked with Paul Kuglitsch call him an “exemplar of a government lawyer in his work and character,” said nominator Scott Manske, Milwaukee County comptroller. A lawyer for Milwaukee County for many years – with the last decade as deputy corporation counsel – Paul was a true resource for government lawyers throughout Wisconsin. “Paul had that rare combination of legal acumen and devotion to public service,” said Milwaukee Assistant City Attorney James Carroll, one of many who nominated Paul for the award. Sadly,​ Paul passed away in March 2021 at the age of 50. “He was an extraordinary lawyer and human being whose career honors government service,” Carroll said.

    Kathryn M. Bullon: Nonresident Lawyers Division Founder’s Award

    Kathryn Bullon headshotKathryn M. Bullon ​​of Sombra, Ontario, Canada, is this year’s recipient of the 2022 Nonresident Lawyers Division (NRLD) Founder’s Award, which recognizes a nonresident member who has brought positive change to the NRLD and has actively participated in State Bar activities for many years.

    Bullon has served in State Bar leadership for many years, serving on the Executive Committee for five years, on the Finance Committee for eight years, chairing the Continuing Legal Education Committee, and serving on the NRLD board. She is also a former NRLD board president. Bullon played a key part in securing a Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule amendment that ensures NRLD members are given full comity for CLE earned in compliance with their jurisdiction of practice. Additionally, Bullon played an essential role on the State Bar’s Emeritus Task Force.

    Bullon's nominator, Emily S. Kelchen, says: “I didn’t know what kind of trouble I was getting myself into when she took me under her wing and convinced me to join several NRLD committees. I’ve since become a bit of a 'Bar nerd' because she included me in conversations, connected the dots between things I was working on and broader State Bar initiatives, introduced me to other Bar leaders, and made sure I knew I could always reach out to her if I had any questions. As I have become a more seasoned member of the NRLD board, I have tried to emulate her. I fall short of her wit and style, but hope to get there someday!”

    Gregg M. Herman: Senior Lawyers Division’s Leonard L. Loeb Award

    Gregg Herman headshotGregg M. Herman of Milwaukee is the recipient of the 2022 Senior Lawyers Division’s Leonard L. Loeb Award. The award is given for a lifetime of exceptional contributions to community and the profession, and to further 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.

    Herman began his career in law as a prosecutor before joining with Leonard L. Loeb to practice family law in 1984. He is now the firm’s managing partner, and is active in numerous professional organizations, legislative endeavors, and activities designed to improve the practice of family law and to alleviate the impacts of divorce on children. He is a longst​anding leader in the area of family law in Wisconsin. For the past several years, Herman has led the American Academy of Matrimon​ial Lawyers Wisconsin Chapter’s case law update panel, which presents at events around the state, including the Wisconsin Family Law Judges seminar, and the Family Law Section’s annual meeting in Door County. It is a huge undertaking, but Gregg has developed the update into an informative, interesting, and challenging presentation. He is a valuable resource to other lawyers and willing to lend an ear as well as guidance through difficult issues.

    Alyssa Johnson: Young Lawyers Division Outstanding Mentor Award

    Alyssa JohnsonAlyssa Johnson of Milwaukee is the 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.

    An attorney in Milwaukee with Barron & Newburger, P.C., Johnson is honored for her dedication to mentoring, and for helping new lawyers learn and grow. For the past three years, Johnson has mentored with the State Bar of Wisconsin Ready.Set.Practice. Mentoring Program. “It is clear that she was passionate about this work,” said Jose Castro, president-elect of the State Bar of Wisconsin Young Lawyers Division. “She has already made a difference in the lives of the attorneys she mentored.”

    Find out more about Johnson in the April 6, 2022, issue of InsideTrack.

    Kevin M. Smith: Young Lawyers Division Outstanding Young Lawyer Award

    Kevin M. SmithKevin M. Smith of Janesville is the 2021 Young Lawyers Division’s Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year. This award is given to young lawyers who make an impact in their practice areas and in service to the State Bar and to their community.

    Smith is an attorney with the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office in the Janesville and Beloit area. He is being honored for his advocacy work with his clients. “Kevin shows a passion for helping those underserved and often left behind by our legal system,” Castro said.

    “He has gone above and beyond, by taking on mentorship roles, training young lawyers in his office and mentoring several interns from the U.W. Law School.” He volunteers in other areas, including with the State Bar Mock Program and the U.W. Law School Moot Court competition. “All this is so rare in an attorney so early in his career.”

    Find out more about Smith in the April 6, 2022, issue of InsideTrack.

    Gabriel Manzano Nieves: Outstanding Public Interest Law Students

    Gabriel Manzano NievesThe Public Interest Law Section honors law students who demonstrate a commitment to public interest work, to volunteer work or activism in their community, and to helping others in their communities. This year, the section honors Gabriel Manzano Nieves.

    When Nieves entered law school, he knew he would dedicate his work to public interest law and serving the underserved. Growing up in Puerto Rico, Nieves experienced first-hand the effects of stark poverty.

    After hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico, he took a leave of absence from his university studies to help his family and others recover, via a fundraiser and volunteer team that delivered aid to some of Puerto Rico’s most isolated and devastated mountain communities. A U.S. Navy veteran, Nieves will become the first lawyer in his family thanks to the G.I. Bill.

    Through his work with the U.W. Law School Immigrant Justice Clinic, Gabriel supported clients with petitions for asylum, a Withholding of Removal case, and a Special Immigrant Juvenile case, among others. Gabriel also participates in the U.W. Law Latino Law Student Association and worked with the Farmworker Project, including conducting intensive outreach to agricultural workers throughout Wisconsin to provide educational materials on worker rights. With a long-term commitment to working in public interest, Gabriel joins Legal Action of Wisconsin as a Farmworker Project attorney in June 2022.

    Join Us at the Annual Meeting & Conference in June in Lake Geneva

    Want to celebrate a friend, family member, or colleague being honored at the Member Recognition Celebration? Join us for this free event on Thursday, June 16, at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva.

    The celebration takes place at the State Bar Annual Meeting & Conference. Register now to choose from more than 26 CLE sessions covering top trends, hot topics, and enduring advice for today’s lawyers.

    In addition, featured plenary speakers, the Legal Expo, networking luncheons, the Presidential Swearing-in Ceremony, the All-Conference Party will help you connect, learn, and relax.

    Reserve your spot today!

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