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2019 Annual Public Defender Conference

Department of Public Advocacy

Department of Public Advocacy
Justice & Public Safety Cabinet


                    Contact: Cara Lane Cape
(502) 564-8006

2019 Annual Public Defender Conference

Public Employees honored as part of Recognition Luncheon

FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 2019) - On June 11, 2019, public defenders and many special guests from around the Commonwealth gathered at the Crowne Ballroom in Louisville, Kentucky for the 47th Annual Public Defender Conference Recognition Luncheon, to celebrate defenders for exceptional service to the criminal justice system. Of the ceremony, Public Advocate Damon Preston said, "This is our biggest event of the year. We get to celebrate the good work of many of our employees and do it in front of our guests who honor us with their attendance" 

Preston welcomed friends from the court system, General Assembly, and the Kentucky Bar Association, as well as former leaders of the Department of Public Advocacy.  The theme at this year's conference and luncheon was "Make a Mark, Find Your Legacy."  As Public Advocate Preston explained, "To us, being a public defender is not just being a cog in the wheel of justice, but an opportunity to make a difference for clients. To make a difference individually in their lives by standing by them, by providing a voice and presence on their side, and by seeing them and treating them as a human being, not a caricature borne of their worst moment. Also to make a difference for clients collectively by being part of a force that's moving the system towards justice, fairness, and the protection of liberty. A public defender should never acquiesce to business as usual; rather, we should examine daily where we can bring change for the betterment of clients, for DPA, for the criminal justice system, and for the people of the Commonwealth at large. We want to Make a Mark, Find a Legacy so tomorrow is a little more just, maybe a little more fair, a little more dignified, a little more free because of the work we have done."

The 2019 Defender Award Recipients include:

Defender Uprising Award – Kami Daws Granade
For Demonstrating that Standing Up for Clients Can Start on Day One

Kami is a staff attorney in the Bullitt County trial office. Prior to coming to Kentucky, she worked in South Carolina as a public defender for a couple of years. Although she joined the Bullitt office only last July, she has already made her mark in the local courts. As part of an active motion practice challenging law enforcement practices, she filed and won a suppression motion after an illegal search, leading to a complete dismissal for her client. In January, less than six months after joining the office, Kami figured out that a client who was sentenced to 12 months in jail on a misdemeanor was not receiving good-time credit. In fact, no misdemeanants were receiving the credits. After unsuccessfully trying to persuade the jailer to grant the credits, she filed a motion in circuit court, which led to the Judge ordering the jailer to show cause why he was not following the law. Not only did Ms. Granade prevail in her motion, but her case set the precedent leading to the faster release of other misdemeanants in the jail, benefitting clients and saving valuable costs and jail space.

Furman Award – St. Clair Team
For Outstanding Achievements on Behalf of Capital Clients

Samara J. Baker, Capital Post-Conviction
Susan Jackson Balliet, Appeals Branch (former)
David M. Barron, Capital Post-Conviction
Katherine Blair, Capital Post-Conviction (former)
Clay Beineke, Capital Post-Conviction
Donna Boyce, Appeals Branch (former)
Justin C. Brown, Contract Counsel
Scott B. Drabenstadt, Contract Counsel
James Drummond, Contract Counsel
Heather L. Gatnarek, Capital Trial Branch (former)
Jim Gibson, Capital Trial Branch (former)
Jonathan G. Hieneman, Contract Counsel
Linda Horsman, Appeals Branch (former)
Christopher McCrary, Elizabethtown Trial Office (former)
Steve Mirkin, Elizabethtown Trial Office (former)
Julie Namkin, Appeals Branch (former)
Samuel N. Potter, Post-Conviction Branch
Emily Rhorer, Appeals Branch
Theodore S. Shouse, Capital Trial Branch (former)
Shannon Dupree Smith, Appeals Branch
Teresa Whitaker, Capital Trial Branch
Audrey Woosnam, Capital Trial Branch
Robert C. Yang, Appeals Branch
Vincent P. Yustas, Contract Counsel (awarded posthumously)

Michael St. Clair, a person with an intellectual disability, was arrested in Oklahoma in 1991 for the death of Frank Brady and brought to Kentucky in 1995. Through the hard fought efforts of 24 team members throughout the years and countless others staff members, in September 2018, the prosecution agreed to cease pursuing the death penalty against Mr. St. Clair and he is off Kentucky's Death Row. Upon the agreement that Michael was no longer facing the death penalty, Kentucky sent him back to the Oklahoma prison system where he will serve a life sentence with no opportunity for parole. The agency was honored to recognize the team of public servants who stood with their client through a 25-year process that ended up where it could have started. Their outstanding legal work saved the Commonwealth from committing an unconstitutional and unjust act and literally saved their client's life.

Professionalism & Excellence Award – Serah E. Wiedenhoefer
For Exhibiting the Highest Professional Standards in
Defender Service and Client Representation

Serah joined DPA in 2010 after three years of research for appellate courts and eight years of practice in Michigan. After a couple of years in Maysville, Serah moved to the Boone County office where she remains today. Serah is loved and respected by her co-workers for her personal drive and commitment to clients. Experienced attorneys Eric Van Santen and Brian Hewlett say she embodies the definition of preparedness and fiercely defends her clients with a steadfast and resolute professionalism. Others in the office say she is an inspiration, passionate, kind, and respectful. Donna Mason-Svara in her nomination says this: "With Serah, her clients come first. She isn't afraid to take an unpopular position to protect her client's rights and interests. Her clients have faith that she is working hard for them. In the office, Serah is an all-around wonderful person, quick with a smile and a laugh, a great role model and co-worker and an asset to DPA." In short, Serah exhibits daily all the characteristics this award is intended to recognize.

In Re: Gault Award – Renee Vanden Wall Bake
For Advancing the Quality of Representation on Behalf of Juvenile Clients

Renee came to DPA's Juvenile Post-Disposition Branch in 2011 after graduating from the University of Connecticut, School of Law. She was promoted to JPDB supervisor in 2017. Some of her successes in published appellate decisions: NC v Commonwealth, establishing that a child at school being detained and questioned by a police officer is entitled to the same rights as an adult being questioned by a police officer. JLC v Commonwealth, which reversed and dismissed truancy cases where the school had not provided legally mandated services to address the child's need. Commonwealth v Bell, upholding the suppression of a 13-year-old's statement because of the inherent coercion of police officer's questioning a child without his parent or counsel. With regard to her performance as a leader: Tim Arnold said Renee reminded him of Gail Robinson, in that she could simultaneously be angry about the terrible things we sometimes do to kids, and relentlessly upbeat about the future.

Anthony Lewis Media Award – Avery Seeger
For Effectively Informing the Public on the Crucial Role and
Persistent Challenges of Public Defenders

Avery Seeger, reporter for the Kentucky New Era covers the local courts in Hopkinsville. His articles are always objective and fair to all sides of the justice system. He doesn't simply parrot words from a police report, but he tries to give readers an accurate picture of what's going on. And what's going on in Hopkinsville includes an understaffed DPA office. So on January 28, 2019 Mr. Seeger published a story with the headline "Public advocacy office staff shortage causing case overload." The story did not simply talk about the stereotypes, albeit accurate, of overworked and underpaid defenders, but went deeper to bring attention to the challenges of attorney turnover and vacant positions and the impact upon the court system and clients. In the tradition of Anthony Lewis, it made the criminal justice system real for the reader.

Quill Pen Award
Susan Jackson Balliet, Kathleen K. Schmidt, and Erin H. Yang
For Pursuing and Obtaining Relief for a Client from the Nation's Highest Court

On June 18, 2018, after the Kentucky Supreme Court had issued an opinion affirming the 2014 conviction and death sentence of Larry Lamont White, Kathleen Schmidt and Erin Yang filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the US Supreme Court challenging the Kentucky courts' refusal to allow consideration of evidence of Mr. White's intellectual and adaptive functioning other than an IQ score, an issue Mr. White's original appellate attorney Susan Balliet had litigated in state court. On January 14, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States granted the petition for a writ of certiorari. Rather than set the case for a full hearing, the court summarily vacated the decision of the Kentucky Supreme Court and sent it back for further consideration of the issue, a substantial victory for Mr. White. Ms. Schmidt has been the DPA Appeals Branch Manager since 2007. Ms. Yang has been a staff attorney in the Appeals Branch since 2006. Ms. Balliet retired in 2018 after 20 years as a public defender and was last year's recipient of the Nelson Mandela Lifetime Achievement Award.

Nelson Mandela Lifetime Achievement Award – Daniel T. Goyette
For Lifetime Achievement in Defender Leadership and in the Representation of Public Defender Clients

Daniel T. Goyette started as a staff attorney with the Louisville Metro Public Defender's Office in 1974 and became the Executive Director in 1982, a position he held with distinction until his decision to step aside, not retire, last year to become Defender Emeritus. In his 45-year career as a defender, Dan has represented clients in numerous high-profile cases and continues to represent death row inmate Gregory Wilson today. Dan was a charter Board member of the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and has served as KACDL's president. He has won too many awards to list, but among them are the American Bar Association's Dorsey Award in 1997 for exceptional work by a public defender or legal aid lawyer, the KBA Outstanding Lawyer Award in 2007 and KACDL's Frank Haddad Jr. Award in 2018. Former Public Advocate Ed Monahan says: Dan Goyette's lifetime of selfless dedication to advancing quality representation for clients is a remarkable testament to the passion of his decision to increase justice. Bob Ewald, who chairs the Louisville Metro Public Defender Board and serves on the Public Advocacy Commission, says Dan "is highly respected by everyone in the legal community on both sides of the aisle.   If he makes a suggestion, people listen." Dan's successor, Leo Smith, says there is an aspect of Dan's leadership that is often overlooked. Leo says, "Regardless of how busy Dan has been over the years, he still finds time to reach out to people, to assist on cases, to provide his input, his advice and his experience to others, often at late hours when most are asleep but it's the only time he has left in a day to do so. Dan is, and has always been, all about the best interests of a client." Finally, the Public Advocate who created this award, Ernie Lewis, says "Dan Goyette is exactly the kind of public servant and leader that I was thinking of when launching the Nelson Mandela award. No one has meant more to creating a culture of excellence in Kentucky public defense than Dan."

Cindy Lovell Downs Award – Vicky Phillippe
For Excellent and Dedicated Support to the Mission, Operations,
and Clients of Public Defenders

Vicky Phillippe retired recently after 38 years in the Somerset DPA Office. Those who have worked with Ms. Phillippe, says she is the most respectful person anyone would ever meet. One client who was a regular caller would always ask to make sure Ms. Phillippe knows how much he appreciated the way she treated him. Former supervisor Jim Cox said that Ms. Phillippe was the strong foundation upon which the Somerset office stood. Co-workers say, in addition to supporting the attorneys, she has also been a gentle and caring soul for our clients.

Rosa Parks Award – Robin J. Rawlins
For Dedicated, Sacrificial, and Effective Leadership and Investigative
Services to Public Defender Teams and Clients

Robin Rawlins is the Chief of the Investigative Division in the Louisville Metro Public Defender's Office, supervising ten investigators and maintaining an active caseload herself. Executive Director Leo Smith says that Robin leads by example, is always willing to help others, and believes problems are better solved using a team approach. Like any good investigator, she's always looking for ways to get things done, not for reasons why they cannot get done. In addition to her investigations and leadership, Robin applied this positive attitude when she agreed to co-chair the Wellness Program in the Louisville office.   Prior to coming to the Defender's office she spent 22 years with the Department of Corrections, including her last position as a Social Services Clinician in the Division of Mental Health. From start to finish, Robin's calling has been to help others, mainly the poor, with their problems and she continues that mission today.

Edward C. Monahan Award – Erica Michelle Roland
For Championing Client-Centered Professional Development of Public Defenders

Erica is the directing attorney in the Nicholasville Trial Office. She started as a staff attorney in the Lexington office in 2008 and has been the Nicholasville supervisor since 2015. For her entire career, despite full caseloads and other responsibilities, Erica has given her time to educate public defenders; teaching topics like ethics, negotiation, juvenile law and procedure, and helping out at regional summits, public defender college, and annual conference. Education Branch Manager Melanie Foote says Erica is consistently willing to present on new topics or to revise already existing topics. In all of her efforts she offers a strong client-centered message while also giving the same respect and compassion for training participants.

Clarence Earl Gideon Award – Glenda Edwards
For Extraordinary Commitment to Equal Justice and Courageous
Advancement of the Right to Counsel

Glenda started 20 years ago as a staff attorney in Columbia. Her gifts for leadership were quickly apparent and she rose through the ranks as a Directing Attorney and Regional Manager. In 2011, Glenda was named Trial Division Director and a member of DPA's leadership team. Despite the enormous challenges of that position, Glenda eventually became DPA's longest-serving Trial Division Director until she stepped down to return to the Columbia Office last month. Glenda's tenure as Trial Division Director was marked by the opening of new offices, stability in the division, and the development of the next generation of DPA leaders.

Additional information is available here