The Acknowledging Professional Excellence (APEX) Awards honor exemplary members of the legal community, including legal professionals, judges, and members of the public.
Note: APEX Award winners are nominated by WSBA members and members of the public. Nominations are reviewed by the WSBA APEX Awards Committee (made up of members of the WSBA Board of Governors), which makes recommendations to the full Board of Governors. Nominations for the 2022 awards open in January. Questions can be emailed to email@example.com.
For more information and to view the entire 2021 awards presentation ceremony as well as the award winners’ videos, visit www.wsba.org/news-events/apex-awards.
Award of Merit > This award is the Bar’s highest honor and is given to an individual for a recent, singular achievement. The singular achievement may involve a display of exceptional courage in the face of adversity, thus bringing credit to the legal profession. It is awarded to individuals only—both legal professionals and members of the public.
Award of Merit
David A. Perez
Nominations for Perez, a partner at Perkins Coie LLP with a focus on intellectual property, centered on his pro bono work with the ACLU and Seattle University’s Korematsu Center to protect protestors during the 2020 racial justice movement. Their work resulted in a temporary restraining order against the use of chemical irritants and projectiles. Perez continued working on behalf of protestors after police violated the order, resulting in a stipulated injunction and finding of civil contempt against the city of Seattle. Perez said, “After witnessing repeated and blatant violations of protestors’ constitutional rights, we had to act.” A nominator wrote, “David has raised the stature of lawyers in and amongst the Bar and the entire community of Washington state. We all benefit from David’s pro bono work.”
Justice Charles Z. Smith
Excellence in Diversity Award
James F. Williams
Williams is a managing partner at Perkins Coie LLP where he litigates complex business cases. His extensive pro bono work includes Wilbur v. City of Mt. Vernon, 989 F. Supp. 2d 1122 (W.D. Wash. 2013), which led to substantial reforms protecting the right to counsel in Washington. His leadership roles in community service organizations such as the Washington Leadership Institute, Treehouse, and the Metropolitan Seattle Urban League, as well as his everyday dedication and integrity, inspired the outpouring of nominations from his colleagues and friends.
Justice Charles Z. Smith Excellence in Diversity Award > Named in honor of Justice C. Z. Smith, the first African American to serve on the Washington Supreme Court, this award goes to a lawyer, law firm, or law-related group that has made a significant contribution to diversity in the legal profession.
Legal Innovation Award > This award recognizes legal professionals, law firms, courts, law schools, individuals, or organizations who demonstrate leadership in promoting innovation in the practice of law. Innovation may be defined as programs, processes, or technology that advance or streamline the future of the profession and accessibility/delivery of legal services.
Legal Innovation Award
Jacqueline G. Schafer
Schafer’s nominations centered around her groundbreaking work developing Clearbrief, a program that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to review citations in legal writing. Having served as an assistant attorney general in Washington and Alaska and as in-house counsel for the national child welfare nonprofit Casey Family Programs, she applies AI tools to improve the practice of law, particularly child welfare and foster care systems.
Angelo Petruss Award
for Lawyers in Government Service
Julian M. Bray
Bray spent the majority of his career representing the Department of Social and Health Services and the Department of Children, Youth, and Families through the Washington Attorney General’s Office. He helped found the Pierce County chapter of Lawyers Helping Hungry Children and volunteered on the city of Tacoma’s Human Services Commission, as well as the WSBA’s Client Protection Board, Character and Fitness Board, and Disciplinary Board. Supporters noted he was a significant factor in the success of the Family Recovery Court in Pierce County and led the development of the first Baby Court in Washington. A supporter emphasized that he was “one of the most astute, erudite, influential, and congenial lawyers to have ever served in the Washington State Office of the Attorney General and as a member of the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association.”
Angelo Petruss Award for Lawyers in Government Service > Named in honor of Angelo R. Petruss, a senior assistant attorney general who passed away during his term of service on the WSBA Board of Governors, this award is given to a lawyer in government service who has made a significant contribution to the legal profession, the justice system, and the public.
Lifetime Service Award > This is a special award given for a lifetime of service to the legal community and the public.
Lifetime Service Award
William H. Gates II
Gates was an unforgettable role model, mentor, and friend whose work touched countless lives. He left an indelible impression through his practice, his advocacy for tax fairness and diversity in the legal profession, and his service to many nonprofit, philanthropic, and civic entities, including terms as president of the Seattle-King County Bar Association (now the King County Bar Association) and the WSBA.
Lt. Col. Melanie J. Mann
Lt. Col. Mann served as a Marine Corps Judge Advocate General (JAG) Officer in prosecution and defense roles for many years before assuming the role of military judge in 2020. She maintained momentum on her docket and was instrumental in keeping recruits’ basic training on schedule despite coronavirus restrictions. Her work also opened the door for the first transgender Marine recruits and the integration of women into combat roles. Prosecution and defense groups across the Marine Corps employ training and certification programs she developed.
Professionalism Award > This honor is awarded to a WSBA member who exemplifies the spirit of professionalism in the practice of law, as defined in the WSBA’s Creed of Professionalism.
Outstanding Judge Award
Chief Justice Gerry L. Alexander (Ret.)
Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexander’s nomination described how he personifies what the chief should be: smart, hardworking, humble, having a keen understanding of the law and stare decisis while also adapting to changing times, maintaining the peace among his fellow justices, and a dedication to public outreach.
Outstanding Judge Award > This award is presented for outstanding service to the bench and for special contribution to the legal profession at any level of the court.
Outstanding Young Lawyer Award > This award recognizes one attorney who has made significant contributions to the professional community, especially the community of young lawyers, within their initial years of practice. Recipients must be active WSBA members who are within five years of admission to any bar association or are less than 36 years of age.
Outstanding Young Lawyer Award
Heer is an associate in Foster Garvey PC’s investment management group who distinguished himself in only a few years of practice. His dedication to pro bono service goes far beyond the norm and includes a successful clemency petition unanimously supported by the state Clemency & Pardons Board. Many advocacy groups take advantage of Heer’s advice and mentorship and use his pro bono work as a template in civil rights litigation and training for the next generation of advocates.
Norm Maleng Leadership Award
Edmund R. Witter
Witter serves the Housing Justice Project as the senior managing attorney. His nominators emphasized his commitment to racial justice and equity and his advocacy for improved housing legislation, and stressed that he “embodies commitment to access to civil legal aid, advocacy for marginalized communities, and a willingness to change the material conditions preventing tenants from fully exercising their rights.”
Norm Maleng Leadership Award > This award is presented in partnership with the Access to Justice Board in honor of the late King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng’s legacy as a leader. He was an innovative and optimistic leader committed to justice and access to justice in both civil and criminal settings. Within the profession, his leadership was characterized by his love of the law and commitment to diversity and mentorship. This award recognizes those who embody these qualities.
Pro Bono and Public Service Awards
These awards are presented to an individual, a lawyer, a legal professional, law firm, or other legal entity for outstanding cumulative efforts in providing pro bono services or for giving back in meaningful ways to the public, the community, or the legal profession. Nominations are made in two categories: (1) for an individual, or solo or small firm practitioner; (2) for a multi-person law firm or organization.
Virtual Help, a collaboration between Perkins Coie LLP, Microsoft, and Legal Hope
Virtual Help responded to domestic abuse survivors’ urgent need for access to courts following the early coronavirus restrictions. The groups collaborated to create an innovative program facilitating remote access to courts and pro bono counsel.
Master Chief Petty Officer Sally A. Webster
Master Chief Petty Officer Webster took the unusual step of volunteering for the Navy Reserve five years after starting with the legal department at Microsoft, where she is now a senior attorney. She went on to serve tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks to her dedication and acumen, she achieved the highest positions possible for an enlisted reservist, command master chief of the Navy Reserve Law Program and the senior enlisted advisor to the deputy judge advocate general for Reserve Affairs and Operations. She has also volunteered with organizations helping unaccompanied immigrant children and Microsoft’s military veteran’s employee network. Her service, integrity, and mentorship left a mark on colleagues and friends in and outside the service.
Sally P. Savage Leadership in Philanthropy Award
Karen W. Murray
Murray’s supporters highlighted this distinguished social justice advocate’s years of service as a public defender and mentor. Supporters particularly emphasized her enthusiasm for the King County Bar Association’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon Committee.
Sally P. Savage Leadership in Philanthropy Award > Sally Savage led the Washington State Bar Foundation’s renaissance and was a catalyst for its refocused mission to sustain the WSBA’s efforts to advance justice and diversity. Her clarity, expertise, and vision helped establish a path for enduring support of a strong bar association that provides statewide leadership on matters of profound importance to the profession and the citizenry. Savage’s spirit of generosity and leadership continue to inspire all who recognize the transformative potential of philanthropy. Philanthropy means “love of humanity” and focuses on private initiatives for the public good, focusing on quality of life. Savage emulated this spirit of philanthropy in her life, and it is in her memory that the Bar Foundation continues to honor donors, volunteers, and friends of the Washington State Bar Foundation who embody her spirit.