Partner Todd Williams is Featured in NW Lawyer as a Public Service and Leadership Award Winner

January 22, 2019

Public Service and Leadership Award Winners Chosen

WSBA Young Lawyers Committee Honors Five Local Leaders

By Emily Albrecht

The Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) Young Lawyers Committee (WYLC) recently asked the legal community to nominate new and young lawyers who are dedicated to serving their communities for the annual Public Service and Leadership Award. The WYLC’s Subcommittee on Leadership carefully considered each nominee’s long-term service and contributions to his or her community to select award recipients with a history of exemplary leadership and demonstrated commitment to public service.

  Among the factors weighed by the committee were each nominee’s: (1) leadership and service in the local community or within a bar association; (2) mentoring; (3) involvement in WSBA, ABA and/or local bar association activities; and (4) volunteer work with pro bono or public service programs. The committee balanced these factors in light of the award’s ultimate goal of highlighting the exceptional work of new and young lawyers around Washington, while promoting a culture of public service throughout the Washington bar.

Within this framework—and after deliberating over many qualified candidates—the committee selected the following five new or young lawyers to receive the Public Service and Leadership Award.

Jeffrey Johnson

Johnson has an impressive history of leadership at both state and local bar association levels, having served a three-year term as the Southeastern District representative on the Washington Young Lawyers Committee and as former vice-president of the Benton-Franklin County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Committee. Beyond his dedicated involvement within the legal community, the committee particularly valued his commitment to the broader public, as evidenced by his work with Yakima County Volunteer Attorney Services, as a sponsor and supporter of fundraising efforts for Benton-Franklin County Boys and Girls Club and The Children’s Reading Foundation of the Mid-Columbia, and as a volunteer judge for the annual YMCA Mock Trial Competition at the Benton County Courthouse. In 2017, he also worked to raise funds to plan and build a new horse stable for Therapeutic Riding of Tri-Cities (TROT), which allowed TROT to house an additional horse to provide more therapeutic services for children with mental and physical disabilities in the Tri-Cities area. Johnson recently became a partner at Johnson & Johnson Law Firm, PLLC, in Yakima and Kennewick.

André Penalver

Penalver’s nominator lauded his extensive pro bono work on asylum cases, employment cases, and at local legal clinics. In recognition of his hundreds of hours of volunteer work, he received the 2017 City of Destiny Award for Equity and Empowerment from the city of Tacoma and was named Volunteer of the Year by Yakima County. Since 2017, he has served as board president for the Campaign for Equal Justice, which is the largest private source of funding for civil legal aid in the state, funding groups such as Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Columbia Legal Services, and various neighborhood clinics. He has also traveled around the state to raise awareness about civil legal aid, helping the Campaign for Equal Justice raise $1.6 million last year. The committee was particularly impressed with the positive impact he has had on the recipients of his pro bono efforts, along with his extensive involvement in his local community—including his work with Washington Trafficking Prevention (an anti-human trafficking organization); Puyallup Food Bank; Tacoma Philharmonic; and as a mentor for College Success Foundation, which pairs underprivileged high school students with professionals in preparation for college. Penalver is an assistant United States attorney with the United States Attorney’s Office in Tacoma.

Conrad Reynoldson

Described by his nominator as “a prominent member in the community of people with disabilities,” Reynoldson—who has muscular dystrophy—makes it clear that his disability does not affect his work and, leading through example, encourages other attorneys with disabilities to overcome obstacles. In addition to being president of the Washington Attorneys with Disabilities Association, he founded Washington Civil & Disability Advocate, a not-for-profit committed to providing legal services to people with disabilities without charging attorney fees; increasing accessibility and inclusion in Washington state; and, in addition to litigation, assisting with disability education and awareness efforts, including informing the disability community on disability rights. He also shows his dedication to making the community more accessible and preventing people from taking advantage of persons with disabilities by advocating as a named plaintiff in class action suits, notably including Reynoldson, et al. v. City of Seattle, a case that resulted in the city being required to install or remediate over 20,000 curb ramps over the next 18 years. Reynoldson is founder and lead attorney at Washington Civil & Disability Advocate in Seattle.

Todd Williams

Applauded by his nominator for pro bono work that “has given voice to a group of individuals who otherwise would not have had access to the justice system,” Williams has demonstrated steadfast dedication in his commitment to assist people in need, including his involvement in ongoing litigation challenging, on Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment grounds, the policies and practices of the City of Seattle and the Washington Department of Transportation regarding sweeps of homeless encampments. In addition to the positive impacts he has had on the recipients of his pro bono efforts, the committee was impressed with his mentorship of younger associates, recently earning him a Mentorship Award from his firm. He also volunteers as a board member and provides pro bono legal services to the Evergreen Safety Council, a nonprofit organization that provides safety training and information for members of the public and businesses in the Pacific Northwest. Williams is an associate at Corr Cronin LLP in Seattle.

Cynthia Zetts

It is no surprise that Zetts was nominated for this award, given her history of providing low bono basic estate planning services to the elderly, disabled, and folks who otherwise have limited access to transportation or other barriers to traditional legal services; and her efforts to ensure that pro se litigants understand their options, the rules, and the administrative hearing process. She also founded the Seattle University Trusts and Estates/Elder Law Student Association; was selected as a member of the 2017 Seattle University Low Bono Incubator (which recognizes alumni whose mission is to provide access to justice by serving moderate-means clients); provides free lectures on basic estate planning; and mentors other attorneys who are interested in providing low-bono mobile legal services to clients in their homes and care facilities. In addition to her dedicated involvement within the legal community, the committee was particularly impressed with her commitment to public service, as demonstrated through volunteer work with Washington First Responders Will Clinics, King County Bar Association (KCBA) Neighborhood Legal Clinics, the Housing Justice Project, and Associated Counsel for the Accused. Zetts recently accepted a position as attorney advisor with the Social Security Administration.

Putting Others First

Notwithstanding the uniqueness of each nomination, these award recipients share many attributes that quickly elevated their submissions to the top of the committee’s pile. Among these commonalities were a profound public service ethic and a track record of putting the needs of others ahead of their own. The WSBA is fortunate to have such dedicated new and young members and looks forward to many more years of service from them.

For additional information about the Public Service and Leadership Award, or to learn about ways to volunteer with a pro bono or public service program, please visit www.wsba.org.

Emily Ann Albrecht is an associate with Betts, Patterson & Mines, P.S., in Seattle, where she focuses her practice on mortuary litigation and insurance defense, including product liability and professional liability. She can be reached at ealbrecht@bpmlaw.com.

Reprinted with permission of the Washington State Bar Association from the December issue of NWLawyer.

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