WACDL has five awards that recognize criminal defense lawyers.
The Advocates Prize: The Martin Hanson Memorial Prize
The Advocate’s Prize is awarded to those practitioners who have accomplished the rare and difficult task of winning a criminal homicide case. The reason for making the award is to give some recognition to the good work being done by members of the criminal defense bar in representing their clients. We are confident that most attorneys defending these serious charges do a good job regardless of the outcome, but we know that every attorney who secures an acquittal has done an outstanding job.
This prize is named for Martin Hanson, and is intended as a compliment to the recipient. Martin Hanson was one of the finest criminal law advocates of his generation, and was a founding director of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
The Board of Directors of WACDL decided that the Martin Hanson Memorial Prize is automatic for acquittal on any criminal homicide, and that in certain cases dismissals short of trial will be awarded based upon an evaluation of the merits by the directors from the district in which the dismissal was obtained. The Advocate’s Prize is retroactive to Martin’s date of death in September of 1995.
Procedurally any attorney can be nominated. Self nominations are accepted. The nomination is referred to the directors of the district who confirm the information and send it on to the Board to make the award.
The following criminal defense attorneys have received the Advocates Prize:
Daniel Adams, State v. Kattner, 2016 CF 4995, Milwaukee County
Leonard Adent, State v. Riegel, 1994 CF 387, Waukesha County
Kate Avoles, State v. Carsello, 2010 CF 64, Washburn County
Keith Belzer, State v. Zimmerman, 2001 CF 63, Eau Claire County
Keith Belzer, State v. Eness, 2004 CF 119, Vernon County
John Birdsall, State v. Lewis, 2009 CF 2893, Milwaukee County
John Bliss, State v. Adam Berna, 2001 CF 124, Marathon County
Charles Blumenfield, State v. Brossard, 2008 CF 351, Walworth County
Ann Bowe, State v. Davis, 2006 CF 4760, Milwaukee County
John Brinckman, State v. Marquardt, 2000 CF 104, Chippewa County
John Brinckman, State v. Youngthunder, 2006 CF 12, Monroe County
Dennis Burke, State v. Kelly, 2007 CF 996, Dane County
Jeff Cano, State v. Angel-Monterrosa, 2004 CF 1120, Brown County
John Miller Carroll. State v. Krueger, Shawano County, 2019 CF 35
John Miller Carroll, State v. Birr, 2008 CF 826, Outagamie County
Scott Ceman, State v. Martinez-Mendez, Case No 2020 F 609, Winnebago County
Jane Christopherson, State v. Wilke, Milwaukee County, 2015 CF 3165, 2018
Michael Cohen, State v. Martin, 2016 CF 70, Rusk County
Anthony Cotton, State v. Zollicoffer, 2016 CF 4227, Milwaukee County
Mark Eisenberg, State v. Fries, Dane Count,20 17 CF 840, 2018
Caitlin Hazard Firer, State v. Pierce, Milwaukee County, 2017 CF 5844, 2019
William Fitzgerald, State v. Angel-Monterrosa, 2004 CF 1120, Brown County
Melissa Fitzsimmons, State v. Blackburn, 2003 CF 4146, Milwaukee County
Alex Flynn, Milwaukee, State v. Hoepner,20 97-CF-401, Washington County
Mark Frank, State v. Tate, 2003 CF 1639, Dane County
Melissa Frost, State v. Andritsch, 2007 CF 436, Walworth County
Nicholas Gansner, State v. Steele, 2014 CF 1680, Dane County
Charles Giesen, State v. Davis, 1996 CF 1903, Dane County
Charles Giesen, State v. Petry, 1999 CF 371, Dane County
Charles Giesen, State v. Mertz, 2003 CF 1775, Winnebago (Illinois)
Taylor Hart, State v. Valdez, 2018 CF 45, Iowa County
Grant Henderson, State v. Morris, 2018 CF 1280, Racine County
Harry Hertel, State v. Carsello, 2010 CF 64, Washburn County
Stephen Hurley, State v. Zapata, 2006 CF 1996, Dane County
University of Wisconsin Law School Innocence Project, State v. Zimmerman, 2001 CF 63, Eau Claire County
Michael Jackelen, State v. Curry,20 02-CF-384, Dodge County.
Richard Johnson, State v. Jones, 2000 CF 159, Milwaukee County
Russell J.A. Jones, State v. Collins, Milwaukee County, 2018 CF 1636,
Russell J.A. Jones, State v. Johnson, Milwaukee County, 2015 CF 4331
Thomas Kasen, State v. Brim, Racine County
Robert Keller, State v. Garcia, 2001 CF 512, Racine County
Tim Kiefer, State v, James, 2912 CF 624, 2018, Dane County
Brian Kintsler, State v. Ruffin-Brand, 2009 CF 1, Sheboygan County
Steven R. Kohn, State v. Heaggan-Brown, 2016 CF 5562, Milwaukee County
Alexander Kostal, State v. Morris, 2018 CF 1280, Racine County
Bridget Krause, State v. Idris, 2016 CF 678, Milwaukee County
Donna Kuchler, State v. Dittberner, 2004 CF 147, Jefferson County
Donna Kuchler, State v. Ramgoolie, 2008 CF 316-X, Marion County, FL
Tracey Lencioni, State v. Kelly, 2007 CF 996, Dane County
James MacDonald, State v. Peterson, Racine County
Andrew Martiinez, State v. Kraemer, 2014 CF 409, Columbia County, 2019
Andrew Martinez. State v. Tetting, 2007 CF 244, Juneau County, 2019
William Mayer, State v. Johnson, 2000 CF 341, Dodge County
Jeremiah Meyer-O'Day, State v. Valdez, 2018 CF 45, Iowa County
Adrienne Moore, State v. Chavez, 2004 CF 451, Racine County
Reyna Morales, State v. Pierce, 2017CF 5844,, Milwaukee County
Austin Mort, State v. Drescher, 2016 CF 3714, Milwaukee County
Michael Murphy, State v. Davenport, 2019 CF 343, Rock County
Aaron Nelson, State v. Edgemon, 2008 CF 61, Dunn County
Aaron Nelson, State v. Johnson, 2013 CF 194, Douglas County
Aaron Nelson, State v. Milberg, 2015 CF 55, Pierce County
Aaron Nelson, State v. Dunn, 2014 CF 359, Douglas County
Aaron Nelson, State v. Lloyd, 2016 CF 325, Chippewa County
Aaron Nelson, State v. Jones, 2017 CF 45, Dunn County
Andrew Nelson, State v. Brown, 2012 CF 77, Pierce County
Jessa Nicholson-Goetz, State v. Steele, 2014 CF 1680, Dane County
Mark Nielson, State v. Carter, 1996 CF 978, Racine County
Mark Nielson. State v. Ellison, 2000 CF 480, Racine County
Roseann Oliveto, State v. Bickem-Arbegust, 2007 CF 436, Richland County
Kathleen Ann Pakes, State v. Heller, 16 CF 191, Milwaukee County
Deborah Patterson, State v. Chavez, 2004 CF 451, Racine County
Greg Petit, State v. Werth, 1999 CF 4, Forest County
Michael Plaisted, State v. Washington, 2016 CF 1939, Milwaukee County
Dawn Rabin, State v. King, 2012 CF 2508, Milwaukee County
James Rael, State v. Idris, 2016 CF 678, Milwaukee County
William Reddin, State v. Tucholka, 2006 CF 241, Washington County
Mackenzie Renner, State v. Meyer, 2019 CF 464, Walworth County
Mary Lou Robinson, State v. Holewinski, 1995 CF 414
Susan Roth, State v. Dean, 2016 CF 4722, Milwaukee County
Cole Daniel Ruby, State v. Tetting, 07 CF 244, Juneau County, 2019
Michael Rudolph, State v. Bodart, 1997 CF 331, Outagamie County
Jason Sanders,State v. Meyer, 2019 CF 464, Walworth County
David Saperstein, State v. Blickem-Arbegust, 2007 CF 436, Richland County
Michael Schiek, State v. Bodoh, 2009 CF 79, Oneida County
Travis Schwantes, State v. Heller,, CF CF 191, Milwaukee County
Paul Schwartz, State v. Banks, 2009 CF 624, Racine County.
Robin Shellow, State v. Gill, 2011 CF 4735, Milwaukee County
Travis Schwantes, State v. Distasio, 2017 CF 4564, Milwaukee County
Jonathan C. Smith, State v. Heaggan-Brown,; 2016 Cf 5562, Milwaukee County
Dean Strang, State v. Zapata, 2006 CF 1996, Dane County
Christian Thomas, State v. Drescher, 2016 CF 3714, Milwaukee County
Christopher T. Van Wagner, State v. Salm,20 02-CF-106, Marquette County.
Christopher T. Van Wagner, State v. Northam,20 00-CF-101, Marquette County.
Christopher T. Van Wagner, State v. Meng, 1999 CF 142, Grant County
Christopher T. Van Wagner, Stae v. Caraus, 2016 CF 146, Grant County
Deja Vishny, State vs. Rudolph, 2003-CF-4694, Milwaukee County
Deja Vishny, State v. Blackburn, 2003 CF 4140, Milwaukee County
Deja Vishny, State v. Prude, 1996 CF 2441, Milwaukee County
Deja Vishny, State v. King, 2012 Cf 2508, Milwaukee County
Deja Vishny, State v. Distasio, 2017 CF 4564, Milwaukee County
Richard Wachowski, State v. Berseth, 2002 CF 195, Chippewa County
Christopher Zachar, State v. Koller, 17 CF 327, Jackson County
Christopher Zachar, State v. Sackett, 2018 CF 777, LaCrosse County,
Dave Niblack was Wisconsin's State Public Defender from 1979 until 1983. He died unexpectedly in the Fall of 2000, but will always be remembered by those for whom he advocated, and those he taught or befriended. He was a good friend to anyone committed to the protection of rights for the least popular among us. When our clients had no one to stand with them, Dave stood with them. He delighted in teaching young attorneys the way, and sure knew how to tell a story. Under his leadership, the SPD as we know it today survived in a period of daily attack and controversy.
To honor Dave Niblack's memory, and to encourage others to follow in his footsteps, in 2001 the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (WACDL) established the David C. Niblack Award, to be given every December at the WACDL Ethics seminar in Madison, at which Dave taught.
The purposes of this award:
- To recognize the contributions of an attorney to the effective defense of the indigent, either cumulative career contributions or outstanding accomplishments.
- To honor and preserve the memory of an outstanding attorney who devoted his life and considerable talents to the defense of those who needed it but could not pay for it.
Criteria: Pride and professionalism in the work; competence in provision of services; respect for the clients.
Robert Peterson - 2005
Krista Ralston - 2006
Ann Munninghoff - 2007
Terry Rose - 2008
Michele LaVigne - 2009
Donna Kuchler and Gerard Kuchler - 2010
Ronald Benavides - 2011
Peter Goldberg - 2012
Aaron Nelson - 2014
Donald Lang - 2014
Ann Bowe - 2015
Deja Vishny - 2015
Walter Isaacson - 2016
John Birdsall - 2017
Henry "Hank" Schultz - 2017
Sam Benedict - 2018
Michael Covey - 2019
Eric Schulenburg - 2020
The Coffey Defender Award is to be given to an individual who has made significant contributions to professionalism in the criminal practice. There are no limitations on who may be nominated: judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, non-lawyers, legislators, elected officials, organizations, advocacy groups, etc. The contributions may be by virtue of teaching, through bar and professional activities, through cumulative career achievements, or by virtue of some specific outstanding achievement in the recent past.
Nominations for the William M. Coffey Defender Award can be made in writing directly to WACDL as described below, by letter, fax or email. There is no prescribed format for nominations. If you are nominating an individual who may not be a “household name” or whose virtues may not be readily apparent, obviously you should tell us about the person and why he or she meets the criteria.
The William M. Coffey Defender Award is voted on by the President and Ex-Presidents of WACDL
Recipients of the William Coffey Award, The Defender
Eric Schulenburg - 2003
Dean Strang - 2004
Franklyn Gimble - 2005
Waring Fincke - 2006
Stephen Hurley - 2007
Judge Louis Butler - 2008
Robert Henak - 2009
Nik Kostich - 2010
E. Michael McCann- 2011
Stephen Glynn. - 2013
Donna Kuchler - 2014
Kathleen Stilling - 2016
Jerry Buting - 2017
John Birdsall, Henry "Hank" Schultz and Richard Kaiser - 2018
Justice Shirley Abrahamson - 2019
Michael Cicchini - 2020
Chad Lanning - 2021
Calvin Malone - 2021
The Ellen and Robert Henak Distinguished Service Award
In order to be eligible to receive this award, one must
1. Have served on the WACDL Board for at least six years
2. Have attended at least 75% of board meetings during board tenure
3. Have initiated and/or made significant contributions to one or more WACDL projects, events, initiatives, etc.
4. Be approved for the award by vote of at least 90% of current board members.
2020 - Ellen and Robert Henak
.The Stilling-Kuchler-Nicholson (“SKN”)Sensitive Crimes Award
This award was created in 2021 to honor criminal defense lawyers who have secured acquittals in cases alleging felony sexual assault of either an adult or a child. (Specifically, any violation of Wis. Stats. 940.225(1), (2), or (3) or Wis. Stats. 948.02(1) or (2).)
The WACDL seeks to acknowledge and honor the particular combination of sensitivity, toughness, research, and trial advocacy skills necessary to achieve acquittals in these especially challenging cases. The laws surrounding sexual assault prosecutions are complicated and dynamic, and typically require attorneys that try these cases to develop specialized knowledge of medical evidence such as SANE results, DNA evidence, protocols regarding videotaped interviews with child witnesses, and, of course, how to effectively pierce rape shield.
In addition, traditional cross-examination techniques are often turned on their heads when handling witnesses that are young children or developmentally disabled, and the lawyers that are tasked with performing such cross-examinations must develop a wide range of tones and techniques to be effective in front of juries.
As we charge further into the 21st century and the era of #metoo, the social and political implications of being charged with or convicted of sex crimes is so devastating, and the prejudice against even the accusation is so strong that committed criminal defense attorneys handling these cases face a constant uphill battle. As such, we seek to celebrate the rare and remarkable achievement of a felony-level acquittal for these charges.
The award gets its’ name from three lawyers (Kathleen Stilling, Donna Kuchler, and Jessa Nicholson, respectively) that have devoted their careers to sensitive crime defenses and have achieved outstanding results, including notable acquittals, often in high-profile cases.
Nominations are open and will be referred to the directors of the district who can confirm the information and send it on to the WACDL Board of Directors to formally issue the award.