WACDL has three awards that it uses to 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. Birr, 2008 CF 826, Outagamie County
Jane Christopherson, State v. Wilke, Milwaukee County, 15 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, 17 CF 840, 2018
Caitlin Hazard Firer, State v. Pierce, Milwaukee County, 17 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, 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)
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, 02-CF-384, Dodge County.
Richard Johnson, State v. Jones, 2000 CF 159, Milwaukee County
Russell J.A. Jones, State v. Collins, Milwaukee County, 18 CF 1636, 2020
Thomas Kasen, State v. Brim, Racine County
Robert Keller, State v. Garcia, 2001 CF 512, Racine County
Tim Kiefer, State v, James, Dane County 12 CF 624, 2018
Brian Kintsler, State v. Ruffin-Brand, 2009 CF 1, Sheboygan
Steven R. Kohn, State v. Heaggan-Brown, 16 CF 5562, Milwaukee County
Bridget Krause, State v. Idris, 16 CF 678, Milwaukee County
Donna Kuchler, State v. Dittberner, 2004 CF 147, Jefferson County
Donna Kuchler, State v. Ramgoolie, 80 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, 14 CF 409, Columbia County, 2019
Andrew Martinez. State v. Tetting, 07 CF 244,Juneau County, 2019
William Mayer, State v. Johnson, 2000 CF 341, Dodge County
Adrienne Moore, State v. Chavez, 2004 CF 451, Racine County
Reyna Morales, State v. Pierce, Milwaukee County, 17CF 5844, 2019
Austin Mort, State v. Drescher, 16 CF 3714, Milwaukee County
Aaron Nelson, State v. Edgemon, 2008 CF 61, Dunn County
Aaron Nelson, State v. Milberg, 15 CF 55, Pierce County
Aaron Nelson, State v. Dunn, 2014 CF 359, Douglas County
Aaron Nelson, State v. Jones, 2017 CF 45, Dunn County
Andrew Nelson, State v. Brown, 12 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
James Rael, State v. Idris, 16 CF 678, Milwaukee County
William Reddin, State v. Tucholka, 2006 CF 241, Washington 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
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
Jonathan C. Smith, State v. Heaggan-Brown,; 16 Cf 5562, Milwaukee County
Dean Strang, State v. Zapata, 2006 CF 1996, Dane County
Christian Thomas, State v. Drescher, 16 CF 3714, Milwaukee County
Christopher T. Van Wagner, State v. Salm, 02-CF-106, Marquette County.
Christopher T. Van Wagner, State v. Northam, 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, 03-CF-4694, Milwaukee County
Deja Vishny, State v. Blackburn, 2003 CF 4140, Milwaukee County
Richard Wachowski, State v. Berseth, 2002 CF 195, Chippewa County
Christopher Zachar, State v. Koller, Jackson County, 17 CF 327, 2019
Christopher Zachar, State v. Sackett, 18 CF 777, LaCrosse County, 2020
David C. Niblack Award
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
AnnBowe - 2015
Walter Isaacson - 2016
John Birdsall - 2017
Henry "Hank" Schultz - 2017
Sam Benedict - 2018
William M. Coffey Defender Award
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
Coffey Defender Award information coming soon.