Updated: Aug. 31, 2022
APEX logo

The 2021 APEX Awards

The APEX — Acknowledging Professional Excellence — Awards honor exemplary members of the legal community, including legal professionals, judges, and members of the public.

Watch the Awards

The 2021 APEX Awards webcast was recorded live on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. The annual awards celebrate the incredible accomplishments of Washington’s legal luminaries. Read the program schedule.

And the APEX Award recipients are... 

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 an individual who has displayed 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.

David A. Perez
Seattle, Washington

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.

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.

Julian M. Bray
Tacoma, Washington

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.”

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.

James F. Williams
Seattle, Washington 

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.

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.

Jacqueline G. Schafer
Seattle, Washington

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.

Lifetime Service Award

This award is a special award given for a lifetime of service to the legal community and the public.

William H. Gates II
Seattle, Washington (posthumous)

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.

Norm Maleng Leadership Award

Presented jointly with the Access to Justice Board

This award is given jointly by the WSBA and 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 recognizesthose who embody these qualities.

Edmund R. Witter
Seattle, Washington

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.

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.

Justice Gerry L. Alexander (ret.)
Olympia, Washington

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 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 within five years of admission to any bar association or less than 36 years of age.

Paul Heer
Seattle, Washington

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 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 the next generation of advocates.

Pro Bono and Public Service Awards

These awards are presented to an individual, a lawyer, other legal professional, law firm, or other legal entity for outstanding cumulative efforts in providing pro bono services or who gives back in meaningful ways to the public, the community, or to the legal profession. Nominations considered in two categories: 1) for an individual, or solo or small firm practitioner; 2) for a multi-person law firm or organization.

For Group:
Virtual Help
a collaboration between Perkins Coie, Microsoft, and Legal Hope
Seattle, Washington

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.

For Individual:
Master Chief Petty Officer Sally A. Webster
Redmond, Washington

Master Chief Petty Officer Webster took the unusual step of volunteering for the Navy Reserve five years after starting with Microsoft's legal department, 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 most senior enlisted position of Command Master Chief of the Navy Reserve Law Program and the senior enlisted advisor to the Deputy Judge Advocate General for Navy JAG Corps, Reserve Affairs and Operations. She also has 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.

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.

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.

Sally P. Savage Leadership in
Philanthropy Award

Presented jointly with the Washington State Bar Foundation

Sally Savage led the Bar Foundation’s renaissance and was a catalyst for its refocused mission to sustain the WSBA’s effort 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. Sally’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. Sally Savage emulated this spirit of philanthropy in her life, and it is in her memory that we continue to honor donors, volunteers and friends of the Washington State Bar Foundation who embody Sally’s spirit.

Karen W. Murray
Seattle, Washington

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.