Taylor Shoecraft (2L) Receives Justice Charles Z. Smith Award

On the afternoon of April 26, 2024, Taylor Shoecraft (2L) student at UW Law, gave remarks upon the occasion of being recognized with a Justice Charles Z. Smith Award. Memorably, she said, “Some of the most impactful moments for families are decided in a court of law.” Combine this with a heart for social work that is rooted deeply in her family, and you’ll understand a bit more about this highly engaged student at UW Law who also worked full time at Pierce County Child Protective Services (CPS) throughout her first year of law school.

Fourteen years of experience as a child welfare social worker has given her a profound understanding of the societal and systemic issues affecting Black communities. Her advocacy for family preservation and reducing racial disproportionality in the child welfare system has yielded tangible results, including a notable reduction in removal rates during her tenure as a CPS Supervisor in King County. “I realize I’m not switching from social work to law,” said Taylor. “I’m becoming a social worker and an attorney.”

Her commitment to public service while pursuing her law degree is one of the reasons for receiving the CZ Smith Award. The award was founded by UW School of Law, Seattle University School of Law and Gonzaga University School of Law, together with the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission (MJC) to honor the legacy of Justice Smith, the first person of color to serve as Justice on the Washington state Supreme Court.

UW Law Dean Tamara Lawson presided over the awards ceremony and Professor Bill Covington presented the CZ Smith Award to Taylor Shoecraft.

The award is bestowed upon one law student from each of the three law schools in Washington each year, with the schools taking turns as host. This year was UW Law’s turn, and it was the first in-person gathering of the award ceremony since the COVID outbreak. In addition to Taylor’s recognition, Seattle University School of Law Dean Anthony Varona presented an award to Abiel Woldu; and Gonzaga University School of Law Assistant Dean Susan Lee presented an award to Carol Velazquez.

Chianaraekpere Ike, UW Law Ph.D. candidate and 2023 winner of the CZ Smith award gave a stirring keynote to the awardees and guests, touching on the responsibility she feels to live up to the award, the power of individuals coming together to make a difference and the path from advocacy to agent of change.