posted Nov 10, 2016

Tribal Court Clinic Receives 2017 President’s Award

UW School of Law’s Tribal Court Public Defense Clinic has received the Legal Foundation of Washington’s 2017 President’s Award in recognition of “significant efforts in providing civil legal aid to low-income people.”

The President’s Award was established to recognize those who have shown exemplary dedication to legal aid and service to equal justice for all. 

Co-directors Molly Cohan and Brenda Williams lead the innovative clinic, which is part of the law school’s Native American Law Center. Cohan and Williams serve as the public defenders for the Tulalip Tribes, train and supervise 16 students annually in the clinic and serve the law school community in many other ways. 

“The leadership and service that Molly and Brenda provide greatly benefits our students, the entire legal community and society as a whole,” said Robert T. Anderson, professor and director of the Native American Law Center.

In the past ten years, the Tribal Court Public Defense Clinic has handled over two thousand criminal cases in Tulalip Tribal Court. Aiming to ensure the best possible representation in difficult circumstances, the clinic represents clients in a variety of court hearings, meets with family members, interviews witnesses, works with prosecutors and treatment providers, performs legal research and writing and carries out many other related tasks. Clinic staff also participate in a number of ongoing justice system projects in addition to direct representation of clients. 

“The clinic Molly and Brenda run could not be better situated for ensuring that law students and the legal community are aware of the sovereign status of Indian tribes and the unique cultures embodied in tribal communities,” said Anderson. “Providing an actual practice experience in a tribal court and tribal community is a tremendous opportunity for our students and future leaders.”

Williams and Cohan will be recognized at the Goldmark Luncheon on Feb. 17, 2017 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.