3 Advocates For Justice Honored at Defenders Association Conference

ALBANY, NY (07/28/2015)(readMedia)-- Honoring three people who devote great skill, huge effort, and much time to making justice happen, the New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA) hosted its annual awards celebration during a statewide training conference in Saratoga Springs on July 27, 2015.

Marsha Weissman, Executive Director of the Syracuse-based Center for Community Alternatives (CCA), received NYSDA's Service of Justice Award for effectivelypromoting alternatives to incarceration and sentencing advocacy as key components of justice. Working both systemically and in individual cases, Weissman and CCA focus on the strengths of clients and communities and their individualized needs. Public defense attorneys and their clients have benefitted directly and indirectly from Weissman's work. From the many publications she has written or co-authored to her contribution to organizations like NYSDA, on whose Board of Directors she serves, Weissman has long been, as the plaque she received Monday night says, "a beacon for best practices."

Roger Brazill, First Assistant Public Defender in Monroe County (Rochester) received the 2015 Wilfred R. O'Connor Award for exemplifying a client-centered approach in his work with clients and for sharing his legal expertise throughout his career of over 35 years. Supporting Brazill's nomination for the award, Monroe County Public Defender Timothy P. Donaher said that Brazill "is always reminding me, and others, that our only obligation is to zealously advocate on behalf of our clients to ensure that they are receiving the best possible representation." Over the years, Brazill has shared his legal knowledge with colleagues statewide, co-authoring several editions of a manual on parole representation and lecturing extensively at continuing legal education trainings, including NYSDA events, and as a Syracuse University School of Law guest lecturer.

Luke Nebush, a First Assistant Public Defender in Oneida County (Utica), was chosen to receive the Kevin M. Andersen Memorial Award for his zeal and devotion in practicing effective, client-centered representation, his diligence in honing his skills, and his collegial approach. Chief Trial Counsel Leland D. McCormac, III, nominated Nebush, who joined the office after admission to the bar in 2008. Nebush has "handled some of the most complex, difficult, and consuming cases in our office," McCormac noted, "always solely focused on his client's best interests." While able to be "combative and unyielding" as required by our adversarial system, often obtaining highly favorable results, Nebush "treats all ... as he would like to be treated," McCormac said.

The awards were presented on the evening between two full days of continuing legal education (CLE). NYSDA provides affordable, high-quality CLE relevant to public defense practice at statewide as well as regional events as part of its mission. A not-for-profit, membership organization, NYSDA has been providing support to New York's public defense community since 1967. Its mission is to improve the quality and scope of publicly supported legal representation to low income people.

The New York State Defenders Association's Service of Justice Award recognizes individuals or organizations that have provided outstanding support to public defense and to the Association.

The Wilfred R. O'Connor Award, named in honor of founding member and long-time President of NYSDA, Bill O'Connor, is presented to an attorney who has been in practice fifteen or more years, practices in the area of public defense, and exemplifies the client-centered sense of justice, persistence, and compassion that characterized Bill's life.

The Kevin M. Andersen Memorial Award "is presented to an attorney who has been in practice less than fifteen years, practices in the area of indigent defense, and exemplifies the sense of justice, determination, and compassion" that were the hallmarks of its namesake. Kevin M. Andersen was a lifelong public defender known for his anger at injustice, his will to fight ferociously for his clients, and the compassion to grant clients "the dignity each deserved as a human being despite whatever human frailties they might present." The award was created by the Genesee County Public Defender Office.