SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (07/25/2017) (readMedia)-- SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (07/25/2017)- "For Renee Seman there is no case or client either too daunting or insufficiently important," wrote Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) Executive Director Lisa Schreibersdorf in nominating Seman for the Kevin M. Andersen Memorial Award presented Monday night. Created by the Genesee County Public Defender Office, the award is presented annually at the New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA) Annual Meeting and Conference, held this year in Saratoga on July 23-25. At the conference, as at all NYSDA events, quality representation of clients by public defense lawyers is the main theme.
Seman's "[r]espect and concern and a sense of connectedness to each client's humanity are hardwired," the nomination letter went on. Her certainty "that some additional investigation, some fresh look at the available information, some rededication might lead to a potentially winning strategy," noted in the letter, has not only won over clients and colleagues, but also led to court victories, sometimes after years of work.
A client who, after remaining in jail for a year, accepted an enticing plea offer of time served, was eventually exonerated due to Seman's continued efforts. A judge had called the police version of events in the case as described in a 2013 hearing "incredible," but the plea offer was made and accepted before a final ruling on the legal issues raised. A New York Times article about lying police officers discussed the case in 2014. Due to Seman's continued advocacy, BDS reported on its website, the court vacated the client's plea and dismissed the charges in June 2015.
In addition to being "an effective and tireless fighter in court," Schreibersdorf said in the nomination letter, Seman's "enthusiasm and love for this job made her a natural teacher." She joined the BDS Training Team and now teaches young attorneys full time, helping them learn "how to do battle in court and still maintain good relationships."
Seman continues to work despite a devastating medical diagnosis. "She takes phone calls from our newest attorneys while she is in chemo," Schreibersdorf wrote, and "comes to work each day filled with fresh ideas about how we can best serve our clients." Embracing a healthy and active lifestyle --"she felt she owed it to her doctors" who "were working so hard to help her," and was also "determined to do everything within her power to keep herself as healthy as possible" -- Seman has run marathons since her diagnosis. And even then, she thinks of others; she ran the 2017 Boston Marathon representing the Lenny Zakim Fund, raising 109% of a $7,500 goal.
For her commitment, courage, and accomplishments, Renee Seman is the 2017 recipient of the Kevin M. Andersen Memorial Award. Presented by the Genesee County Public Defenders Office, it is awarded 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.