Updated: June 14, 2024

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The 2024 APEX Awards

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


And the APEX Award recipients are...

Chief Justice Mary E. Fairhurst Award of Merit

Patrick J. Kirby


The Chief Justice Mary E. Fairhurst Award of Merit 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.

Though Kirby’s nominators stressed his integrity, ethics, professionalism, and commitment to excellence, the WSBA and Kirby’s community recognize him for a particular act. In what could only be described as a parent’s worst nightmare, the Kirby family faced the tragic loss of their college-aged daughter, Bridget, due to a DUI accident. While no words can fully capture the depth of this life-altering moment, what deserves recognition is a decision made by the Kirby family approximately 16 months after the devastating loss. In March 2023, the Kirbys and their four boys journeyed to Helena, Montana, for the sentencing hearing to advocate for a suspended sentence for the driver responsible for the loss. With unwavering strength and conviction rooted in their deeply held values of love and faith, Kirby demonstrated an unparalleled act of forgiveness in the face of unimaginable pain. This recognition acknowledges the profound moral conviction that transcends legal norms and societal expectations.

Angelo Petruss Award for Lawyers in Government Service

Lorraine Lee

Federal Way

The Angelo Petruss Award for Lawyers in Government Service is 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. It is given to a lawyer in government service who has made a significant contribution to the legal profession, the justice system, and the public.

Lee recently retired after 34 years in public service. She served as a member of the governor’s executive cabinet team as the executive director and chief administrative law judge for the state of Washington. She also served as a U.S. Army captain and JAG, chair and licensing director at the Liquor Control Board, and as counsel and assistant director to the Washington Lottery. In 2017, Lee established a business resource group – the Washington Immigrant Network (WIN) to highlight the untapped potential of Washington’s large population of immigrants. WIN was founded to support and expand opportunities for immigrants and serve as a resource for state agencies in creating and sustaining a diverse workforce. Seven years later, WIN has over 300 members and provides mentoring, career development, and a place where everyone can belong. Lee’s nominators emphasized her diligence, warmth, collaborative spirit, and optimism.

Justice C.Z. Smith Excellence in Diversity Award

Professor Robert S. Chang and the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality


The Justice Charles Z. Smith Excellence in Diversity Award is 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.

Professor Robert Chang joined Seattle University School of Law in 2008 and became the Executive Director of the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality upon its formation in 2009. The mission of the Korematsu Center is to achieve lasting social change through research, litigation advocacy, and clinical education. As one of his nominators who worked with Justice Smith, the diversity award’s namesake noted, “Justice Smith and Professor Chang honor one another in their spirit and in their work and they always have . . . Justice Smith and Professor Chang and the Korematsu Center make all of us in the legal profession proud, as they have led us to improve social and race justice as delivered in the legal system.”

Lifetime Service Award

James E. Ryan


The Lifetime Service Award is a special award given for a lifetime of service to the legal community and the public.

Ryan began the practice of law in 1975 and has remained at the same firm for nearly 50 years. A nominator emphasized Ryan’s tremendous respect for attorneys, courts, clients, and the community at large, as well as his vast experience in business law, estate planning, and representation of quasi-governmental agencies and municipalities. He is recognized throughout Kitsap County and the state as an attorney who zealously represents the interests of his clients while at the same time attempting to resolve disputes to avoid needless litigation and further expense. A law partner noted that he has supported and encouraged members of his firm to seek positions on the bench. As a result of this support, eleven members of his firm have been elected or appointed to sit on the bench, either as a Municipal, Superior, or District Court Judge.

Norm Maleng Leadership Award

Presented jointly with the Access to Justice Board

Cynthia F. Delostrinos


The Norm Maleng Leadership 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 recognizes those who embody these qualities.

One of Delostrinos’ mentors emphasized that she best embodies the spirit of kindness and optimism that Norm Maleng personified and represents the next generation of leadership. Delostrinos has served many important roles for the courts, first as the primary staff to the Minority and Justice Commission, later as administrative manager of all commissions, and more recently as Associate Director of the Office of Court Innovation. A nominator referred to her as the Administrative Office of the Court’s “very own rock star.” Delostrinos is a graduate of the Washington Leadership Institute (WLI) and now sits on the WLI Board while also serving as a facilitator for some of the monthly sessions. She also served for four years on the Tukwila City Council.

Outstanding Judge Award

Hon. Frederick P. Corbit


The Outstanding Judge Award is presented for outstanding service to the bench and for special contribution to the legal profession at any level of the court.

Judge Corbit has enjoyed a long, varied legal career, including a federal clerkship and work at private and public interest law firms before his appointment to the bench. Nominators emphasized that, as a bankruptcy judge, Judge Corbit models servant leadership, offering empathy and understanding alongside professionalism and expert knowledge of bankruptcy law and procedure. His nominators also emphasized his tireless volunteer work, including service as a member of the WSBA Access to Justice Board, the Bar Structure Work Group, the WSBA Legislative, Professionalism, and Amicus Committees, the Washington State Task Force for Homeowner Security, Washington Collection Agency Review Board, Washington Appleseed, Consumer Education and Training Services (CENTS), WSBA Civil Legal Needs Work Group, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound. Judge Corbit also shared his leadership skills by chairing the WSBA Creditor Debtor Rights Section and was president of the Bankruptcy Section of the King County Bar Association. Judge Corbit taught bankruptcy to scores of law students at Seattle University and Gonzaga University. He is a frequent presenter at CLE programs in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Outstanding Young Lawyer Award

Austin J. Neff


The Outstanding Young Lawyer 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.

Neff has been indispensable as the Young Lawyer Co-Chair for the 2023 & 2024 Trial Advocacy Program. He has gone above and beyond in his duties, including finding quality CLE speakers and judges for the mock trial, redeveloping the Mock Trial agenda to accommodate remote participants, and even stepping in at the 2023 Mock Trial to replace a team of attorneys that canceled last minute, learning the case, and preparing a volunteer witness with less than 24 hours' notice. The trial would have not happened without his last-minute assistance. Neff began trying cases to juries during his second year of law school as a Rule 9 Intern with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and as of March 2024 has since tried nine cases to verdict, including the largest medical negligence verdict in the history of Lewis County.

Pro Bono and Public Service Award (Group)

Navigate Law Group


The Pro Bono and Public Service Award for group is presented to a law firm, organization, or project team for outstanding cumulative efforts in providing pro bono services or that gives back in meaningful ways to the public, the community, or to the legal profession.

When Navigate Law Group first opened in 2014, it was quickly evident that pro bono work and a positive, engaged community presence was part of their ethos. Navigate attorneys have been an integral part of the Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Program (CCVLP), and by extension, legal aid in Clark County. To date, Navigate attorneys have contributed by far the most pro bono hours out of any other local law firm. CCVLP nominators emphasized that not only are Navigate attorneys consistent and dependable volunteers, they frequently go above and beyond for CCVLP clients. This includes things like setting up extra one-on-one appointments outside of regular volunteer hours, making calls to the opposing party’s attorney, drafting documents, connecting the client with additional resources, and working closely with program staff. Navigate Law Group also hosts its own free legal clinic every Thursday evening. This is entirely a volunteer effort on the part of Navigate attorneys, all of whom rotate to contribute to the clinic, which serves as an important backup resource for CCVLP clients. In 2023 alone, they logged 288 appointments through its clinic.

Pro Bono and Public Service Award (Individual)

Kathleen M. O’Sullivan


The Pro Bono and Public Service Award for Individual is presented to a lawyer or other legal professional for outstanding cumulative efforts in providing pro bono services or who gives back in meaningful ways to the public, the community, or the legal profession.

A partner at Perkins Coie, O’Sullivan’s pro bono legal service has covered high profile cases in a range of legal fields, including immigration law, asylum, civil and human rights, death penalty, and criminal appeals. As a pro bono leader, she also mentors and manages associates and counsel in their pro bono activities. A nominator noted that she has dedicated over 3,000 hours to over 100 pro bono cases over the course of her career thus far. Her determination, patience, and persistence has made a significant impact on the lives of her pro bono clients, as well as in higher policy circles. A nominator emphasized that she doesn’t dabble in pro bono work—she digs in and provides quality representation necessary to achieve positive results for her clients. O’Sullivan’s volunteer service also includes being a former member of the WSBA Board of Governors, Washington Young Lawyers Division, the American Law Institute Council, the Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society Board, and as chair of the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct and chair of the Board of Directors of the YMCA of Greater Seattle.

Professionalism Award

Capt. Donald J. (John) Kenney


The Professionalism Award 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.

Kenney has been an example of professionalism and sustained community service whose efforts and community contributions have produced tangible, positive effects. Nominators emphasized the extraordinary positive impact his work as a JAG Corps officer has had for service members and their families and the tremendous respect his community feels for him. As a direct result of his professional expertise, Navy commanders had their units ready to deploy at a moment's notice. This capability assured families at home that their sacrifices, along with the national security interest, were protected. He leads by example in everything he does and is someone who can always be trusted to do the right thing. More importantly, he ensures his people know that integrity comes before all else in their decisions.

Sally P. Savage Leadership in Philanthropy Award

Presented jointly with the Washington State Bar Foundation

Kirsten D. Barron


The Sally P. Savage Leadership in Philanthropy Award. 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.

Barron’s nominators emphasized her exceptional career, dedication to fundraising for civil legal aid, lifetime of volunteerism, and seeking out new leaders for philanthropy in the legal community. She started working at one of the largest law firms in Whatcom County in 1996, breaking a barrier as one of the first women at a large multi-practice firm in the county. Since then, she has gone on to mentor and recruit many women into the profession. She now manages the firm known as Barron Quinn Blackwood, PLLC, in which all three partners are women. Kirsten has spent her entire career raising funds for civil legal aid and highlighting its need in our society. She has also made an impact on the profession through her service on the Washington Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Board and the Public Trust and Confidence Committee, the Washington State Campaign for Equal Justice Commission, and as former chair and board member of LAW Advocates. She has also dedicated countless hours of volunteer service to organizations serving the Whatcom County community.