Congratulations to WDTL’s 2020 Award Winners
Monday, February 8, 2021
by: Rory Cosgrove

Section: Winter 2021

Rory Cosgrove, Carney Badley Spellman P.S., is passionate about civil appeals in state and federal courts. He has been counsel of record in over 50 appeals. He has argued in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and in all three Divisions of the Court of Appeals of the State of Washington. He has filed amicus briefs in the Supreme Court of Washington on behalf of the Washington Defense Trial Lawyers, national trade associations, and insurance companies. In addition to his love for appeals, Rory supports trial counsel in complex and high-stakes litigation. Rory is also a member of WDTL’s Board of Trustees and chaired the 2020 Awards Nominating Committee.
In a challenging year for the legal community, extraordinary lawyers across our state worked tirelessly to light the way forward.  Many of these lawyers were nominated for the WDTL 2020 Awards.  These Awards shine a spotlight on some of these exceptional people and are an opportunity for all of us to learn from their best practices. 

Please join us in congratulating our 2020 Award Winners:

Outstanding Defense Trial Lawyer Jean P. Homan, City of Tacoma

Nominated by Margaret Elofson

Jean is an excellent attorney with superb trial skills.  She is extremely intelligent, and her competency in the law is second to none.  Her knowledge of both state court and federal court practices and procedures is outstanding.  At trial, opposing counsel routinely relies on Jean and her exhibits when they are presenting their own cases because they know Jean is well prepared, organized, and trustworthy. Jean is also an experienced appellate attorney, appearing many times before the Washington state Court of Appeals and the Ninth Circuit.

Jean is also tireless in assisting her fellow attorneys.  She generally has at least one extern from Seattle University Law School each year.  She takes time to judge appellate arguments and mock trials at Seattle University.  She joined the WDTL Board because she thought she could be of service, especially to her fellow lawyers in the South Sound and Eastern Washington.  She has worked on amicus briefs filed by WDTL and by other defense counsel. 

Jean is simply one of the best attorneys I have ever seen practice.  I do not know of anyone that has higher standards.  She is committed to the defense bar, and we are lucky to have her.

Thank you, Margaret.  Jean’s WDTL Board colleagues could not agree more.
Outstanding Plaintiff’s Trial Lawyer Levi F. Barber, Reinig, Barber & Henry

Nominated by Jon Hammond

I just settled a case with Levi involving a trip and fall at my client’s property.  Throughout the case, Levi was cordial, responsive, and played no games in discovery.  For instance, when I noticed a deficiency in plaintiff’s discovery answers on an issue like lost wages, I could call up Levi, tell him about it, and without even having to send an e-mail or letter, he would work on it and supplement the responses.  My case was not particularly complex, although we did do a fair amount of discovery before mediation.  I propounded two sets of written discovery, subpoenaed records from two third parties, obtained medical records, and took plaintiff’s and two witness depositions.  During all of these tasks, Levi never made an unfair or baseless objection and let me do the discovery I needed to do to posture the case toward mediation, which was my goal in the case from the outset.  He was also upfront with me on issues like case valuation and his client’s expectations (plaintiff had previously been referred to another lawyer before hiring Levi), which helped my own reporting to my client/adjuster and helped the parties reach a settlement.  It was refreshing to work with Levi, and I wish other plaintiff’s counsel would follow Levi’s down-to-earth, professional, and pragmatic approach.

Upon hearing that Levi had won this award, Levi’s father, Lowell, wrote the following to the WDTL:  Our law firm is thrilled with Levi’s selection as the Plaintiff’s Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Washington Defense Trial Lawyers.  We very much appreciate the Washington Defense Trial Lawyers for bestowing this award on Levi.  Levi is an excellent attorney and a great person.

Thank you, Jon and Lowell. 

Outstanding Litigation Associate Brennen J. Johnson, Johnson Graffe Keay Moniz & Wick

Nominated by Erin Seeberger

Brennen is wise beyond his years, and I trust him as much as many of my more experienced medical malpractice defense colleagues.  We were recently co-defense counsel on a complicated medical negligence case and filed a joint motion to exclude expert testimony under Frye.  Brennen participated in the strategy discussions like a seasoned litigator and volunteered to take the lead on substantial portions of the briefing.  His work product was beyond impressive.  Each defendant also filed an MSJ, and Brennen’s client was the only one dismissed.  He was poised and concise in oral argument and convincingly advocated on behalf of his client.  He was extraordinarily prepared with visual aids that assisted each of us in our arguments.  After his client’s dismissal, Brennen sent me a handwritten note thanking me for the mentorship I provided to him while working on the case.  He is a class act, and I look forward to working on many cases with him as co-defense counsel.   

From our Nominating Chair, Rory Cosgrove:  Brennen and I met for coffee over three years ago, shortly before Brennen’s federal clerkship ended, and discussed the transition from clerkship to private practice.  When I learned that Brennen was the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Litigation Associate Award, I checked my e-mails from 2018, and I wrote to him at the time:  “You have a bright future.”  It turns out that I nailed it!

Community Leadership Award to Melissa K. Roeder, Foley & Mansfield

Nominated by Lori O’Tool

Melissa—a former WDTL President—has been a member of the WDTL for almost twenty years, ten of which were spent serving on its Board of Trustees.  During her leadership, Melissa launched the 5K Donut Dash—a charity event that has raised thousands of dollars to fund animal-welfare organizations and courthouse-support dogs.  She also championed the Golden Coat Award, a recognition awarded annually to the law firm that donates the most costs and cold-weather items to serve the less fortunate in Washington.  To date, thousands of coats and items have been donated to Washingtonians!

Following her service to the WDTL, Melissa aimed her philanthropic efforts at the national level through leadership positions with the DRI.  For three years, she served as the Chair and Vice Chair of the DRI’s Public Activities Committee.  Through Melissa’s service, the Committee’s activities grew from 35 service projects in 2017 to 52 projects in 2018 and 83 projects in 2019.  These projects helped thousands of lives.  For instance, in just three years, the Committee raised over $50,000 for programs, such as Veteran Suicide Prevention, and donated over 1,000,000 items, including toiletries, books, and stuffed animals, to various organizations.  In addition, Melissa took the Golden Coat Award nationally, challenging other defense organizations across the country to carry out their own coat drives.  And for the record, Washington donated the most coats—something we all should be proud of Melissa for spearheading!

Melissa continues to make significant contributions to our world through her time, actions, talents, and dedication. 

From our Executive Director, Maggie Sweeney:  Melissa is known for leveraging her vast personal connections to the benefit of the needy, as anyone who follows her on Facebook will attest.  One of my favorite Melissa campaigns was when she solicited bids for the right to name a pair of her shoes with the proceeds going to a charity.  She is always thinking outside of the box to the benefit of others.