2023 Defender Confer...

2023 Defender Conference Resource Page

Greetings! This is your hub for all things related to WDA 2023 Defender Conference: Pro se, No Way! The Right to Effective Assistance of Counsel. This page will be update regularly with additional materials and information, so check back often. We are so excited to back in-person again and look forward to be able to learn and connect with the defender community in Washington State. See below for everything you need!







Keisha Hudson, Chief Public Defender, The Defender Association of Philadelphia

Keisha Hudson spent nearly eighteen years as a public defender, first with the Defender Association of Philadelphia and then as a capital appellate defender with the Federal Defender-Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Capital Habeas Unit) representing people on death row in their state post-conviction and federal habeas appeals. As a seasoned trial and appellate defender, Ms. Hudson has an in-depth understanding of what it means to be a public defender. At the Capital Habeas Unit, Ms. Hudson was the Director of Training.   

In 2016, Ms. Hudson left the Federal Defender and joined the Montgomery County Office of the Public Defender Officer to become the Deputy Chief Defender. Ms. Hudson joined the Montgomery County Office of the Public Defender with the goal of building and strengthening advocacy in the courtroom. Along with former Chief Defender Dean Beer, Ms. Hudson addressed systemic issues regarding policing, pretrial detention, sentencing, and probation in the county. In four years, Chief Defender Dean Beer and Ms. Hudson built one of the best public defender offices in the state. 

In 2020, Ms. Hudson worked with The Justice Collaborative and The Appeal, developing and leading advocacy and media campaigns on criminal justice issues- specifically campaigns aimed at looking at creative and successful community alternatives that truly create public safety. From 2020 to 2021, Ms. Hudson was a visiting professor at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law. 

Washington State Supreme Court Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud


Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud was elected to the Washington Supreme Court in 2012 after a career of helping clients fight for their constitutional and individual rights. As a Justice, she serves as Chair of the Washington State Supreme Court Gender & Justice Commission, as a member of the Supreme Court’s Rules Committee, and as the liaison to the Supreme Court’s Pattern Instructions Committee (on which she previously served as a lawyer-member). She is also on the Washington State Bar Association’s Council on Public Defense. She speaks regularly at legal and community events throughout the state on topics ranging from ethics to criminal justice.

Justice McCloud brought a wealth of appellate experience with her; she handled hundreds of cases before the Washington Supreme Court and other appellate courts before she became a judge. Her law practice showed a record of commitment to communities of color and a long history of providing legal assistance to those who lack the ability to pay. In one of her first volunteer cases, she helped successfully defend a woman’s right to pregnancy disability leave in the United States Supreme Court. She also taught at the Seattle University School of Law and has published several articles.

Her legal expertise was recognized by her peers before she joined the bench. For example, she received the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ highest award, the William O. Douglas Award, for “extraordinary courage” in the practice of law. Her commitment to justice is still recognized by her peers now that she has a track record of work as a Justice. In 2015, Washington Women Lawyers King County Chapter honored her with its President’s Award. In 2018, the Cardozo Society of Washington State presented her with its L’Dor V’Dor Award.


We are honored to present this year’s slate of award winners, each of whom have made significant contributions to public defense in Washington State. Make sure to attend the awards ceremony on Friday evening at 6:30 to celebrate with your colleagues and enjoy heavy appetizer’s provided by WDA!

Gideon Awards 

 Annie Benson

 Jonathan Moore

For their lifelong commitment to serving noncitizen clients and their transformative work at WDA that influenced practice not only in Washington, but also nationally. 

President’s Awards 

Richard Lechich 

In recognition of his outstanding work and commitment to highest standards of public defense practice. 

Shelley Ajax 

In recognition of her outstanding work and commitment to highest standards of public defense practice. 

Certificates of Recognition 

Donald Wackerman, for his outstanding lifetime work to improve justice outcomes for his clients. 

Randy Hall, for his outstanding lifetime work to improve justice outcomes for his clients. 

Shoshanah Epstein, for her outstanding work to represent her clients under extremely challenging circumstances. 

Mahalia Kahsay, for her outstanding work to improve justice outcomes for her clients in King County.  

Dustin Howie, for his outstanding work to improve justice outcomes for his clients in the City of Spokane. 

Defender Karaoke!!

After the awards ceremony, stick around for an exciting night of karoke and a no host bar! It was a ton of fun in 2019 and it promises to be another night musical mayhem!