Two local attorneys receive circuit's award for professionalism

Twelfth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Charles Roberts presented two local attorneys with the annual Jim Slater Award for Professionalism in a virtual ceremony Friday. This year it was a tie between a defense attorney and a prosecutor. Twelfth Circuit judges selected assistant public defender (recently retired) Tom Fielding and assistant state attorney Kate Wallace for their professionalism in the practice of criminal law and awarded them both with the 2021 Jim Slater Award for Professionalism.

The award is named after Jim Slater, a longtime and storied chief assistant public defender in the circuit. His qualities were legendary and admirable. After his death in 2005, the bench created the annual award in his honor to award an attorney who personified Mr. Slater’s characteristics: civility, honesty, and collegiality to the bench and to opposing counsel.

Judge Roberts began the ceremony with stories of his professional dealings as a prosecutor with Mr. Slater. “He was a zealous advocate, very professional and extremely thorough. He was willing to negotiate, and you knew exactly where he stood; there were never any surprises with him. He treated the court, me, and all the other prosecutors with utmost respect,” Judge Roberts said.

“I think Jim would be proud of the fact that this award has gone not only to defense attorneys but to prosecutors, too,” Judge Roberts said.

“Both are an absolute pleasure; easy to work with, easy to speak to, and reasonable. The awards to these two people are very well deserved,” Judge Roberts said.

Judges and colleagues consistently described Tom Fielding as a great guy and very personable, intelligent with a great deal of common sense. As an attorney he’s always prepared, always courteous, has a stellar work ethic, and served as a mentor to others in the PD’s office.

Colleagues’ comments about Kate Wallace included her common sense, strong advocacy for victims and competency as a prosecutor. She has a reputation for being tough but not rigid, noting her willingness to listen and consider other views. She’s always prepared, thorough and timely.

After accepting the award, Fielding said he may be one of the few that knew Jim Slater, calling him a great mentor. Fielding said the Slater Award is a “character” award and that character isn’t developed in law school. Fielding said he knew many of the judges when they were lawyers, and he said he admired their demeanor and considered them “the best of the best – the elite.”

Fielding thanked his parents for teaching him that whatever you do be able to explain without being embarrassed or ashamed; his coaches and teachers for instilling in him to never give up; Eagle Scouts and Marines for teaching him leadership; and his family for putting up with him going to school and letting him work.

Wallace jokingly said she successfully fooled everyone with her professionalism over the last 18 months despite conducting Zoom hearings in yoga pants. She thanked State Attorney Ed Brodsky for trusting her with leadership in the office and seeing her potential; her “#Div6 lawyers” for making her think harder and better about the law; her husband for teaching her to work toward resolutions; and her parents, her voice quivering as she recalled a story about her dad, who passed away earlier this spring.

Congratulations to both attorneys for leading by example with your professionalism and courtesy to others.

Previous Slater Award winners

Elliott C. Metcalfe, Jr.
Jim Dirmann
Adam Terbrugge
Bruce M. Lee
Liane McCurry
Carolyn Schlemmer
Peter Belmont
Rebecca Wilson
Brian A. Iten
Brett D. McIntosh
Chris Pratt
Derek Boyd
Heather Doyle
Terry Lynn Drake
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