Today we celebrate attorney Ron Ward, a distinguished plaintiff’s trial lawyer who embodies the spirit of making a difference. Ron grew up in the projects of San Francisco with nine siblings. The injustices he witnessed there fueled his desire to become a lawyer. Over the years, he regularly challenged other attorneys to make a difference in their own communities. In addition to helping his clients pursue justice, Ron gives freely of his time to the legal community, advocating for equal access to justice, and mentoring lawyers of color.
Ron has a long list of “firsts” and awards after his name. He was the first person of color to serve as President of the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA). He founded the Washington Leadership Institute (WLI) to recruit, train, and develop lawyers from traditionally underrepresented groups for future leadership positions within the profession. The WLI has been honored with several national awards for the work it has done.
Ron is highly respected by everyone, as evidenced by the recognition he has received for his work. For example, he was awarded the WSBA Award of Merit, WSBA’s highest award; the WSBA Excellence in Diversity award; the Distinguished Service Award from the WSBA Civil Rights Section; the Loren Miller Bar Association’s (LMBA) Lifetime Achievement Award; and the award named in his honor, the LMBA Ron R. Ward President’s Award. And more.
For many years Ron has tirelessly helped to address the inequalities in access to justice by raising money across the state for civil legal aid, so everyone, including those of marginalized backgrounds, can find a lawyer. He has won awards for that work, as well, including the WSBA Sally P. Savage Leadership in Philanthropy Award. And since 2012 he has served as an assistant monitor to the US District Court Monitoring Team regarding the consent decree mandating police reform of the Seattle Police Department.
We are lucky to have Ron Ward, whose unflagging efforts have made our community a far better and more just society.
By: Melanie Nguyen
I met Twyla Carter when I was a law student at Seattle University. She was a public defender at The Defender Association, a division of King County Department of Public Defense. She had volunteered her time to speak to students about the life of a public defender. She made an impression on me as a strong, passionate woman of color. I emailed her, and she happily agreed to meet for coffee. At that time, in 2013, Twyla had been a public defender for six years. She went on to become the misdemeanor practice director, overseeing all misdemeanor casework across the department’s four divisions.
From there, Twyla joined the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, where notably, she litigated Booth v. Galveston County, a pretrial bail case in Taxes where the magistrate court held that people accused of crimes have a right to counsel in initial bail hearings under the Sixth Amendment, one of the only jurisdictions in the nation to guarantee legal representation at this critical stage. In 2020, she became the National Director of Legal and Policy at the Bail Project. While there, she created the unit’s strategic mission, directed the legal policy and advocacy efforts at every level of government, and successfully fought efforts in multiple states to eradicate or limit the work of charitable bail organizations.
Most recently, Twyla was appointed attorney-in-chief and chief executive officer of the Legal Aid Society, the oldest and largest provider of legal aid in the U.S. She was the first Black woman and first Asian American to serve in this role in the 145-year history of the organization. At the Legal Aid Society, she continues to serve by ensuring the organization obtains the resources needed to provide essential legal aid.
Twyla has spent her life dedicated to public service. Jeffery Robinson, the founder of The Who We Are Project, described Twyla as universally admired and respected for her tenacity, brilliance, and humility. Last week, I watched her speech as the keynote speaker at the Goldmark Luncheon, where she motivated every attendee not to be complacent. I was reminded once again what a role model she was/is for me and all women of color. We are all so lucky to have her.