Making a Difference
Washington lawyers take time to help out
Published in 2012 Washington Super Lawyers magazine
on June 13, 2012
Updated on June 29, 2012
Drew Hansen, a general litigator at Susman Godfrey, is handling a pro bono case for 30 Texas towns opposed to having a petroleum coke-fired plant built in Corpus Christi. As the author of The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation, he also lectures in schools and communities. And starting last fall, he has a new role: lawmaker in the Washington State Legislature.
When the case involving the Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition came to the firm, Hansen jumped on board. At two trials, in 2009 and 2010, administrative law judges recommended the permit to build the plant be denied or sent back to the state environmental agency for additional study. Hansen’s cross-examinations of a defense expert and an agency official were cited as key factors in these victories. The agency ultimately issued the permit despite the administrative judges’ recommendation; but in May, a Texas state court judge indicated he would reject the permit, saying the agency had failed to follow state and federal law.
Hansen’s newest challenge: He was appointed to an empty 23rd District seat in the state House of Representatives, and will be up for election in November. Hansen previously served as Gov. Chris Gregoire’s appointed public representative to Washington’s Community Economic Revitalization Board and was policy director for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s campaign in 2000.
Hansen has been involved in cases ranging from securities fraud to climate change litigation. For him, the intersection of politics and law is natural: “You become a lawyer because you want to get justice, and politics is similar to that.”
Some years ago, Lane Powell shareholder Katie Matison’s mother went into cardiac arrest. “It was a life-changing event,” says Matison, who provided CPR. The scare prompted the attorney to help others experiencing the same trauma by volunteering with the American Heart Association Pacific Mountain Affiliate, which provides grants and community education about cardiovascular risks to adults and support to doctors. Matison has been on the organization’s board since 2003.
She has organized six Law Cup Challenges, an annual walking event in which law firms vie to raise the most money for the heart association (her own firm has claimed the title a few times). Matison has also participated in Heart Walk and helped organize the Heart Ball. Her commitment earned her a Community Impact Award from the American Heart Association Pacific Mountain Affiliate in 2009.
At the office, Matison keeps busy with her maritime/transportation practice, which brings cases ranging from shipwrecks and groundings to insurance issues. She also serves as chair of Lane Powell’s London practice group.
She has served as an adult reading coach with the United Way and helped procure an American Bar Association grant to help fund public awareness of adult-literacy efforts. Matison says her early-career six-year stint as a felony prosecutor, working with crime victims and abused children, instilled a desire to help those who couldn’t complete their education. “I wanted to try to help people who left school because of frustration or because their socioeconomic conditions were hopeless.”
You never know what you’ll find at a garage sale. Zachary Hiatt found three years’ worth of pro bono work—and counting. At a Richmond Beach community garage sale, he encountered a neighbor who had founded Save Richmond Beach. Its current mission: to prevent a developer from turning Point Wells—the site of an old asphalt plant in unincorporated Snohomish County—into an urban center.
Ever since, Hiatt has been representing Save Richmond Beach pro bono (with the exception of a few fundraisers to defray legal costs), in a complex dispute that pits Blue Square Real Estate and Snohomish County against Save Richmond Beach, the city of Shoreline, and the town of Woodway.
Hiatt isn’t anti-development. “Just about anyone can see the benefit of redeveloping a decrepit old asphalt plant into something more compatible with the surrounding community,” he says. But he believes this one is a poor fit: a dense, downtown-style development in a low-density neighborhood of single-family homes, accessible via a two-lane road. Last fall, Hiatt won a ruling against Blue Square Real Estate and Snohomish County in King County Superior Court. The developer and Snohomish County have appealed.
A former biologist, Hiatt turned to law in order to pursue his other interests: working with people and the political process. “Being a biologist is a great job, but it doesn’t offer the same feeling of interacting with people that law does,” he says.