Public Justice Trial Lawyer of the Year Award

Public Justice, a D.C.-based nonprofit, works to “right wrongs” through public interest litigation. Each year the organization nominates five attorneys from across the country for their work in furthering public justice. This years’ nominees argued some really incredible cases that have had and will have large legal impacts to come. Case topics for this year included water contamination, HIV/AIDS segregation in prisons, solitary confinement, grave desecration, and Medicare/Medicaid fraud. The videos below were played at the Public Justice Foundation’s 31st Annual Gala and Awards Dinner on July 23 in San Francisco and give a brief synopsis of the story behind each case. Matthew Coyte and Jack Jacks of Albuquerque, New Mexico won the Trial Lawyer of the Year Award for arguing Slevin v. Board of County Commissioners.

I worked on this video series with Rich Tolsma Productions. Look below for more information about each attorney and case. In some of the videos, photos, graphics, and video footage were provided by the attorney featured.

Kevin Thompson was the lead attorney on the case Hairston v. Equitable Production Company. Winning the first grave desecration tort suit in West Virginia and the country got Thompson and his legal team nominated for the Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.

Matthew Coyte and Jack Jacks argued the case Slevin v. Board of County Commissioners, in which Stephen Slevin sued Dona Ana County, New Mexico for holding him in solitary confinement for almost two years. Mr. Slevin’s settlement of $15.5 million has brought international attention to the treatment of mentally ill prisoners and the use of solitary confinement. The case also prompted Senator Richard Durban to hold the first U.S. Congressional hearings on solitary confinement and won Mr. Coyte and Mr. Jacks Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.


Steve Tillery represented a class of municipal water suppliers from across the U.S. against Swiss chemical company Syngenta. The case centered on contamination of public water sources by the herbicide atrazine, affecting some 37 million Americans’ drinking water. After eight years of litigation, Tillery and his legal team obtained a settlement of $105 million to cover the costs of remediating the contamination, which led to a nomination for the Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.

Margaret Winter was the lead attorney for the ACLU on the case Henderson v. Thomas. Over a twenty year period, Winter argued a case to desegregate inmates with HIV and AIDS in the Alabama prison system. Winning a judgment in favor of desegregating the Alabama prisons got Winter and her legal team nominated for the Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.