MTACDL - Lawyers of the Year
Presented by Wendy Holton, Criminal Justice Act Supervising Attorney, to the FDOM/MTACDL conference on March 10, 2022:
The Montana CJA Panel award is named in honor of John Adams. When he was a young lawyer, the future second president of the United States was asked by the Court to represent the British soldiers charged in the criminal case arising from what is commonly known as the Boston Massacre. In his old age, Adams called his defense of those soldiers “one of the most gallant, generous, manly, and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.” Adams set the example for generations of criminal defense lawyers who understand that taking on the unpopular cause or the difficult client protects the integrity of the system and thus the rights of us all.
The 2022 John Adams Award recipient is Nancy Schwartz. Nancy is fairly new to the panel, having joined in 2018. Since then, she has proved herself to be absolutely conscientious in everything she does (including reading and following the Billing Guide). She is a dogged, fearless, and dedicated advocate who uses all of the resources available to her. These qualities have led to many successful outcomes in her CJA cases, including:
- 2 outright dismissals – one based on a successful motion to suppress.
- 5 time served sentences – including one where the low end of the guidelines was 188 months.
- A 2255 where she successfully challenged her client’s criminal history.
- A pretrial diversion in a 922(g) case.
- Many well-below-guideline sentences.
- An amazing victory in the 9th Circuit in United States v. Holliday, 853 Fed.Appx. 53 (9th Cir. 2021) in which the 9th Circuit held that Montana drug schedules are facially overbroad because they include more varieties of cocaine than the federal schedules. Thus, Holliday’s conviction for selling cocaine under Mont. Code Ann. § 45-9-101 was not a “controlled substance offense” under the Guidelines and Holliday was not a career offender.
But it’s not the victories that this award is based on -- it is based on Nancy’s process, care for her clients, and her willingness to go the extra mile. We are grateful for her service to her clients, the panel, and our system of justice.
Nancy Schwartz and Wendy Holton