WENATCHEE — It was a passing of the gavel Monday at the Wenatchee Convention Center.

Every year, attorneys with the Chelan-Douglas Bar Association hold their Law Day Awards and Benefit Lunch, raffling off prizes and raising money for their Volunteer Attorney Services program.

VAS provides legal aid to clients dealing with poverty. At this year’s event, presenters handed out awards to those who’ve best served clients who couldn’t otherwise afford a lawyer in 2018.

“Because of the donations of time talent, and financial support, 300 families have been helped in the last year who would not otherwise be able to access resources,” said VAS executive director Eloise Barshes, who coordinates attorneys volunteering their valuable time.

But it’s not just attorneys. Angelica Estrada won the bar association’s Legal Services Champion Award for her work with SAGE, the Wenatchee Valley service for victims of domestic and sexual violence. She’s a victim’s advocate who’s spent 11 years helping clients find legal resources to protect themselves from their abusers.

“The law is for the people, to help those that need the help,” Estrada says. “Sometimes there’s a lot of people that can’t afford to hire an attorney, and they come to our office, and we connect them with those attorneys that are willing to help them for free if they qualify, or just refer them to somebody we know we can trust that will help them with their cases.” 

Washington Supreme Court Justice Steven Gonzalez gave the keynote address at Monday’s event. He previously chaired the court’s Access To Justice Board, and said lawyers play a crucial role in protecting

“There’s no one better to represent people than the lawyers who are already representing people,” Gonzalez said. “And if they’re willing to give some of their time to to people who are less fortunate, people who have barriers, then that really does help us keep the promise that everyone’s equal before the law.”

Other honorees at Monday’s luncheon were:

• Wes Hensley, Commitment to Community Award

• David Kazemba, Volunteer Attorney of the Year Award

• Retiring Douglas County District Judge Judith McCauley, the President’s Award

• Robin Gaukroger, Professionalism and Civility Award, which will be named after him in his honor.