Flame of Democracy Award

The Flame of Democracy Award was created to recognize significant contributions made to the public's understanding of the law, democracy and the legal system. It has been awarded periodically since its inception in 2002.  The recipient may be an individual or an organization.  Award winners include:

     Richard "Dick" Larsen, political writer for The Seattle Times, 2002

     Northwest Justice Project, self-help legal website, 2004

     Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney's Office Adopt a Classroom Project, 2004 

     League of Women Voters of Washington Education Fund,  2007



     Rick Nagel, mock trial coach/teacher at Franklin High School, 2009

     Stan Chalich, teacher at Central Valley High School in Spokane, 2009

     Mary Fairhurst, Washington Supreme Court Justice, 2011



     June Krumpotick, Self-Help program manager, Legal Voice, 2011



Press releases regarding the award recipients are available below.

Nominations for the award may be made by email.  Use the contact information below.


Mary Fairhurst

Washington Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst, a leading advocate for public legal education and access to justice, was named the 2011 recipient of CPLE’s Flame of Democracy Award.

Fairhurst received the award from Marlin J. Appelwick and Judith Billings, co-chairs of the Council on Public Legal Education, before more than 80 national and state leaders in the field at Seattle University’s School of Law. Recognition of the justice’s contributions was one of several events commemorating Constitution Day on Sept. 17, 2011.

Fairhurst, who was first elected to the Washington Supreme Court in 2002, had been a member of CPLE for several years.

A 1984 graduate of Gonzaga University School of Law (cum laude), she spent the first two years of her career as a judicial clerk for Chief Justice William H. Williams and Justice William C. Goodloe. She later worked for Attorneys General Ken Eikenberry and Christine Gregoire, specializing in criminal justice, transportation, revenue, and labor.

Fairhurst organized the first statewide conference on domestic violence, and planned and facilitated a youth violence summit. She also worked on a constitutional amendment to increase the rights of crime victims, and organized conferences on sex offenders who live in the community after completing their sentences.

When she was elected president of the Washington State Bar in 1997, Fairhurst was the youngest woman to hold the position. She later served on the Bar’s Board of Governor’s, representing the Third Congressional District as president of Washington Women Lawyers.

The oldest of seven children, Fairhurst says she pursued law is help people. “I didn’t have any lawyers in my family,” she once told Gonzaga University, “So I didn’t know exactly what that meant besides watching ‘Perry Mason,’ and of course, I wanted to be Perry Mason.”

Though she did not work as a defense attorney like the television character, Fairhurst has devoted much of her career to giving voice to those underrepresented in the legal profession: women and minorities. She has also worked to ensure access to justice and fairness for all.

Fairhurst has written several majority opinions for the court, sometimes siding with law enforcement. But one of her most widely recognized opinions was a 2006 dissent, in Andersen v. King County, when the Supreme Court upheld the Legislature’s authority to limit marriage to heterosexual couples. She called the court’s majority opinion “blatant discrimination” against gay and lesbian citizens.

“I would hold that there is no rational basis for denying same-sex couples the right to marry,” Fairhurst wrote.

For the last two years, Fairhurst has been waging a personal battle against cancer. What began as colon cancer has returned to her lungs.  Although doctors are not optimistic, Fairhurst has not eased up on her work – or her hope for a recovery.

“I think my legacy, really, is that I love the law, and … really cared about people,” Fairhurst told KING-TV in October. “Really, it’s the people who make up the government. We are the government, and we have responsibility as citizens to make our government as good as it can be.”

Information from the Washington Courts, Gonzaga University, and KING-TV was used in this report.



Richard "Dick" Larsen

     Richard “Dick” Larsen, an editorial writer and political reporter for The Seattle Times, was the first recipient of CPLE’s Flame of Democracy Award.  Larsen received the award posthumously in November 2001, following his death earlier in the year at age 73.
     Larsen’s family accepted the award from then-Supreme Court Justice Faith Ireland at the annual meeting of the Bench-Bar Press Committee of Washington.
     A lifelong supporter of civic education and civility in politics, Larsen was a founding member of the Council on Public Legal Education and served as a media representative.
     He was a familiar face both in journalism and political circles.  Before joining The Times, he covered Tom Foley’s first run for Congress 1964 as a reporter for The Wenatchee World. The young congressman from Spokane was so impressed by Larsen’s political instincts that he hired Larsen as an aide on Capitol Hill.
     In 1968, Larsen returned to work as a political reporter for The Seattle Times, where he covered the state Legislature, city and county politics, and the presidential campaign of Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson. From 1984 to 1992, he wrote editorials and a regular column for The Times’ editorial page.
   He later joined U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn’s staff as an adviser. To those who knew him best, Larsen’s willingness to work for both Republicans and Democrats was no surprise.
   “Dick was respected by people of all political leanings,” then-Times Executive Editor Michael Fancher, told The Times shortly after Larsen’s death in April 2001.  “He earned their administration through the quality and even-handedness of his reporting. He never forgot that both journalists and politicians are servants of the public.”
   In addition to his work in newspapers, Larsen was an author.  He co-authored a book with William Prochnau on Jackson, “A certain Democrat: Senator Henry M. Jackson,” in 1972. And in 1980, he wrote a book about serial killer Ted Bundy, “The Deliberate Stranger,” which was later turned into a television movie.

Rick Nagel


          Above: Judith Billings, co-chair of the Council on Public Legal Education, presents the 2009 award to
            Rick Nagel at the YMCA Youth and Government's annual mock trial breakfast in Olympia.

     Rick Nagel, an inspiring coach to mock trial teams and the founder of a Law and Society class at Seattle’s Franklin High School, received the Flame of Democracy Award from the Council on Public Legal Education in 2009.
     Nagel coached hundreds of students who participated in the YMCA’s mock trial competition, including the 2000 national championship team from Franklin High School.
Nagel was also honored for his commitment to providing inner-city students with quality civics education at Franklin, where he created a Law and Society class in 1968. There, he rarely gave out As and held students to high standards.
    “The goal is very simple,” Nagel once told The Seattle Times. “I try to get (students) to think.”
   Judith Billings, co-chair of CPLE and former State Superintendent of Public Instruction, presented the Flame of Democracy Award to Nagel at the YMCA Youth and Government’s annual mock trial breakfast in Olympia in March 2009.
    Though his mock trial students practiced long hours and learned the art of interviewing witnesses in a courtroom, Nagel had no desire to encourage them to become lawyers. He believed teaching students how to reason, use analytical skills, and improve their poise in public would serve them well, no matter what profession they pursued.
    Nagel’s mock trial teams argued before an array of real-life lawyers and judges, including former Washington Supreme Court Justice Charles Smith. Under his leadership, Franklin’s mock trial team was the one of the most inning teams in the YMCA mock trial competition. As of 2000, the year Nagel retired after a 34-career, the high school had placed first four years in a row and advanced to the national mock trial competition twice.
    Before he became a teacher, Nagel thought he wanted to be an attorney. While attending the University of Washington School of Law, he wandered into the School of Education at Miller Hall. “I said, ‘That’s what I should be doing,” ‘ Nagel told The Times in 1997. “I’ve never regretted that.”
    The Seattle School District knew they had a gifted teacher in their ranks. In 1994, Nagel was awarded the Golden Apple Award, which recognizes excellence in teaching.
    His insistence on hard work and practice became Nagel’s trademark. Before any student could participate in mock trial, they had to complete the Law and Society class, where they learned the legal principles for court cases on many controversial social issues, such as abortion and physician-assisted suicide.
    “His kids cheer and stomp at mock trials just like they do at football games,” attorney Doug McBroom said in a 1995 Times article. McBroom’s daughter, Maurin, was a Nagel student and ultimately pursued law as a career.
    “Rick Nagel is there to develop minds, sure,” McBroom said. “But like any coach, he’s also out there to win.”