County defender honored for courage
Mohave County Public Defender Dana Hlavac was named Arizona's top rural attorney.
Hlavac received the William Rothstein Arizona Rural County Attorney of the Year Award at the Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice's winter seminar held Jan. 25 to 26 in Prescott.
"This is definitely an honor," Hlavac said, "but, in a lot of ways, it's one that I feel that I am just doing my job.
"I don't know that people should get awards for just doing their jobs.
"It was a very difficult situation that Mohave County was in," Hlavac added. "Under similar circumstances, a lot of times people would just say they want to get along, go along and not stand up for what is right. But that's not me. I had to do the right thing."
The annual award is given to rural county attorneys based off of their performance and contribution to criminal justice, Diane Meyers, AACJ member, said in a news release.
"One of the reasons Dana won was certainly for his courage during the recent budget crisis in your county," Meyers said.
"He declined to take new cases that would have jeopardized his office's ability to represent defendants effectively."
Meyers of the Phoenix law firm Osborn Maledon represented Hlavac pro-bono during that case.
"He led a courageous fight to ensure his clients receive the representation they are entitled to and his young attorneys receive the kind of support and mentoring that will make them better able to serve the clients in the county, in the long run," Myers said. "His decision was courageous and showed a lot of integrity. Most public defenders do not do what he did. They would be afraid of losing their jobs."
The 125 members attending the seminar gave Hlavac a standing ovation when he received the award, AACJ Executive Director Ellen Salvesen said.
"He is a person who always tries to do the right thing," Salvesen added.
AACJ President Christopher Dupont of the law firm of Trautman Dupont presided over the awards ceremony.
"He was at great personal risk," Dupont said. "He had pressure from judges and pressure from his bosses at the Supervisors' offices.
"I think Dana sees this as just doing his job - and he does it very well," Dupont added. "He has the highest ethical standards. This just shows the Constitution applies in small counties as much as big ones. He has the courage and commitment to stand up for the Constitution."
The organization, incorporated in 1986, named the award after a Nogales criminal attorney. They are an affiliate of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and are comprised of 450 members across the state.
"I feel humble and I am honored," Hlavac said. "I've been there (AACJ) and I've heard the things said about other winners. ... To be in that group is certainly an honor and sets the bar high for me to continue to uphold that standard."