BLSA Alumni Awards honor public interest champions

January 28, 2016

Two public interest attorneys — one who's built a career in government service and the other who's devoted to non-profit legal work — will be honored by the Black Law Student Association at the BLSA Alumni Awards on Feb. 11.

The Hon. Tanya Thorp '02, who serves on the bench in King County Superior Court, will receive the BLSA Alumni Award. Nick Allen '10, staff attorney with Columbia Legal Services, will receive the Vanguard Leader of the Year Award. All alumni are welcome to attend.

Judge Tanya ThorpJudge Thorp joined King County Superior Court in May 2014 after more than a decade with the state Attorney General's office. After graduating from law school, she worked for 10 years in the social and health services division, where she litigated child welfare cases from both the Tacoma and Seattle offices. 

In 2012 she moved to the labor and industries division, where she handled worker safety cases in Washington's oil refineries, including defending the state's citation against Tesoro Anacortes Refinery after the 2010 refinery explosion that killed seven workers.

Thorp was born and raised in Marysville and graduated from the University of Washington in 1999, where she majored in political science. Passionate about mentorship and diversity, she's an executive board member of the Loren Miller Bar Association and previously served on the Washington State Bar Association's Diversity Committee.

Nick AllenNick Allen began at Columbia Legal Services (CLS) as part of a prestigious Equal Justice Works fellowship. His two-year project focused on addressing legal financial obligations — the fees, fines, and restitution imposed by the court as part of a criminal judgment and sentence. LFOs, as these debts are called, often interfere with a former inmate's ability to re-enter society successfully.

Now, as a staff attorney, he continues to work on LFOs as well as other issues, including trying to end juvenile life sentences without parole in Washington State. He's also a Youth Justice Leadership Institute fellow, advocating for policies that change the way youth are transferred to and sentenced in the adult criminal justice system. In early December last year, he traveled to the White House to participate in a national conference on prison, debt, and bail practices.

A 1999 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Allen was motivated by his interest in social justice to seek a law degree. Prior to law school he worked for seven years on the staff of King County Councilmember Larry Gossett.