LAURA CHRISMER EDMONDS, Jay D. Blitzman Youth Advocacy Award. The Jay D. Blitzman Award for Youth Advocacy is presented to a person who has demonstrated a commitment to juvenile rights, which is the hallmark of Judge Blitzman’s long career as an advocate. The award honors an advocate who has exhibited both extraordinary dedication and excellent performance to assure that children accused of criminal conduct, or otherwise at risk, are treated fairly and with dignity in the courtroom, in the community, and in the custody of the state.
Laura Chrismer Edmonds does it all. She wins major juvenile appeals before the Supreme Judicial Court. She fights for children in trial-level delinquency and youthful offender cases. She gets the Sex Offender Registry Board to understand that her juvenile clients are fundamentally different from their adult counterparts. And most of all, she is a generous colleague and mentor, who is always willing to help her fellow defenders go the extra mile for their clients.
Laura has represented indigent children and adults in Western Massachusetts for 18 years. She cares deeply for her clients and fights hard for their rights and interests. In 2015, after years of hard-fought litigation, Laura was able to convince the SJC that a client wrongly convicted of rape was entitled to a new trial based on newly available DNA evidence. Earlier this year, she won another major victory before the SJC, convincing the Court that juveniles committed to the custody of the Department of Youth Services for sex offenses are entitled to a judicial determination of whether they should have to register as sex offenders. In the same case, she also persuaded the Court that children adjudicated youthful offenders for sex offenses should not be subjected to GPS monitoring as a mandatory condition of probation. For most of us, winning two major juvenile issues before the state’s highest court would make a career. For Laura, it was one case.
Laura isn’t just a brilliant lawyer. She is also a dear a friend and colleague to all of us who defend and advocate on behalf of children. She is the perfect recipient for this year’s Jay D. Blitzman Youth Advocacy Award.