Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office Honors Alumnae

Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office Honors Two Alumnae

Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office recently honored two Santa Clara Law Alumni with special awards: Kelley Paul Kulick JD ’98, an adjunct professor at Santa Clara Law, received the Public Defender of the Year award; and Meghan Piano BS ’04, JD ’07, an alum who also worked at NCIP and has helped teach the expungement clinic, received the Heart of the Office Award.

“Kelley Paul Kulick is the epitome of a great public defender, not just this year, but every year,” states the award. “This year, Kelley achieved the greatest victory of her career, at least to this point. Every member of her team was important to achieving freedom for Manuel Lopez, an innocent man who the prosecution tried to execute on sensational charges of murdering a toddler during a sexual assault, but Kelley is the one who neutralized the DNA, p30 and other evidence from the crime lab that the DA claimed was overwhelming; whose masterful and delicate cross-examination of the toddler’s young sister not only exposed the unreliability of her previous complaints about abuse but the bias of other prosecution witnesses; and whose spectacular closing argument brought Manuel home. And she did it all as a single mother, during the pandemic, while overcoming the pervasive bias that confronts professional women, especially in the courtroom. We are proud to have Kelley as one of us, and to recognize her shining example as a selfless superstar who is always there for her colleagues, while never being anything but humble. Kelley is a true role model for all of us.”

“Meghan’s infectious enthusiasm and passion colors whatever task she undertakes,” states her award. “While these tasks often involve systemic change, Meghan always manages to maintain a strong personal connection with the many women, men and children she encounters. Meghan brought her incredible organizational skills to post-conviction, revised the way of doing business multiple times and left it a better place because of who she is. When called to take on a felony trial calendar, she rose to the occasion and turned her enthusiasm, great attitude. and skill to the new assignment. No one is a more thoughtful and committed trial attorney, leaving no stone unturned as she executes complex litigation strategies. Wherever she goes, Meghan’s compassion and huge heart act as her North Star, making her an obvious choice for the Heart of the Office award.”

“We congratulate Kelley and Meghan on these well deserved awards, and we are grateful to them for their dedicated service,” said Interim Dean Anna Han. “They are shining examples of Santa Clara’s values of promoting justice and giving back to the community. Their work will inspire the next generation of lawyers and public servants.”