Brad Meryhew, venerating among his peers as an expert on the standard of practice in sex crime litigation, is this year’s William O. Douglas award winner. Brad overcame breathtaking obstacles to reach his current status. Thrown out of his own home by his parents as a sophomore in high school, he had to make his way through life rejected and alone. Despite this rough start, he excelled in school, where he was quickly identified as a dramatically persuasive advocate, and took first place in the State Tournament for Impromptu Speaking. Directly recruited by Western Washington’s Debate Team, he took the team to the National Debate for only the second time in the school’s history. Thereafter recruited by the University of Utah’s Debate team, he ultimately placed ninth the National Tournament on behalf of himself and his team.
It was during this dark period, when many would give up all hope, that he enrolled in law school and engaged his activism, determined to make his final years count. Against the odds, he graduated with honors and graded into Law Review, surviving while his partner of 12 years died. A year later, Brad was down to 143 pounds and breathing what he believed were his final breaths, going nearly blind at the time.When new medications arrived, Brad reacted positively and his life miraculously resumed its upward trajectory. He took the Bar Exam in 1997 and went immediately to SCRAP, where he believed he could save the lives of others he was meant to save.
Brad is a mover and shaker. Never content to be on the sidelines, he moved into the SCRAP Felony Unit and Management Team and got busy using his newfound influence. He went out of his way to bring to the attention of policy makers the deplorable conditions in the county jail, and worked to bring change. He approached the ACLU and Disability Rights groups and ultimately persuaded them to bring litigation against the county, resulting in the county’s entering into a consent decree, giving Brad and other lawyers full access to the jail as Court appointed monitors.
In 2007 Brad was invited to participate in the Governor’s Discussion Group regarding the systemic response to a widely publicized child abduction/murder case in Tacoma. Out of these discussions, the Washington Sex Offender Policy Board was created by the Legislature and Brad was appointed to the Board by WACDL/WDA. He has been a member ever since and has chaired the Board the last two years, and has been re-elected to act as Chair for another term. Through this organization, Brad has helped steer policy toward drastically needed reforms in the sex offender realm, including dramatic legislation providing more equitable and sensible management of sex offenders.
Somehow, during all this activity, Brad has maintained a frequent presence on the WACDL Listserv, always there to answer anyone’s questions regarding sex crimes and sex offender policy. He is the go-to-person on sex offense topics, and never hesitates to help his colleagues.