2006 Distinguished alumni awards

Thomas W. Hillier, II
Bainbridge Island, Washington
College graduate 1969
Professional achievement award

In 1982 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals appointed Thomas Hillier, II to be the Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Washington. Since then Mr. Hillier has more than justified the confidence that appointment represented. Known as a passionate, tireless and ‘truly visionary leader’, Hillier is recognized for his intense dedication to his belief that all individuals charged with capital crimes, regardless of available financial resources, deserve zealous and first-rate representation. As one of the longest serving public defenders in the nation, Hillier has provided outstanding quality representation to the poor, the forgotten and, often even the despised.

Hillier broke with his Spokane family tradition when he accepted a scholarship to attend Saint Martin’s College. After graduating in 1969 from SMC with a degree in Economics, Hillier attended night classes at Gonzaga University School of Law, graduating in 1973.

His contributions to our guarantee of justice and freedom have not gone unnoticed. He has received the Outstanding Service Award from the Federal Bar Association of Western Washington, the Washington State Bar Association’s Angelo Petrus Award in recognition of his ‘significant contributions to the public’ and the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Attorney’s William O. Douglas Award for ‘extraordinary courage and dedication to the practice of criminal law’. In 1998 Gonzaga University Law School presented him with their highest honor, the Gonzaga Law Medal for service in the cause of justice “in an exceptional manner’ and who provides a true example “of the Jesuit ideal of being ‘a person for others’.”

In 1991 Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist appointed Hillier to the nine member Committee to Review the Criminal Justice Act. In 1994 Hillier returned to Saint Martin’s College to present the commencement address at graduation ceremonies. The following year he was inducted as a Fellow in the American College of Trail Lawyers. In 1996 the ACLU of Washington presented him with its highest honor – the William O. Douglas Award given ‘for outstanding and sustained contributions to the cause of civil liberties’.

In 2000 Chief Justice Rehnquist once again honored Hillier with an appointment to the Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Evidence. Hillier is an active member of the Federal Defender Training Committee and the Sentencing Guidelines Committee. In 2005 Hillier earned the Seattle-King County Bar Association’s Outstanding Lawyer Award for distinguished service to the legal profession and the public.

Hillier, his wife Stephanie, and their two children, Annie and Kerry Rose, have lived on Bainbridge Island since 1976.