December 02, 2021

2021 Outstanding Achievement Award Honorees

Congratulations to NCVLI’s 2021 award honorees!  This year we presented the Gail Burns-Smith Award to Helen O’Brien and the Legal Advocacy Awards to two honorees, Colleen Clase and Elizabeth Well!  The award ceremony was held on Friday, November 12, 2021 during the Crime Victim Law Conference.

2021 Gail Burns-Smith Award

This award recognizes outstanding efforts of an advocate, attorney, allied professional, or victim service organization in elevating the rights and voices of crime victims, and shedding light on often hidden issues related to victimization and healing.

Helen O'Brien

Helen O’Brien is the Crime Victims’ Rights Program Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Justice. Her responsibilities include guiding and supporting the efforts of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Victims’ Rights Enforcement, subcommittees, and workgroups. Helen works to identify and eliminate barriers in system practice across the State by collaborating with partners to develop plans that increase program effectiveness and improve access to justice.


2021 Legal Advocacy Award 
This award recognizes crime victims’ rights attorneys who have dedicated and committed their time to representing victims of crime in the criminal justice system. 

Colleen Clase

Colleen Clase, JD; LLM, is Chief Counsel with Arizona Voice for Crime Victims in Phoenix, Arizona. Colleen has been counsel of record for victims of crime in both state and federal prosecutions, many of which are homicide and sexual assault cases that involve child-victims. Colleen has successfully litigated victims’ rights issues to enforce the constitutional and statutory rights of victims in Arizona’s trial and appellate courts. Colleen’s efforts have resulted in published case authority in Arizona that has preserved and protected the rights of her clients as well as other victims throughout the state. Colleen’s most recent Arizona Supreme Court case resulted in the Court deciding two important victims’ rights issues. The first issue, a matter of first impression in Arizona and throughout the country, asked the Court to decide whether victims’ rights attorneys could be in the well of the courtroom when asserting and enforcing victims’ rights. The Court held that a lawyer representing a victim has a presumptive right to sit in front of the bar in the courtroom during a proceeding where a victim’s constitutional or statutory rights are at issue. The second issue caused the Court to revisit their prior authority, predating Arizona’s Victims’ Bill of Rights, that required restitution caps in plea agreements. This practice continued nearly 30 years after the enactment of Arizona’s Victims’ Bill of Rights until Colleen petitioned the Court to review the issue. The Court held that placing a cap on the amount of restitution a defendant may be liable for in a plea agreement without the consent of the victim violates the right to restitution. Colleen has been a panelist on numerous webinars hosted by the National Crime Victim Law Institute and has presented on victims’ rights issues to attendees at national conferences including the National Crime Victim Law Institute’s Crime Victim Law Conference, the Courthouse Dogs Conference, the Parents of Murdered Children Conference, the National Organization for Victim Assistance Conference, the San Diego Conference on Child and Family Maltreatment, and the National Center for Victims of Crime National Training Institute. Colleen also serves on various committees including the Arizona Supreme Court’s Committee on Criminal Rules Regarding Victims, the Arizona Attorney General’s Victims’ Rights Advisory Committee, and the Victims Advisory Group to the United States Sentencing Commission.

2021 Legal Advocacy Award

Elizabeth Well Elizabeth Well is the Legal Director at Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center.

Elizabeth graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and attended Ohio Northern University for law school, where she graduated with a juris doctorate with distinction.

In her time with Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center, Elizabeth has provided assistance to hundreds of crime victims, litigating their rights in trial and appellate courts, provided training to thousands of criminal justice system officials on victims’ rights in Ohio, and participated in the Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment campaign, including a leading role in drafting the amendment’s implementing legislation.

Elizabeth is also an adjunct instructor at Columbus State Community College in the paralegal studies department.