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Anne Melani Bremner is an American trial attorney based in Seattle, Washington. The attorney's practice areas include sex abuse litigation, police and government liability, personal injury, major accident litigation, real estate, escrow and title litigation. She is well-known for being counsel and spokesperson for the friends of Amanda Knox, and as the lawyer for the family of Rebecca Mawii Zahau following her death in Coronado, California. Anne is also nationally-recognized for her work as a contributing legal analyst on TV and cable. Some of the networks she has appeared on several times include Fox, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and the BBC.
Although Anne was born in McAlester, Oklahoma, her family has resided in the great state of Washington since 1880. She attended and graduated from Stanford University, earning a B.A. with honors. The attorney received her J.D. degree in 1982 from Seattle University.
Over the years, Anne has been awarded with several distinctions. In 2003, Washington Law & Politics listed the attorney as one of the 25 Smartest People in Washington State. During that same year, Seattle Magazine recognized Anne as one of the 115 best lawyers in the city. By November 2004, Seattle magazine voted her one of Seattle's Top 25 most influential people. From 2002-2005; and 2009, Anne was selected for the Top 50 Women Washington Super Lawyers. From 2003-2010, the attorney was chosen for Washington Super Lawyers. The Seattle Metropolitan Magazine listed Anne as one of Seattle's Top Lawyers in July 2010. She is currently ranked number six on a roster of famous defense attorneys, which includes Johnnie Cochran, Mark Geragos, Alan Dershowitz, Gloria Allred, Leslie Abranson, F. Lee Bailey, Shawn Holley Chapman, Dick Deguerin and Robert Shapiro.
Anne was chosen for inclusion in Fellow, The International Academy of Trial Lawyers. The United States law restricts Fellowship to 500 active trial lawyers under the age of 70. Attorneys who join the Fellowship must be invited, and there are only 15 lawyers from Washington State on this list. Anne is the only woman among them. Her accomplishments are far too long and distinguished to list here, but the ambitious attorney has undeniably achieved so much in a short period of time.
When the fearless attorney isn't working, she enjoys playing the piano, a hobby she started when she was six years-old. She frequently plays Beethoven. The attorney also works out in the gym with her trainer and loves to read. One of her favorite books is In Cold Blood, written by Truman Capote. The non-fiction novel discusses the horrendous murders of Herbert Clutter, a prosperous farmer from Holcomb, Kansas, two of his four children, and his wife. The killers, Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Smith, were eventually captured and hanged for their murders.
Anne's favorite quote is “every private person has a public responsibility.” She believes the quote should inspire individuals. The attorney is a frequent visitor at Ezell's Famous Chicken and Wild Ginger, an Asian Restaurant located in Downtown Seattle. She roots for all of Stanford's teams as well as the Seahawks and Mariners. Anne noted that there is “lots of fan support” in Seattle. The attorney also pointed out she “wouldn't live anywhere else.” She said Seattle is beautiful, has clean water, and the people are friendly.
Anne's High-Profile Cases
After Anne graduated from law school, she launched her legal career by becoming a deputy prosecuting attorney with the criminal division of the King County Prosecutor's Office, specializing in sex crimes. From 1983 to 1988, she gained valuable experience on how to be a trial lawyer. How was this experience? What did Anne learn? The tough prosecutor reflected on her experience. She stated, “I was there for five years. I thought prosecuting was an amazing job. At that time no one talked about sex crimes or child sex crimes. I learned to be a trial lawyer. I learned empathy, about trial, and the difference you can make. I learned about victims and what punishment means and about judgment and reasoning.” The trial lawyer added, “I took on a lot of responsibility in my 20's.”
While working as a prosecutor, Anne came into contact with several high-profile cases, such as the Wah Mee massacre trials. The Wah Mee Massacre was a multiple homicide that occurred on February 18, 1983. The killers, Kwan Fai “Willie” Mak and Benjamin Ng, gunned down 14 people in the Wah Mee gambling club. Both men were charged with 13 counts of aggravated first-degree murder. Ng was convicted of murder and sentence to life in prison while Mak was convicted and sentenced to death.
Did anything about the Wah Mee Massacre surprise Anne? She replied, “I learned how one defendant got life and the other defendant got death. I was stunned. I was also amazed at [the] skilled level of the attorneys, two are judges today, one is a federal judge.”
Other Major Cases
In October 2008, Anne assisted Knox, a University of Washington student who was accused of the murder of Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. How did Anne get involved in the Knox case? What was her reaction? The attorney stated, “I got involved because of two men who knew the Knox family. One is a superior court judge, Mike Heavey, and the other is a screen writer.”
Anne believes there is no evidence against Knox. The trial lawyer released Knox's case, which includes examination of evidence to the media. Anne compared releasing the Knox case to the Pentagon Papers. She concluded, “At the end of the day, the case shows that the evidence was contaminated, unreliable and inadmissible.” The attorney's greatest professional accomplishment has been getting Knox back home to Seattle.
The attorney is currently working on the Zahau case. On July 13, 2011, Zahau was found nude, hanging from a balcony, with her wrist and ankles bound. The woman was gagged with a blue, long sleeve T-shirt wrapped around her head with the sleeves double knotted and stuffed into her mouth. On September 2, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department released their findings that Zahau committed suicide.
What is currently being done for Rebecca Zahau? Anne said, “I had forensics look at the case and I put together a comprehensive submission. I then went to the D.A. and they turned it down. I went to the California Attorney General.” Anne hopes the attorney general, who has authority under the California Constitution, will call for an independent investigation.
Anne's Successful Law Career
While at Stanford, Anne studied medieval history. Why did the future attorney decided to study medieval history? She admitted she is a big reader. Anne declared, “My parents had books everywhere and I read everything from Thomas More to Hemingway.” She added, “I think everyone should read history, it's an ignored area. It's a fine intellectual enterprise.”
Did Anne receive any awards or participate in any internship that influenced her decision to go into the law? The candid attorney said no. She was going to get a Master's Degree in Medieval History, but her parents refused and thought she wouldn't be able to support herself with a medieval education. Anne's father, Jim, encouraged her to go to law school.
When asked if her father must take so much credit for her successful law career, the Stanford graduate said, “Dad takes credit. He said he figured me out, he's got me down.”
So why did Anne decide to become an attorney? She said even though her father encouraged her to go to law school, she wasn't convinced on becoming an attorney until she interned for a judge.
Anne revealed she did not have a most memorable law school experience. The dedicated attorney explained she had a couple of professors who inspired her, especially her criminal law professor. However, Anne used to get up at four in the morning and got home at ten at night. The attorney acknowledged she worked during law school and had no life because she was busy.
The trial lawyer discussed the best part of her job. Anne proclaimed, “My clients, meaningful cases, many interesting cases and meaningful work. I am lucky to have the clients that I have.” The humble attorney added, “What's most rewarding is to work for the victims.”
Anne also discussed what she had a knack for. She claimed, “T.V. and speaking.” The Super Lawyer said a lot of people in Seattle see her in the media, so when they think about Anne, they think media, T.V. and radio.
The former prosecutor mentioned her strengths and weakness as an attorney. She pointed out that she is known for being “fearless, tough and committed.” Anne's friend has told her she always thinks she is right.
It's hard to believe that Anne has a weakness, but the honest attorney confessed, “I am very disorganized with papers and things. I have a great assistant.”
The T.V. legal analyst gave her advice to individuals who are thinking about becoming an attorney. Anne encourages students to “go for it. I can't image doing anything else.” However, the famous trial lawyer did give stern warning to law students who don't take their studies seriously. She expressed, “Take it seriously from the beginning. Take your first job seriously. Where you go to school, your activities and grades makes a difference. Follow your passion. The world is your oyster.” Anne concluded by stating that lawyers receive great training and they know how to write, organize, and present.
What does Anne think about the field today and what would she change about it? The veteran attorney who has 29 years of legal experience announced, “One thing that never changed is how we try cases.” Anne described the changes she has seen in the legal field over the years. She asserted, “There are more woman and minorities in the field today, and technology has made a huge difference, especially networking.” Anne disclosed it was hard for attorneys to get jobs in today's market, but she recognizes there are still opportunities for lawyers. She said attorneys have the opportunity to become in-house counsels, prosecutors and could run their own firm.
Anne doesn't believe judges should be elected to the bench. She would like to see judges appointed to the position. Another change Anne would like to see implemented is instilling responsibility for attorneys. The confident attorney stressed, “I would like to improve the perception of lawyers and the system. It's a work in progress and it is something that attorneys will continue to address.”
Is there an area of the law Anne's most passionate about? She stated, “Victims rights and law enforcement defense.” The former prosecutor firmly believes that law enforcement is victimized in many ways. She noted, “Everyone likes to criticize the cops.” Anne gave credit to police officers for doing a great job. She acknowledged they don't get paid well and thinks the public needs to embrace them.
What area of practice would Anne like to develop further? The T.V. legal analyst would like to “see more development in media. It's a great platform of large issues. I would like to take the show on the road because it's an important part of public education.”
Where does Anne she herself in five years? The straight shooting attorney answered, “I hope I am doing more things like last night (see below - Center for Women and Democracy on Women in Rwanda Dinner). I would like to do more global work, helping girls and underprivileged individuals. It would be meaningful to me.” The attorney would also like to mentor women lawyers while continuing her practice.
If Anne was not an attorney, what would she be doing? She said, “I would have gotten my Master's Degree in Medieval History and probably done broadcasting.” The attorney continued to say, “I would have a career no matter what it was. I was always career minded.”
How does she want to be remembered? The Super Lawyer stated, “Someone who made a difference.”
Anne's Mentor, Volunteer Work, Motivation and Non Profit Organizations
Anne said her dad is “a number one mentor to this day.” While growing up, her dad called her “sport” and “princess.” The attorney has encouraged her dad to run for president, but he hasn't taken her up on the offer. Anne has so much love and admiration for her dad that she named her two cats after him, Jim and Jimmy. Personal closeness to her family is very import to Anne. Her grandma, who recently passed away, “told her to smile more.” She also looks up to Ted Buck, an attorney who brought her up in the ranks in his law firm.
On Thursday, October 18th, Anne attended the Center for Women and Democracy on Women in Rwanda Dinner. How was the dinner? The attorney replied, “It's amazing how the women are doing.” The group Anne was with is going to Rwanda to start a private school in June. She was asked how she got involved with the dinner. The attorney stated, “My friend is on the board. I was always interested in mentoring girls. It made sense to do this here in the United States.”
One of Anne's goals is to continue to volunteer for girls in Rwanda and for other disadvantaged women. What motivates the Super Lawyer? The humanitarian expressed, “I am driven by a place where I can make a difference. My parents are philanthropist of the year and they constantly volunteered. There should be no question why you do it; you just do it if you have the opportunity.”
Anne is involved with a non-profit organization called Northwest Center. The goal of the center is to expand the skills, independence and opportunities of children and adults with disabilities. The organization is headed by President and CEO Tom Everill.
Anne told me she is known to be “fearless, tough and committed,” but I was really impressed with how humble and down to earth she was throughout the interview. She didn't grow a big head because of her successful career; she just continues to do meaningful work. Another attractive quality that Anne has is that she might be one of the few famous attorneys in the United States who actually answers her own phone.