Outstanding Young Lawyer: Taki V. Flevaris
Taki Flevaris, the recipient of the KCBA’s 2016 Outstanding Young Lawyer Award, reports that growing up he loved puzzles, games and argument. In college, he majored in philosophy and spent time trying to answer deep questions. When it came time to choose a career, law seemed like a perfect fit.
“I was looking for a way to apply my intellectual interests in a way that would have a direct and meaningful impact on the lives of others, not just my own,” he says.
Since then, Flevaris has developed impressive legal credentials by anyone’s standards. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 2009 and clerked for Justice Steven C. Gonzalez on the Washington Supreme Court. He has a well-respected practice as an associate at the Pacifica Law Group, where his work focuses on appellate, constitutional and governmental litigation. His colleagues there recognize him as “brilliant” with “insatiable curiosity,” and he was recognized as a Rising Star® in Washington in 2014 and 2015.
Despite these impressive credentials, those who know Flevaris describe him primarily as “kind, humble and deeply caring,” and someone who is “passionate about channeling his intellectual interests into vehicles for positive change.” Indeed, Flevaris has made significant contributions to his community.
He serves as vice-chair of KCBA’s Appellate Section and helped create a revamped and newly active KCBA Amicus Committee, where anyone may request KCBA’s involvement as amicus curiae in a case. He has been a mentor for KCBA’s Future of the Law Institute to promote diversity and he helped found a nonprofit that works with youth in Rainier Beach to improve their lives through mentorship and boxing. He also has litigated on behalf of immigrants seeking asylum from persecution.
Perhaps most notable of Flevaris’s many achievements is his work on criminal justice issues, which began during his fellowship at Seattle University’s Korematsu Center and continues today despite his work as a full-time civil litigator. During his fellowship at the Korematsu Center, Flevaris began researching the issue of cross-racial misidentification and learned that an eyewitness trying to identify a stranger is more than 50-percent more likely to make a misidentification when the stranger and eyewitness are of different races. This is a sobering fact when it is estimated that 5,000 to 10,000 felony convictions in the United States each year are wrongful and approximately 75 percent of wrongful convictions involve eyewitness misidentification.
In response to this challenge, Flevaris began studying empirical research on the phenomenon to build an evidence-based argument for addressing witness misidentification. On behalf of the Korematsu Center, he led a team that drafted amicus curiae briefing urging the Washington Supreme Court to require jury instructions on cross-racial misidentification.
Seattle University Prof. Robert Chang described Flevaris’s work as “powerful” and the result of his “relentless” efforts to get answers. Flevaris “will pore through hundreds of studies to try to get at the best information and distill it into something useable,” Prof. Chang said.
Now a faculty affiliate at the Korematsu Center, Flevaris continues to work on the issue. Most recently, he published a 2015 article in the Seattle University Law Review arguing that trial courts in Washington should exercise their discretion to regularly allow expert testimony and jury instructions on cross-racial misidentification.
Currently, he is collaborating with the Washington Pattern Jury Instructions Committee on revisions to Washington’s current pattern instruction on eyewitness testimony. His next steps are to create a database of expert witnesses and distribute a bench card to trial judges. “The long-term vision,” Flevaris says, “is to steadily increase awareness among jurors and practitioners, and to identify and implement effective systemic reforms over time.”
Flevaris’s dedication to social justice is part of his guiding philosophy to “live a moral life as a member of our collective existence.” He believes there “is much work to be done in the pursuit of justice and that each of us can make significant and meaningful contributions.”
Flevaris also recognizes that his own efforts have depended on the support and inspiration of others. He gives thanks to his family and friends, who support and motivate him, and his firm, Pacifica Law Group, which has nurtured and supported all of his continuing efforts at social justice, civic engagement and community involvement.
Stephanie Lakinski is an associate at Karr Tuttle Campbell and is vice chair — and soon-to-be chair — of the KCBA YLD Board of Trustees. Lakinski would like to express her thanks to the members of the 2016 Outstanding Young Lawyer Committee for their time and efforts in selecting this year’s award recipient.
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