Longtime Public Defender Meachum dies

A prominent criminal defense attorney, who served the Alaska Public Defender Agency in Juneau for 26 years, has died.


Robert Francis Meachum died Tuesday from a combination of a heart attack and stroke, according to family members. He was 57.

Meachum worked as an assistant public defender in Juneau from 1986 until last January, when he transferred to the Dillingham office.

Originally from Michigan, Meachum came to Alaska as a second-year law student in 1979 for an internship at the public defender’s office in Anchorage.

He attended the Northeastern University School of Law in Boston and graduated in 1981. He was a law clerk for Justice Walter Carpeneti in 1980.

Before law school, Meachum graduated from the University of Michigan, where he majored in political science and journalism.

At that time, Meachum was a cub reporter and he wrote for the Kansas City Star in 1976, the Detroit Free Press in 1977 and the Tallahassee Democrat from 1977 to 1978.

As a public defender in Juneau, Meachum handled felony and misdemeanor criminal cases, as well as cases that involved juvenile delinquency, Child In Need Of Aid and involuntary mental health commitments.

Meachum was awarded for excellence among Alaska’s public defenders in 2006 when he received the David B. Snyder Award.

“He was a very dignified and compassionate man, represented his clients who frequently had no other advocates, vigorously represented them, but at the same time dealt with everybody involved in the system respectfully,” Deputy Public Defender of the Criminal Division Douglas Moody said in a phone interview Wednesday. “It’s a great loss to the agency and to the legal community as a whole.”

Meachum is survived by his wife, Freda Westman; four children, Gabriel Meachum, Hunter Meachum, Dabney Meachum and Cecelia Westman; and grandson, Talib Westman.

Gabriel Meachum, 25, said a service for family and friends will be held at Northern Light United Church on Tuesday, Jan. 8. A time for the service had not been established yet.


A service for family and friends will be held at Northern Light United Church on Tuesday, January 8 at 3 p.m.  The service will be live-streamed at:  https://new.livestream.com/nluchurchjuneau . Refreshments will be served following the service.
Contributions can be made to the American Cancer Society, the Glory Hole, the Glacier Swim Club or to a college fund for the benefit of Rob’s daughters at Wells Fargo.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

Editor's note: The surname Westman was misspelled in an earlier version of this article.



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