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Longtime public defender remembered

Posted: January 9, 2013 - 1:06am
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Gabe Meachum talks about his father, Robert Francis Meachum, during a memorial service at Northern Light United Church on Tuesday.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Gabe Meachum talks about his father, Robert Francis Meachum, during a memorial service at Northern Light United Church on Tuesday.

Members of the legal community, friends and family turned out Tuesday to remember a longtime public defender in Juneau who died last week.

Robert Francis Meachum died Jan. 1 after suffering a heart attack and stroke. He was 57.

Retiring Alaska Supreme Court Justice Walter L. Carpeneti said during Tuesday’s Celebration of Life Service at Northern Light United Church that he will remember Meachum for his remarkable objectivity, quiet dignity and mighty sense of right and wrong. Meachum was the first person Carpeneti and his then-law partner ever hired at their firm.

Nelson Traverso, who befriended Meachum when he was attending law school at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, said he will never forget Meachum’s commencement speech when he quoted Bob Marley: “Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight.”

“It’s was nothing short of electrifying,” Traverso said, remembering the moment.

Meachum went on to work at the Alaska Public Defender Agency in Juneau for 26 years, from 1986 until January 2012, when he transferred to the Dillingham public defender office.

As a public defender, 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 also awarded the Alaska Bar Association Board of Governors Professionalism Award in recognition of exemplary conduct in his association with the public, his colleagues and the legal community. He was a nominee to the Superior Court bench in Juneau in 2007.

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

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