We’re always asking why are these violations taking place? What trends present violence in the first place? Where is the system broken? What policy and structural changes are needed to repair it?
Shannon experienced a pivotal moment in her career as a criminal defense attorney when she asked herself, who do I want to represent? People who can afford the best attorney, or vulnerable populations whose story too often goes unheard? Shannon made her decision. Not long thereafter, during a trial, she received a small hand-written note from her client, a girl too young to be in court that day, a girl who’d been sexually assaulted by a teacher. It read: Thank you for fighting for me. Shannon’s client won a $3.2 million settlement and the school district implemented a mandatory training for principals in identifying sexual predators. (Sanchez v. Brokop 04-cv-134) There’s never been any doubt that Shannon made the right decision.
Shannon’s work continues to shift thinking about the legal representation of children and youth and implements policy changes that makes their lives safer. Kenneth Ellis III, an Iraq War veteran severely injured in the line of duty (earning him a Purple Heart) and suffering from PTSD, was fatally shot by officers who failed to implement practices for de-escalating a mental health crisis. Shannon, in co-counsel with Joseph Kennedy and Frances Carpenter, filed a wrongful death/loss of consortium lawsuit on behalf of Kenneth’s five-year-old son. The jury awarded $10.3 million; the case settled in mediation for $7.95 million. Kenneth’s sister, in partnership with the VA Hospital where he’d been treated, lobbied for legislative changes that resulted in mandatory crisis intervention and de-escalation training for police officers across the state of New Mexico.
Shannon consistently argues for settlements that require police officers and other public employees receive the training needed to do their jobs responsibly. In a class action case against the City of Albuquerque, student misconduct in the City’s public schools was being criminalized with charges of misdemeanors. Students were being arrested and removed from campus without their parents’ knowing. Shannon’s work resulted in School Resource Officers (many of them retired police) being trained on how to interact with youth. The number of arrests decreased from 180 in a two-year period to just one the year after the new policy went into place.
Shannon studied at The CUNY School of Law and worked in their nationally-recognized public interest law clinic on behalf of battered immigrant woman. She also worked at the United Nations Human Rights Project on behalf of female victims of torture seeking political asylum. She was awarded a Revson Fellowship to work with a farm worker’s project in New Mexico and transferred into the University of New Mexico’s dual degree program earning her JD and Master’s in Latin American Studies.
When asked what Shannon does in her free time, she paused as though trying to remember a town she once passed through. Upon giving it further thought, she anticipates that once her children are all off being adults, she’ll return to her passion for international travel and scuba diving.
To learn more about Shannon's cases, please go to our blog: The Second Wave