Christene Wood, along with John Hagan and Jack Carnegie, received the Texas Law Fellowship's Excellence in Public Interest Award 2015 for work in connection with the pro bono representation of a juvenile in a landmark case resulting in significant changes in juvenile justice in Texas. The award was presented by Professor Michele Deitch, a professor with the UT Law School at a ceremony hosted by Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst.
Their work was on behalf of a criminal defendant, Cameron Moon, who had been certified at age 16 to stand trial as an adult in a murder case. Although U.S. Supreme Court precedent dictated that certification of a minor to be tried as an adult should happen rarely, the certification process in Texas had become a rubber-stamp, resulting in certification in some 95% of cases.
Christene's team appealed the decision to transfer Cameron Moon to adult court and won, making it the first successful appeal of a certification decision in at least 20 years. The prosecution appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and Christene's team won there, too, in a decision that gained national attention. Now, in Texas at least, the decision whether to certify a minor to be tried as an adult will be a real legal process, not just a rubber stamp.
Ms. Wood also testified to the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee on April 7, 2015, and to the Texas House Committee on Family and Juvenile Law Issues on April 15, 2015 on bills introduced to provide a key change in juvenile justice to provide a Constitutional protection of key liberty interests afforded juveniles under the Texas Family Code.