York County Assistant Public Defender Sandy Feliz to Receive Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Houston's Rising Star Award

HARRISBURG, Pa. (April 25, 2023) — Sandy Feliz, assistant public defender, York County Public Defender’s Office, York, will receive the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Minority Bar Committee Houston’s Rising Star Award at a reception on May 4 during the PBA Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

Houston’s Rising Star Award recognizes a PBA Minority Bar Committee member who has made significant contributions to the committee or the PBA. Charles Hamilton Houston was a civil rights hero who managed a series of cases that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. He laid the groundwork for the ongoing pursuit of equality and justice in our courts. Houston engineered the legal strategy that ultimately resulted in the Brown v. Board of Education decision overturning “separate but equal” Jim Crow segregation. He also mentored U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall who stated: “We wouldn’t have been anyplace if Charlie hadn’t laid the groundwork.”

As an assistant public defender, Feliz handles misdemeanor and felony cases from the preliminary hearing through trial phases for underserved adults and minors in York County. His duties include drafting and arguing pretrial motions and sentencing memorandums; investigating and preparing witnesses and evidence for trial; trying cases to verdict before both judges and juries; counseling clients on the criminal prosecution process, legal options and case strategy; and negotiating plea offers for clients. In recognition for his work, Feliz was a finalist for the Rico Award from the Public Defenders Association of Pennsylvania in 2021.

Prior to his current role, Feliz was a senior law clerk at McShane Law Firm, where he drafted appellate briefs and prepared witnesses for trial.

One of his nominators said: “Mr. Feliz's involvement in various legal organizations is a testament to his unwavering dedication to promoting civility and professionalism within the legal field. Most importantly, just like Charles Hamilton Houston, I predict someday we will say ‘We wouldn’t have been anyplace if Sandy hadn’t laid the groundwork.’”

In addition to being a member of the PBA Minority Bar Committee Membership Development Subcommittee, Feliz is a member of the Administrative Law Section; Civil and Equal Rights Committee; Criminal Justice Section; Immigration Law Committee; and Young Lawyers Division, for which he helps coordinate the PBA Mock Trial Competition at a regional level. He is also a participant in the 2022-2023 Bar Leadership Institute.

Feliz is chair of the York County Bar Association Young Lawyer’s Section Social Committee and received the association’s Rising Star Award in 2021. He is also a member of the Herbert C. Cohen Inns of Court Executive Board Committee and the Honorable Clarence "Chuck" N. Patterson Diversity Internship Committee, for which he demonstrates his commitment to creating opportunities for underrepresented groups in the legal profession. Additionally, he is a member of the Hispanic Bar Association, for which he serves as a liaison between the association and other minority bar associations to promote and expand diversity and inclusion in the legal profession throughout the commonwealth.

In 2022, Lawyers for Good Government recognized Feliz for his pro bono legal services with Project Corazon, which helps individuals in Reynosa, Mexico, apply for asylum.

Feliz received a Juris Doctor from Widener University Commonwealth Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Kutztown University. During his time at Kutztown, he served as a student representative member on the University Curriculum Committee that worked closely with faculty to develop new academic programs and courses. Feliz was also president of the Kutztown University Pre-Law Club and the founder of the Mock Trial Team, for which he helped to train and mentor aspiring law students.

For more information on the PBA Annual Meeting, visit https://www.pabar.org/pdf/2023/AnnualMeeting2023.pdf.