The Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers named two Montana Innocence Project attorneys as the co-recipients of the 2019 Lawyer of the Year award. Former Legal Director, Larry Mansch, and former staff attorney, Toby Cook, shared the award in celebration of their work that has freed innocent Montanans.
Cook began his career with MTIP as a law student. During his first and second years at the University of Montana School of Law, he volunteered for MTIP. In his last year, Cook was the chief legal intern for MTIP’s legal clinic.
After graduating, Cook clerked for a judge in Billings, Montana. That was the same year Mansch became MTIP’s Legal Director. When the Board of Directors asked Mansch how he was going to make the project more successful, he said he was going to “bring Toby back.” In 2016, Cook returned to MTIP as a staff attorney and Director of Investigations. During the three years Cook held these positions, he was instrumental in the exonerations of six MTIP clients.
“I am proud to know Toby Cook,” Mansch told MTACDL. “He defines what a criminal defense attorney should be. Toby is gifted, dedicated, and fearless. Most important, he has a clear understanding of right and wrong. His professional career is driven by one thing: finding justice. It has been an honor to work with him. He is most deserving of this wonderful award.”
Mansch graduated from Creighton University School of Law in 1980. After spending 13 years as a Senior Attorney for the Office of the Missoula County Public Defender, five years in private practice, and 20 years as a Judge Advocate General in the Montana Army National Guard, Mansch received his Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Montana and worked as a teacher for Missoula Catholic Schools for ten years. Mansch became the supervisor of MTIP’s legal clinic when the project began in 2008. He was an associate attorney for MTIP until 2015 and Legal Director from 2015-2019. He served a huge role in freeing seven MTIP clients.
“Larry and Toby both worked diligently on my case to not only win me my freedom but also re-unite me with my family,” said Robert “Dave” Wilkes, MTIP’s seventh freed client whose case Mansch and Cook worked on for eight years. “…They stood when no one else would. They believed in me and my innocence when no one else would. I learned how to trust again, and thanks to these two, they showed me respect and courage in the face of fire.”
Cook now works in private practice, and Mansch left his role as Legal Director in 2015; however, they both continue to work on behalf of the wrongfully convicted.
Mansch and Cook are among the four MTIP attorneys who have received this award. Brett Schandelson and Colin Stephens previously won the award for playing major roles in the exonerations of Richard Raugust in 2016 and Cody Marble in 2017.