Loren Miller Legal Services Award
The Loren Miller Legal Services Award, named after the late Loren Miller, an African American lawyer and judge who was a leader in the civil rights movement, was established in 1977 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the State Bar of California. It is considered a lifetime achievement award and is given annually to a lawyer admitted to practice in California who has demonstrated long-term commitment to legal services and who has personally done significant work in extending legal services to the poor. Previous award recipients include the staff of legal services organizations such as directors of litigation, executive directors and private bar attorneys.
GUIDELINES, ELIGIBILITY, AND CRITERIA
General criteria to be used in the selection of the award recipient include one or more of the following:
- Demonstrated dedication to the development and delivery of legal services
- Community organizing to increase access to the legal system
- Performance of legal services with a demonstrated long-term commitment to providing legal services
- Successful precedent-setting litigation which benefited the poor
- Successful legislative advocacy on behalf of under-represented persons
Members of the State Bar Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services (SCDLS) are ineligible to receive the award during their service on the committee, and for one year following their departure from the committee.
- Self-nominations are accepted.
- Repeat nominations are accepted with updated information.
- The nomination form and nominee’s current resume or biography with work history and dates are required and must be submitted electronically as Word documents.
- In addition, at least one (1) but no more than five (5) letters in support of the nomination that include citations to reported cases, references to legislative and organizing efforts, successful projects and relevant newspaper or other articles about the nominee’s professional accomplishments.
- Letters of support and additional supporting material must be submitted with the nomination form and resume as individual PDF files, except for articles which can be submitted via live URL links. Video web links, CDs and DVDs will not be accepted.
- Letters of support should be addressed to the “Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services”.
- All attachments must be itemized in the body of the e-mail message.
- The total size of all documents attached to a single e-mail cannot exceed 10 MB. If necessary, send remaining documents in a second e-mail.
- The page limit on letters of support and additional supporting materials (not including the resume) is 25 pages.
- Nomination materials should be emailed to the attention of Kimberly Warmsley at LorenMillerandProBonoAwards@calbar.ca.gov by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, March 15, 2013.
- The e-mail subject line should include “2013 Loren Miller Award” and the nominee’s name. If attachments are submitted in two e-mails, please add “(1 of 2)” and “(2 of 2)” to the subject line.
- Please do not include more than one nomination per e-mail.
- Nominations will only be accepted electronically. If it is a hardship to submit a nomination electronically, please contact Ms. Warmsley at the e-mail address above, or 415-538-2176 about an alternative method for submission.
- Nominators will receive e-mail notification acknowledging receipt of each nomination within five (5) business days. Please contact Ms. Warmsley to confirm receipt of submission if needed.
Please answer all questions thoroughly. If critical information is missing, the nomination may be disqualified. If information needs to be clarified, the nominator may be contacted.
Each nominee will receive e-mail notification that she or he has been nominated for an award with copy to the nominator.
SELECTION PROCESS AND AWARD PRESENTATION
The State Bar Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services (SCDLS) will review the nominations and submit its recommendation to the State Bar Board of Governors in July for final approval. The decision regarding the award recipient will be based on the above criteria or comparable achievements and the strength of the supporting letters. The award will be presented at a reception on Oct. 11, 2013 during the State Bar Annual Meeting in San Jose.
For more information and questions regarding the Loren Miller Award, please contact Sharon Ngim via email at: email@example.com
2012 LOREN MILLER LEGAL SERVICES AWARD RECIPIENT
Melinda R. Bird has long been considered one of California’s most effective and creative lawyers, whose work in legal services for 33 years has not only redressed the rights of tens of thousands of low-income Californians but, as importantly, changed the way that legal services attorneys strategize and present their legal arguments. Ms. Bird’s skill in telling the clients’ stories in ways that captivate the decision maker, her unorthodox use of social science to develop unique theories and remedies, and her persuasive arguments that turn opponents into allies have resulted in a changed legal landscape.
At Rutgers Law School in the late 1970s, Ms. Bird studied with Professor Arthur Kinoy, a renowned civil rights attorney who pioneered the concept of “people’s lawyer,” an idea that still guides her approach to law. She began work in a fledging legal services office in rural Appalachia, then moved to California where she spent 15 years litigating class action and impact cases with Western Center on Law and Poverty. There, she was involved in the first wave of state and national anti-homelessness litigation, as well as county health and general assistance cases. In 1995, Ms. Bird shifted her focus to disability rights when she became managing attorney of the Los Angeles office of Disability Rights California (then known as Protection and Advocacy), where she is now co-Litigation Director. Ms. Bird also spent three years as Senior Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, litigating conditions in the Los Angeles County jail.
“…Melinda’s advocacy not only solves the immediate problem, but more importantly leaves a lasting legacy which empowers clients and their communities.”
- Catherine Blakemore, Executive Director, Disability Rights California
Since the 1980’s, Ms. Bird has organized teams of advocates to write compelling client declarations, describing the impact of service reductions or discriminatory policies. Her ability to listen to a client and tell the story in a declaration or brief has influenced multitudes of legal services lawyers. Ms. Bird continues to work with teams of newer lawyers in public interest and disability law as co-counsel and mentor, including through her trainings with the National Disability Rights Network in Washington D.C. Among her more notable cases are:
Oster v. Lightbourne (previously V.L. v. Wagner), 669 F.Supp.2d 1106 (N.D. Cal., 2009) and 2012 WL 691833 (3/2/12) (based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), district court repeatedly enjoined cuts in home care services that would have otherwise caused “incredible human suffering” to hundreds of thousands of seniors and people with disabilities).
Rodde v. Bontá, 357 F.3d 988 (9th Cir. 2004) (affirming injunction based on the ADA to prevent county’s attempt to close noted rehabilitation hospital).
Beno v. Shalala, 30 F.3d 1057 (9th Cir. 1994) (affirming order blocking cuts in state welfare benefits, based on federal agency’s failure to consider evidence in the record).
Hansen v. McMahon, 193 Cal.App.3d 283 (1987) (finding that state must provide emergency shelter to children in homeless families, where alternative was family break-up; result was new state Homeless Assistance Program providing $50 million in services annually).
Robbins v. Superior Court, 38 Cal.3d 199 (1985) (under California Constitution, county indigents may not be required to live in a "poorhouse").
Much of Ms. Bird’s work in the last decade has focused on systemic reform for low-income children with mental illness. In Emily Q. v. Bontá, 208 F. Supp. 2d 1078 (C.D. Cal. 2001, aff'd 203 Fed.Appx. 35, 9th Cir. October 2006), the state repeatedly failed to comply with orders to provide behavior support services in the form of one-to-one aides or “coaches” to Medicaid-eligible children who would otherwise be institutionalized in mental health facilities or residential facilities. Ms. Bird persisted and, after multiple appeals and the assistance of two special masters, forged a positive collaboration with state officials that brought the state into full compliance, and has ensured the provision of innovative new mental services to more than 8,000 new children annually. Ms. Bird also worked on a “sister” case, Katie A. v. Bontá (C.D.Cal., No. CV02-5662 AHM), involving wraparound services for foster children with mental illness. In 2007, California Lawyer Magazine named Ms. Bird an “Attorney of the Year” for her work on Katie A., noting that it “has a potentially enormous impact” on the 80,000 children in foster care in California.
Past Loren Miller Legal Services Award Recipients