Jon B. Streeter
, President, The State Bar of California, 2011-2012

Discussions about the impact of these recessionary times on the justice system too often revolve around budget-cutting statistics.  Beyond the statistics are people in need, for whom the basic necessities of life – food, housing, access to health care, personal safety – are often a daily concern.  Some fight these battles because of physical disability, mental impairment, or the isolation of advanced age. Others live in communities of concentrated poverty, where education is a distant dream, incarceration rates are high, and a history of abuse and discrimination is accepted as a basic reality.

When we talk about the "Justice Gap," we are talking not only about the increased need for legal assistance by those who cannot afford it, we are talking about the need for lawyers to step forward and lend a helping hand to those who cannot help themselves. The President’s Pro Bono Service Awards celebrate the incredible work by extraordinary lawyers who have unselfishly given their time, talent and passion to those who otherwise would not have access to legal services.

We recognize not only the recipients of the President’s Pro Bono Service Awards, the Loren Miller Legal Services Award, and the Jack Berman Award for Achievement for Distinguished Services to the Profession and Public, but also their families, friends and colleagues who supported them in this crucial work. On behalf of the entire State Bar of California, thank you for setting an example in the profession and for inspiring all of us. Congratulations.

Message from the Honorable Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice of California

Chief Justice This celebration is one of the highlights of the State Bar’s Annual Meeting. It is in my view one of the brightest and proudest moments all year for lawyers in California. I can tell you that the work you do in providing legal services to the poor and under served has never been more critical, or more appreciated.

Economic stresses have social consequences, many of which present challenges to the legal profession and to the courts. So the need for pro bono representation is greater than ever, but so too is the potential. Especially in times of crisis, when services are cut, jobs are lost, and homes are taken, the courts serve as the safety net for a civil society.  But this is not a challenge only for the courts, nor is it a challenge only for the bar. It is a challenge for all of us.

There are no caveats attached to the great promise of American democracy – equal justice under law. There are no qualifiers concerning the affordability of counsel or the availability of court services.  Making good on that promise is the work of judges, court staff, legal services organizations, pro bono attorneys, public interest lawyers, social service agencies, and many others working together on behalf of the people we serve. It is a challenge for all Californians.

I have seen the power of pro bono service.  I am honored to be part of this celebration of those who have embraced these challenges and dedicated their service to others.

2012 President's Pro Bono Service Awards recipients:

Jonathan Kaiho, Tustin
Recently Admitted

Since being admitted in 2009, Jonathan Kaiho has been busy building his three-attorney firm, Kaiho and Trivedi, and yet has devoted substantial time to pro bono activities. Mr. Kaiho firmly believes in giving back to the community, has been a volunteer at the Legal Aid Society of Orange County (LASOC) since 2010, and is always eager and willing to assist clients with complex and uncommon issues particularly in family law. As part of his commitment, Mr. Kaiho contributed more than 350 pro bono hours in 2011. He volunteered at more than 50 LASOC Family Law Clinics and personally provided legal advice and strategy to over 120 clients. He also represented 20 needy LASOC clients in dissolution, domestic violence, guardianship, custody, visitation and child support cases in Orange County as well as San Diego, Los Angeles and Riverside Counties. He drafts many of his own pleadings, discovery, law and motion, and does legal research and trial preparation for many of the clients assigned to him. Mr. Kaiho enjoys working with other new volunteer lawyers at the family law clinics and offers guidance and lessons learned.  He feels he benefits more from providing pro bono work, by seeing the legal field from a different perspective, and developing compassion from those in worse circumstances than himself.

Mayte Santacruz, Costa Mesa
Recently Admitted

Mayte Santacruz, an associate at Latham & Watkins LLP, provided outstanding pro bono services for the Public Law Center and Human Options. She assisted immigrant victims of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, and aggravated assault.  These cases are both legally challenging and emotionally draining, but Ms. Santacruz handled the legal work with skill while earning her clients' trust and respect.  In her three years of practicing law, Ms. Santacruz has provided more than 1,000 hours of pro bono work to clients referred by the Public Law Center.  In 2011 alone, Ms. Santacruz dedicated 350 hours to this work, assisting 18 individuals with their VAWA and U Visa petitions. Because of these efforts, her clients can obtain the opportunity to lawfully work, obtain a Social Security number and driver's license, and otherwise live freely in our society.  Ms. Santacruz has also demonstrated her dedication to public service in other ways. She is the incoming President of the Hispanic Bar Association of Orange County, a devoted volunteer of the Hispanic Education Endowment Fund, and founder of the “Mayte Santacruz Pre-Law Scholarship Fund,” which awards scholarships to Hispanic high school seniors/college students from Orange County interested in pursuing a career in law.

Clifford Anderson, Jr., Laguna Niguel
Limited Active Practice

Clifford Anderson, Jr., a retired family law practitioner and member of the State Bar’s Pro Bono Practice Program, has been volunteering for the Legal Aid Society of Orange County (LASOC) since 2009. In 2011, he represented 15 family law litigants on a variety of sensitive and complex cases involving domestic violence, move-away issues and intricate custody matters. Some of these clients were also immigrants who were fearful of deportation. Mr. Anderson consistently represents clients with very challenging issues on short notice at ex parte hearings. He is very sensitive to their legal and social issues, and ensures that all his clients are aware of the resources available to them so that they are able to get immediate relief such as housing, public benefits, child support, or veteran’s benefits. Clifford Anderson exemplifies the true meaning of a team player and is always willing to assist whenever needed, regardless of the time involved or the nature of the case. Many LASOC staff attorneys have turned to him for advice and counsel on their own cases, and he always gives his guidance and time without hesitation. Mr. Anderson was admitted in 1953 and is the oldest participant in the State Bar’s Pro Bono Practice Program.

Michelle de Blank, Palo Alto
Limited Active Practice

Michelle de Blank’s legal career has focused exclusively on helping low-income and underserved individuals beginning at the Mental Health Advocacy Project representing individuals with disabilities, and then at the Santa Clara County Superior Court helping unrepresented people in the areas of family law, housing, and general civil law. She left the court in 2007 to raise her children. When Ms. de Blank contacted the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County in 2011 to do pro bono work, they were experiencing a dramatic increase in requests for special education services and having difficulty keeping up with the demand for full representation. Ms. de Blank ably stepped in and provided nearly 200 hours of pro bono service in 24 matters by helping children access educational placements and specialized services under both federal and state law; educating families about their rights when negotiating IEPs and helping them brainstorm strategies for self-advocacy; representing families with IEPs; and helping a family file for due process against a school district that attempted to change an IEP without proper notice to the family. Her ability to communicate directly with Spanish speaking clients also has been a tremendous asset.

Grace Carter, San Francisco
Law Firm Individual

Grace Carter is a partner at Paul Hastings LLP. Despite an active commercial practice in 2011, she litigated, negotiated settlements and consulted on pro bono cases that resulted in thousands of severely indigent Californians qualifying for or retaining General Assistance (GA), the last resort county-funded aid program. Ms. Carter co-counseled with the Western Center on Law and Poverty and the Public Interest Law Project in these high-impact matters. She also established, trained, supervised and mentored a practice group within her firm so that another generation of lawyers can learn the area of GA benefits. Ms. Carter contributed at least 400 hours to these efforts, a third of which she spent on litigated cases. The impact of her work is particularly important because GA recipients are without assets or income and have no other means to provide for their basic needs. Many are homeless, recently aged-out foster children, domestic violence survivors, veterans, or persons with disabilities. The majority suffer from physical and mental health impairments. There is no doubt that because of her leadership, many firm associates have become more highly skilled litigators and more deeply committed to pro bono work. While Paul Hastings has a strong pro bono policy, Grace Carter stands out for her commitment to pro bono.

Leslie McAdam, Ventura
Law Firm Individual

Leslie McAdam is a civil litigator and employment law associate at Ferguson Case Orr Paterson LLP, a full-service firm in Ventura with more than 75 attorneys. Ms. McAdam has provided countless hours of pro bono legal assistance for the past three years to Santa Clara Valley Legal Aid, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization established in 1996 that provides legal assistance to the largely rural and non-English speaking population of eastern Ventura County. In 2011, she distinguished herself from other volunteer attorneys by devoting virtually every Thursday evening to advising women, agricultural workers, elderly and the working poor at weekly clinics, and taking on multiple cases involving tenant issues, employee rights, small claims, consumer issues and farmworker issues. She helped more than 100 individuals and contributed a total of over 200 hours. Among other matters, Ms. McAdam represented needy individuals and persons with disabilities faced with foreclosure and eviction proceedings, and for the first time learned bankruptcy rules to defend successfully an individual sued by his lender for fraud in bankruptcy court. Her experience with litigation coupled with her dedication, compassion and understanding creates a positive environment for her clients.

Snell & Wilmer, Costa Mesa Office
Law Firm

The Costa Mesa office of Snell & Wilmer has served as a backbone for the delivery of pro bono legal services in Orange County for many years. The office contributed over 3,150 pro bono hours in 2011, more than twice the number of hours contributed in 2010. Many of the 70 pro bono matters handled were referred by the Public Law Center (PLC) and involved humanitarian immigration relief for victims of serious crimes, domestic violence and human trafficking, as well as representation in adoptions, elder abuse matters, collection defense, and nonprofit incorporation and related transactional assistance. The firm continued its partnership with PLC and UC Irvine School of Law to direct and supervise law students in the U Visa project that enables law students to participate actively in all phases of the process and helps instill an ongoing interest in pro bono. Snell also handled matters referred by Legal Aid Society of Orange County, Ninth Circuit Pro Bono Program, and Human Rights, USA, several involving non-English speakers who had suffered severe psychological injuries and were attempting to deal with foreign legal systems and customs. Many Snell & Wilmer attorneys developed the expertise necessary to handle pro bono matters outside of their normal practice areas.

Ellen Eggers, Sacramento
Distinguished Pro Bono Service

Since 1990, Ellen Eggers has been a Deputy State Public Defender handling taxing and difficult death penalty appeals. In 2006, she learned of Francisco (Franky) Carrillo who had been incarcerated since 1991, at the age of 16, and was serving two life sentences. After reviewing the evidence, Ms. Eggers strongly believed he had been wrongfully convicted. Prohibited from representing Mr. Carrillo, she recruited the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) and Morrison & Foerster to represent him. In 2008, the Office of the State Public Defender granted Ms. Eggers rare permission to join the legal team. As a state employee she was required to perform all work on her own time and at her own expense. She devoted a total of over 2,000 hours, 500 of which was contributed in 2011, played a significant role in preparing and presenting the legal team’s Petition for Habeas Corpus, and continued working on the case after the petition was granted on March 14, 2011. In addition to significant contributions by attorneys from NCIP and Morrison & Foerster, Ms. Eggers is credited for her unflagging commitment to Mr. Carrillo’s exoneration, and is recognized for her extraordinary contributions to the legal team that secured his exoneration after 20 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

Small Claims Project, Los Angeles
Distinguished Pro Bono Service

In 2009, the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) and Bet Tzedek Legal Services began working with the court to create the Small Claims Project as an innovative and collaborative approach to helping small claims litigants.They recruited the law firms of Greenberg Glusker and Selman Breitman, Southwestern Law School and LACBA’s Center for Civic Mediation to join together to provide advice, counsel and public education to self-represented litigants, as well as mentorship and training to law students. On a monthly basis, firm attorneys and Southwestern law students conduct detailed small claims workshops open to both plaintiffs and defendants hosted at Southwestern Law School. An average of 30-40 participants attends each workshop and outreach efforts specifically target low-income residents. Attendees view a PowerPoint presentation, are invited to discuss the option of mediation with a mediation representative, and have the ability to meet one on one with a volunteer to discuss issues further or to ask additional questions. In 2011, volunteers contributed 600 hours—300 by law students and 300 by firm attorneys—helping almost 400 ethnically diverse individuals. In addition, the Project has created website materials hosted on the LACBA website for the general public. The site has been accessed by nearly 3,000 people thus expanding the reach of this important project.