Contact: Laura Ernde 


San Francisco, Oct. 4, 2012 – A series of awards honoring the best of the legal profession will be presented at the State Bar’s 85th Annual meeting Oct. 11-14 in Monterey.

The Loren Miller Legal Services Award will be presented to Melinda R. Bird, the co-litigation director in the Los Angeles office of Disability Rights California. With 33 years of her career devoted to legal services, Bird has helped thousands of low-income Californians and brought remarkable litigation that has not only expanded the rights and benefits of the poor, but inspired many other legal services attorneys and their work.

The recipients of the President’s Pro Bono Service Awards for 2012, which recognize extraordinary volunteer efforts to help low-income Californians in need of representation, are:

•    Ellen Jane Eggers, a deputy state public defender in Sacramento whose efforts helped free a man wrongly convicted of murder

•    Partners, counsel and associates with Snell & Wilmer's Orange County Office in Costa Mesa, who logged 3,100-plus pro bono hours to help low-income resident in 70 different cases

•    Michelle de Blank, a Palo Alto attorney who volunteered with the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo to help numerous children with disabilities and their families with special education matters

•    Jonathan Mark Kaiho, a new lawyer who helped more than 100 Orange County residents with divorces, child custody, child support and other matters through the Legal Aid Society of Orange County’s weekly family law clinics

•    Grace Carter, a partner at Paul Hastings in San Francisco who formed a team that lent thousands of pro bono hours to Bay Area Legal Aid and the Public Interest Law Project

•    Mayte Santacruz, a recently admitted lawyer who volunteered with the Public Law Center in Orange County, among other organizations, to help victims of domestic violence, rape and other crimes with their immigration cases

•    Leslie McAdam of Ventura, who volunteered more than 200 hours to pro bono service and to Santa Clara Valley Legal Aid in 2011, helping more than 100 women, children, farm workers and elderly clients with their legal matters

•    Clifford R. Anderson Jr., a volunteer commissioner in Norwalk who donated much of his time in 2011 to help low-income clients struggling with family law issues

•    The Small Claims Project at Southwestern Law School, which helps low-income residents seek justice through Los Angeles County’s small claims courts

The Jack Berman Award of Achievement, presented by the California Young Lawyers Association, will go to Ana de Alba, an attorney with Lang, Richert and Patch. A staunch advocate for workers rights, de Alba serves on the Board of Directors for Central California Legal Services, Inc. and is a member of the Fresno County Bar Association’s Pro Bono Services Section.

Diversity Award honorees are Charlene Usher of Chino; Sedgwick LLP; and Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF).

The Law Fellows Program at UCLA School of Law is the recipient of the Education Pipeline Award, which recognizes outstanding efforts of law-related educational programs that train and support students to become interested in the judicial system and careers in the law.

Imperial County Superior Court Judge Juan Ulloa will receive the Benjamin Aranda III Access to Justice Award, which is co-sponsored by the Judicial Council of California, State Bar of California, California Commission on Access to Justice and California Judges Association. The award will be presented in December to Ulloa, who has been a leader in court reform efforts and in establishing a collaborative relationship with court and consulate officials in nearby Mexico.


The State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, serving the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80 years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. By October 2012, membership reached 238,000.