retired attorneys and firms from northern and
Beneficiaries of their efforts include victims of forest fires,
workers who were laid off when a severe freeze destroyed the local citrus crop, poor
people living in substandard housing and the homeless. One matter resulted in the
construction of more low-cost housing by a northern California city; one lawyer won
resident status for undocumented children who had been placed in foster care. Several
award winners took on individual representation as well as offering more general advice
through legal clinics in their communities. Some shared their expertise by writing manuals
or guides and mentoring less experienced lawyers. Others left a legacy by recruiting
colleagues to volunteer their services.
The recipients of the 2000 Presidents Pro Bono Service Awards:
attorney Leo J. Graham was one of the first attorneys to join the Shasta Voluntary Legal
Services Program when it was created last year to offer free legal assistance to residents
of five northern California counties.
In 1999, he was instrumental in setting up clinics in Trinity and
Shasta counties to help the victims of three disastrous fires who faced insurance problems
and the task of securing federal disaster assistance.
Beyond his incredible efforts to assist the 1999 fire victims,
Leo makes a special effort to provide pro bono legal services, which is an important part
of his career, says Gary Rhoades, managing attorney of the Shasta Volun-tary Legal
Services Program. He is able to provide many hours of pro bono work while at the
same time handling a very busy legal practice.
Jeannette M. Carper of Sacramento put in 120 hours last year at the Voluntary
Legal Services Programs family law pro per clinic, where she mentors new attorneys
on family law cases and directly represents clients on a pro bono basis.
A volunteer for the program since 1985, Carpers efforts have
enabled numerous clients representing themselves to gain a clearer understanding of their
rights and the legal system and to better present their cases in court.
Asked what motivates her, Carper says the needs of lower-income
family law litigants currently are not met, sometimes resulting in tragic consequences for
not only the parties but the entire family. The rewards derived from her pro bono cases
outweigh the efforts invested, she says.
lawyer Jonathan M. Wong has volunteered at Oaklands Volunteer Legal Services Corp.
since 1987, routinely spending more than 50 hours per year with individual clients and
working at the agencys immigration clinic. Last year, he put in 78 hours on six
He has never missed a clinic, never been late and never missed an
appointment with a VLSC client. And he never arrives alone, bringing other lawyers and
paralegals with him. Indeed, the effort to promote pro bono work among his colleagues is
as important as the legal work he has done, said Cherri Allison of the VLSC. However
much pro bono he does personally, she wrote in nominating Wong for an award,
it will never match the amount done by his children, those whom he has
brought into the pro bono business.
Wong, she continued, is a stalwart . . . a dynamic man whose
main thrust in life has been to make legal services available to all the people of the
Alameda County community.
Serving on the landlord-tenant expert panel of San Franciscos Volunteer
Legal Services Program, Cathy A. Mosbrucker answers questions from other pro bono
attorneys, writes manuals on landlord-tenant law and teaches introductory seminars to new
volunteers. She also volunteers with the programs homeless advocacy project and an
AIDS legal referral panel and serves as an arbitrator once a month hearing appeals when
people are evicted from homeless shelters.
In the last year, Mosbrucker also provided pro bono assistance to
eight indigent clients, representing two tenants facing evictions from their homes, and
served as co-counsel to a legal services organization for a third tenant.
A partner in a two-person law office, she volunteered between 80 and
100 hours in 1999. By serving as a teacher and a mentor to inexperienced attorneys
willing to do pro bono work, Mosbrucker has effectively leveraged her time and increased
exponentially the number of low-income clients served, wrote Teila Chambers, a
project supervisor who nominated Mosbrucker for the pro bono award.
Lita O. Blatner and Robert L. Felts are partners in a legal practice called the Good
News Center, sponsored by Central California Legal Services and Catho-lic Chari-ties of
Cen-tral Califor-nia, providing free legal assistance to low-income clients in Visalia.
Last year, they saw 400 clients, many suffering the results of the 1998 Christmas freeze
which wiped out the Tulare County citrus crop and caused layoffs affecting 2,800 families.
Blatner and Felts, who also participate in the State Bars
emeritus attorney program, limit their practice to landlord-tenant and family law cases,
providing advice and brief service in tenant rights, eviction defense, habitability,
lockouts and other areas of eviction law. They also provide assistance to victims of
domestic violence and families needing help with child custody, support and visitation
Their dedication to their clients has won them the trust of a
community of homeless and near homeless clients who have traditionally never trusted
attorneys, said Rachel McDougall Smith of CCLS, who nominated Blatner and Felts for
a pro bono award.
put, David Shain is a decent human being who is truly a credit to the legal
profession, says Barbara Macri-Ortiz, staff attorney with Channel Counties Legal
Services Association and his co-counsel over the past four years representing farm workers
living in substandard housing in Oxnard.
Shain , a partner in the Ventura firm of Ferguson, Case, Orr,
Paterson and Cunningham, spent more than 80 hours on the case against the landlord of a
22-unit complex which Macri-Ortiz said resembled something out of Grapes of
Although the tenants won judgments totaling $380,000, the property
owner transferred the majority of the property holdings to a third party and the
individual defendants went bankrupt. Shain then devoted 120 more hours to a subsequent
case, alleging conspiracy and fraudulent conveyance, that ended with a settlement which
will provide good quality, affordable housing for the farm workers.
Shain, says Macri-Ortiz, is truly committed to the notion that
all members of our society, including the poor, are entitled to equal access to the
Inner City Law Center, located on Los Angeles Skid Row, serves the poorest of the
poor. Daniel J. Woods answered the centers call for help in a lawsuit it had filed
on behalf of 23 families living in one of the neighborhoods slum buildings, and with
him he brought a team of attorneys from White & Case, where he is a partner and pro
The cavalry rode in and Dan Woods headed it, said
Clemente Franco, head of the center. Woods and his team devoted more than 2,000 hours to
the suit, which settled for $890,000; $400,000 of that was placed in a trust fund for the
children in the case.
As important as the settlement, said Franco, was the impact the case
had on the plaintiffs, who learned they have rights and were given a sense of empowerment
that will endure long after the money is gone.
Clifford R. Anderson has volunteered at Orange Countys Public Law Center
since retiring from his successful family law practice in 1995, dedicating countless hours
to battered women, AIDS patients and clients facing difficult family issues.
He has served as second chair on the centers most difficult
cases, including a particularly sensitive matter involving a developmentally disabled
woman who claimed her father and brother had repeatedly raped and threatened her. Anderson
not only gained our timid clients trust, but he skillfully advocated on her
behalf, said Tracey Jensen, a staff attorney at the center. As he does with
all his clients, Mr. Anderson left this woman far better off than he found her.
His thorough understanding of domestic violence has helped countless
battered women, and his litigation of a disability benefits matter enabled a family that
was teetering on the brink of homelessness to become self-supporting.
Phyllis G. Schrader had no previous experience in immigration law when she
signed on with the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Programs special immigrant juvenile
(SIJ) program. The program handles the cases of undocumented children in foster care who
face deportation if they do not acquire permanent resident status before turning 18.
Schrader took the initiative to learn the substantive law and
procedures and in 1999, as manager of the SIJ program and as the lawyer representing
children referred by the court and county, she put in 344 hours obtaining legal resident
status for abused and neglected children in longterm foster care.
The work is time-consuming and often frustrating, but Schrader
succeeded in obtaining legal status for her young clients.
Because of financial problems, the SIJ program was targeted for
elimination, and Schraders pro bono efforts kept its work going. She also prepared a
step-by-step procedures manual, compiled resource materials and developed good
relationships with court and affiliated agency staff.
Northern California Retired Attorney
Anne M. Rubenstein joined Legal Aid of Marin as a staff attorney in the late
1980s, but when budget cuts forced the elimination of a position, she resigned and signed
on as a volunteer. Cutbacks were averted.
Since then, Rubenstein has worked tirelessly, particularly on behalf
of homeless people with disabilities, handling administrative hearings before the Social
Security Administration. Although she is entitled to attorneys fees from a
clients recovery of back benefits, she accepts no fees. Rubenstein also spent hours
meeting with clients at agencies serving their needs; most of those clients would not have
found an attorney without her circuit riding.
Rubenstein, 73, semi-retired last year, but still contributed 346
hours of time to Legal Aid clients and was honored with her fourth Wiley W. Manuel Award.
She received a presidents pro bono award in the northern California retired attorney
Southern California Retired Attorney
Pat Toups has volunteered with the Orange County Senior Citizens Legal Advocacy Program
(SCLAP) since 1992, providing direct services and recruiting other volunteer attorneys who
themselves are senior citizens.
Working both in the programs office and visiting four senior
centers once a month, Toups, 72, devotes more than 300 hours each year helping
approximately 120 clients with financial assistance matters, health issues,
landlord-tenant problems and consumer problems.
She created a Senior Attorney Volunteers for the Elderly (SAVE)
program that attracted retired attorneys who have been able to serve additional clients
with a higher level of service than otherwise would have been possible. Toups also
publishes a consumer column for seniors, has taught a course on law and aging and speaks
throughout Orange County on the subject of elder law.
In addition, she is active in a variety of bar associations,
advocating for senior citizens, and donates about 240 hours a year to pro bono activities
for the State Bar. Toups currently is developing a pro bono program seeking senior
attorney volunteers to assist the local courts.
She received the southern California retired attorney pro bono award.
Northern California Law Firm
In 1999, 19 attorneys from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP spent
465 hours on pro bono work, ranging from landlord-tenant cases to contractual disputes and
real estate matters. The San Francisco- based firm grants full credit to hours spent on
pro bono activities when an attorneys total hours for the year reach 1900.
Once a pro bono matter is assumed, it is treated like any other
paying matter for purposes of support work and administrative time, for which the firm
assumes all reasonable costs.
In one particularly important case last year, Gibson Dunn represented
a client in a successful suit against the city of Vallejo challenging its low income
housing development policies and practices. As a result, Vallejo is now constructing more
low income housing.
Gibson Dunn was honored for its pro bono work in the northern
California law firm category.
Southern California Law Firm
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP was honored as the southern
California law firm providing outstanding pro bono work. Manatt continued its long
tradition of providing assistance to the poor in 1999, helping more than 80 clients placed
with the firm through Public Counsel, a Los Angeles legal services agency.
Its attorneys worked with Public Counsels child care law
project, providing pro bono representation to low income home child care providers on such
issues as licensing, zoning, insurance and landlord/tenant matters.
They also helped immigrant women who suffered abuse at the hands of
their citizen or permanent resident spouses, fought for asylum for an individual who was
persecuted for his political beliefs in his native Haiti, and helped finalize the
adoptions of 20 foster children.
Transactional attorneys assisted non-profit organizations with their
legal needs and Manatts summer clerks volunteered with a program to help homeless
people obtain benefits.