In recognition of its efforts to establish the
nation's first homeless court, the San Diego Public Defenders Office
will be honored by the American Bar Association this month, joining
two women lawyers from California receiving awards for outstanding
work in their fields.
Irma Herrera, executive director of the San
Francisco-based Equal Rights Advocates, is one of five women to
receive the 2001 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award,
which honors women who have paved the way to success for other women
Ann M. Durst of San Diego, founder of Casa
Cornelia Legal Services, received the John Minor Public Service and
Professionalism Award from the ABA in recognition of her extensive pro
The San Diego Public Defenders Office will
receive the 2001 Hodson Award, given by the ABA's public sector
lawyers division, for establishing the nation's first homeless court
in 1989 under the leadership of deputy public defender Steven Binder.
Meeting at local homeless shelters and agencies
and ruling on outstanding misdemeanor offenses and warrants, most
arising from the condition of homelessness, the court provides a
non-threatening forum where the homeless can clear their records and
begin their reintegration into society.
The Hodson Award cites the court as a model for
other jurisdictions, showing how to reduce court and jail costs,
increase community collaboration and assist the homeless in obtaining
services and jobs.
Herrera, 50, has a long history of nonprofit work
focused on helping women, children and minorities, particularly in the
field of education. After earning her law degree from the University
of Notre Dame in 1978, she worked as a public interest lawyer
representing Spanish-speaking migrant farm workers in Washington
worked for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund on
education laws and voting rights issues and later for Multicultural
Education and Training Advocacy, a non-profit legal advocacy firm
representing minority and poor children on education-related issues.
She has headed Equal Rights Advocates since 1995,
tutors minority candidates for the bar exam and volunteers with a
girls' mentorship program.
"Irma has spent more than a quarter of a
century working to promote equal opportunities for women and
minorities," said Deborah L. Rhode, chair of the ABA Commission on
Women in the Profession. "Her career demonstrates the highest
commitment to the pursuit of equal justice."
The Margaret Brent awards were to be given early
this month at the ABA's annual meeting in Chicago.
Durst, 63, was honored for her work as executive
director and staff attorney of Casa Cornelia, a public-interest law
firm she founded to serve the San Diego area's immigrant community.
After spending 23 years in education, Durst
received her law degree from Georgetown University and began her legal
career in the not-for-profit sector.
Casa Cornelia provides representation to those
with credible fear of returning to their homelands and those seeking
asylum, gives advice and counsel to legal residents seeking
naturalization, and represents battered immigrant women and children.
It is currently expanding its program to provide legal services to
unaccompanied children detained by the Immigration and Naturalization
In addition to providing direct client services,
Durst recruits, trains and mentors the agency's volunteers.
The public service award was given by the ABA's
ABA's family law section chose psychologist Dr. Judith S.
Wallerstein for the 2001 Friend of the Family award for her 30 years
of pioneering studies of the effects of divorce. The 80-year-old San
Francisco resident co-authored several books, including The Unexpected
Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study; The Good Marriage: How
and Why Love Lasts; How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce; and
Second Chances: Men, Women and Children a Decade After Divorce.
Also honored recently was Johnny Griggs of Los
Angeles' Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, who received the ACLU's
2001 Pro Bono Civil Rights Award for his work on a racial profiling
Griggs and the ACLU represented the plaintiffs in
Gonzalez et al v. City of Los Angeles who were involved in traffic
stops due to racial profiling. As a result of the case, racial
profiling was added to the LAPD's consent decree as a prohibited
Griggs is active in the nonprofit community and
is known for his dedication to civil justice.