At a time when an increasing number of
California's poor cannot afford to hire an attorney, the State Bar
is honoring a select few for giving thousands of hours of free legal
help to those in need.
The 2001 President's Pro Bono Service Awards
will be presented at the Annual Meeting to 10 recipients in nine
categories. Established by the bar in 1983, the statewide awards
recognize attorneys and law firms who extend exceptional legal
services to the poor.
Chief Justice Ronald George will present the
awards Sept. 7.
Spending more than 100 frustrating hours figuring
out income-tax forms is an annual activity for many people, but CHARLES
BOWMAN has volunteered his specialized skills for the last 12
years, helping others steer clear of trouble with the I.R.S.
Bowman, a 55-year-old tax research manager at
Bechtel Group Inc., spends much of his free time providing free relief
to low-income taxpayers saddled with debts, many of them AIDS
sufferers facing mounting medical bills.
In his efforts with the Bar Association of San
Francisco's Volunteer Legal Services Program and the AIDS Legal
Referral Panel, Bowman has helped clients who haven't paid taxes in
years negotiate payment plans and other means of squaring away their
debts. He assists clients in writing wills and powers of attorney and
provides legal advice in such areas as landlord/
tenant issues and consumer law.
"He has become a shining example of how
attorneys can use their expertise to serve a clientele that would
otherwise go unrepresented," VLSP supervising attorney Janet Seldon
wrote in her nomination of Bowman.
Bowman spends more than 100 hours per year
assisting clients at both programs. He helped write the tax law
section of the Homeless Advocacy Project's advocates manual and
mentors the project's client advocates and staff of the Low-income
Bowman's history of volunteerism traces back to
the start of his career. After being admitted to the bar in December
1974, he provided pro bono legal services to Vietnamese refu-gees with
the American Bar Associa-tion's Indochina Refugees Legal Assistance
Program. He joined the VLSP in 1989.
While JASMIN FLORES attended law school
and studied for the bar exam, she gained legal experience with the San
Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program's AIDS law team. And after she earned
admission to the State Bar in December 1999, she returned the favor by
lending her experience as an attorney.
Flores, 31, recently left her position at the San
Diego District Attorney's child support enforcement department for
the Loftin & Ward law firm.
In 2000, she provided 100 hours of free legal
service to 63 clients at a weekly walk-in AIDS clinic. She trained law
students and other attorneys on the AIDS law team in procedural and
legal issues to ensure they could effectively interview and advise
The legal team serves indigent men, women and
children with HIV and AIDS. Clients seek legal advice, and members of
the team may represent those facing complex legal issues.
Flores helped clients with debtor relief,
negotiating to end harassment by creditors and collection agencies;
child support enforcement issues; estate planning, including wills and
powers of attorney; landlord/tenant disputes; and contracts.
Small law firm
A man with a learning disability is hired as a
car salesman, only to be fired two weeks later and left with a $690
bill for "car college" tuition. An auto shop agrees to dispose of
a disabled woman's car, but she receives a $1,200 towing bill after
the vehicle is abandoned in a parking lot.
KEMNITZER ANDERSON BARRON & OGILVIE
represent some of the most vulnerable of ripped-off and unsatisfied
consumers - those with limited incomes who can be wiped out by even
a small-scale scam or bad business deal. The San Francisco-based firm
has represented clients of the Bar Association of San Francisco's
Volunteer Legal Services Program free of charge since 1985, helping
them fight unfair business practices.
After volunteering more than 2,000 hours, the
team is being honored with a 2001 President's Pro Bono Service
In the case of the would-be car salesman, the
client had agreed in writing to pay the tuition, but after he was
quickly fired, the company said it would "take care of it." The
client soon began receiving calls and letters from a collection
agency. Attorney Mark Anderson wrote a letter to the dealership
reminding the company that it promised to pay the tuition. Within five
days, the company withdrew its claim.
In the case of the abandoned auto, the client
agreed to release her car's title to an auto shop. But the shop
merely stripped the car and left it in a neighboring parking lot,
where it was towed. Attorney Kevin Mallon found the shop never filed
the title transfer and the panicked client had been stuck with the
towing, storage and legal fees. Mallon filed a cross-complaint against
the collection agency for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act, negotiating a dismissal of the action and a settlement for the
Medium law firm
Last year alone, Redding attorney JOHN
SULLIVAN KENNY volunteered 500 hours to create affordable housing,
maintained a heavy workload in his municipal law and land-use
practice, and cooked dinner for 200. He also did the dishes.
As vice chair of the board for the Northern
Valley Catholic Social Service, a charity serving Shasta, Trinity and
neighboring counties, Kenny helped create 64 units of low-cost housing
and serve 5,000 clients last year.
The 61-year-old lawyer for MOSS & ENOCHIAN
lends his expertise to NVCSS by reviewing contracts with other
agencies, negotiating funding, helping acquire and lease property and
representing the agency at public hearings.
He serves as master of ceremonies for fundraisers
and groundbreakings and has served as chef for the agency's
volunteer appreciation dinner for the past three years, planning and
preparing a meal for more than 200 people, then helping clean up
Last year, the NVCSS completed the Laurel Glen
housing project in Redding, providing 40 two- and three-bedroom
housing units for low-income families and 24 units of housing for the
frail elderly. The agency is currently constructing 10 units of
housing for the mentally ill in Redding and 11 for the developmentally
disabled in Red Bluff.
Kenny has served on the agency's board of
directors for the past 14 years. Other awards he has received include
the Association of Non-Profit Professionals' Board Member of the
Year and the Shasta Voluntary Legal Services Program Pro Bono Award.
A deputy city attorney in San Francisco from 1970
to 1978, Kenny served as Shasta's county counsel until 1986, after
arriving in the county in 1978. He has also acted as interim county
counsel for several counties and currently works as a contract city
attorney for a number of Northern California cities, in addition to
his position at Moss & Enochian, a civil defense law firm with 12
Large law firm
The poor, mostly Spanish-speaking residents of a
run-down slum building in Los Angeles lived in deplorable conditions.
The three-story brick building in the Pico-Union area was infested
with cockroaches, rats and fleas. Several children were bitten by rats
and a newborn died of respiratory problems brought on by mold and
mildew, the results of faulty plumbing and a leaky roof. Serious
structural defects, including sewage leaks, falling ceilings, no
running or hot water for long periods of time, plagued the building.
Although the Inner City Law Center filed suit,
outside counsel ended their involvement and the landlord's insurance
company vigorously fought the case.
In stepped THOMAS NOLAN, managing partner
of the Los Angeles office of HOWREY SIMON ARNOLD & WHITE,
who tapped associates and other partners of the firm to help. The
group served as co-counsel with the law center in representing 57
plaintiffs, including 33 children, who lived in the building.
Despite housing department investigations and
criminal prosecution of the landlord for failure to comply with court
orders to improve the building, living conditions did not improve. The
landlord's insurance company provided a battery of attorneys to
fight the lawsuit, and Howrey Simon added firepower to the
overstretched and overworked law center.
Nolan, a noted litigator, and the firm spent
eight months and hundreds of hours preparing for the case, worth some
$400,000 in attorney time. As lead trial attorney, Nolan made a quick
impression on the jury, and after only three days, the insurance
company agreed to a multimillion dollar settlement. The building was
sold to a reputable landlord and was completely rehabilitated.
"We were so impressed with Mr. Nolan and his
firm," wrote Clemente Franco, executive director of Inner City Law
Center, in his nomination of Nolan. The case "empowered these
tenants and gave them hope for a better future."
Nolan, listed as one of the most influential
attorneys in California by California Law Business, has extensive
experience as a lead trial attorney in antitrust, intellectual
property and complex litigation matters. He is a fellow of the
American College of Trial Lawyers.
Although taking on clients living with HIV/AIDS
may be emotionally difficult for her at times, San Francisco attorney SHAYE
LARKIN enthusiastically accepts the challenge, using her expertise
in areas as diverse as family law, simple wills and torts to help
clients in critical need of legal services.
A little more than two years out of Golden Gate
University Law School, the 34-year-old Larkin has helped eight clients
by accepting nine referrals from the AIDS Legal Referral Panel.
Larkin's work for ALRP clients has helped
secure housing, eased their financial burdens and, among other things,
assisted them with planning end-of-life arrangements.
"It is rare to find an attorney so willing to
help, so cheerful and indomitable, especially when there's no money
in it," wrote Ali Hall, ALRP client advocate. "I consider Shaye to
be the greatest legal ally of those who have little or nothing."
Larkin joined ALRP in 1999 and received the
panel's Attorney of the Year award. A sole practitioner, she
specializes in bankruptcy, real property and tax law. She also
volunteers for the Bar Association of San Francisco's Volunteer
Legal Services Program.
Some low-income residents in Butte, Glenn, Tehama
and Plumas counties who have a roof over their heads can thank FRANK
HOROWITZ. During an eight-month period when he was retired from
his prosecutor job, Horowitz,
60, provided legal assistance to income-eligible persons and families
with issues of housing and tenancy.
His work in-volved direct assistance in 133 cases
as a volunteer for Legal Services of Northern California's Butte
Regional Office in Chico. He volunteered about 100 hours.
"Rarely does a volunteer come along who is as
committed with time, energy and expertise as Frank Horowitz," wrote
Coleen M. Jarvis, LSNC managing attorney. "Frank Horowitz was a
great asset to LSNC. He was readily available to discuss difficult and
When Horowitz joined the BRO program, its housing
assistance project was in jeopardy due to staff commitments to other
projects. Without his help, calls from an increasing number of clients
who need help with housing would have gone unanswered.
The former prosecuting attorney was retired when
he volunteered for the law center. He is again active as a lawyer with
the California District Attorneys Association in Sacramento.
For the past seven years, STEPHANIE SIMPSON
has provided an average of more than 1,000 pro bono hours annually to
the elderly, indigent and disabled clients of Bet Tzedek, a Los
Angeles agency that provides free legal counsel to some 10,000 people
At Bet Tzedek, which means "house of justice"
in Hebrew, Simpson, 84, represents clients of all backgrounds in
administrative appeals from the denial of public benefits, mostly SSI
disability claims. She has also represented the agency's clients in
appeals to the U.S. District Court.
Successful in more than 90 percent of her cases,
Simpson also guides young attorneys and law students volunteering at
Bet Tzedek, allowing the agency to take on additional cases for
"Ms. Simpson's success results directly in
the drastic improvement of the lives of the clients she represents,"
wrote David A. Lash, a Bet Tzedek colleague, in his nomination of
Simpson. "Her selflessness and expertise are an unmatched coupling,
resulting in an inspirational and skilled effort that few will ever
match." He called her dedication "unparalleled in the history of
Simpson, who became a lawyer in 1977 at the age
of 60, is a sole practitioner in Northridge, focusing on issues on
Distinguished pro bono service
In 1996, shortly after being admitted to the bar,
Ventura County sole practitioner DEBORA S. VIERRA faced head-on
the lack of lawyers available to help the poor with their legal needs.
She founded Santa Clara Valley Legal Aid, a clinic which now operates
every Thursday evening out of a police storefront in the remote
agricultural community of Fillmore.
A short time later, she was joined by LAURA V.
BARTELS, a partner with the local firm of Taylor, Scoles and
Bartels. Since then, the pair has assisted more than 2,000 people,
mostly migrant farm workers and working class families, providing help
in areas such as housing, domestic violence, health care, credit
problems and unemployment insurance. They serve an average of 400
people a year.
Bartels specializes in probate and estate
planning, and Vierra is an accomplished labor and employment attorney.
Together, they recognized the need for legal
services for the poor in the county's
Fillmore and Piru areas, located far from legal services in
either Oxnard or the county seat of Ventura. Many of their clients are
poor farm workers who speak only Spanish and do not have easy access
to transportation. Their small legal aid operation offers free legal
counseling to the indigent and referrals to community agencies and
resources for those it cannot help. They also enlist the help of other
"The work of these two attorneys, week-in and
week-out for the last four years, has provided access to those who
would otherwise have no way of seeking legal counsel and advice,"
wrote Carmen Ramirez, coordinator of the Self-Help Legal Access Center
of the Ventura County Superior Court.
special 2001 Citations section was prepared by staff writers Sharon
Lerman and Marlon Villa.