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A young lawyer is honored for non-stop work for the poor

A number of veteran attorneys who have worked with Jorge Aguilar of the Eviction Defense Center in Oakland find it incredible that he has been a lawyer — with a slew of successful trials under his belt — for less than three years.

Jorge Aguilar

“As unbelievable as it may sound, before he had completed even one full year as a lawyer, Mr. Aguilar proved to be an accomplished trial attorney and unselfishly helped train other young attorneys from top-tier law firms,” said East Bay lawyer Robert Salinas.

Anne Omura, executive director of the Eviction Defense Center (EDC), where Aguilar worked as a law clerk before he joined the team as an attorney in November 2005, calls the Spanish-English bilingual Aguilar “the backbone of our organization. His work ethic, compassion for our clients, litigation skills both behind a desk and before a jury, and motivation to achieve are unparalleled.”

For his accomplishments, Aguilar, 33, received the California Young Lawyers’ 2007 Jack Berman Award of Achievement for Distinguished Service to the Profession and the Public. The award was renamed in 1994 for San Francisco lawyer Jack Berman, whose extensive pro bono work earned him the admiration of colleagues and clients. Berman was killed in the 1993 mass shooting at 101 California Street.

Aguilar, a graduate of Dominican University in San Rafael and Wash-ington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia, was honored both for his nonstop work at the nonprofit center and countless hours visiting clients outside the office, educating Latino and Southeast Asian immigrants about their legal rights and doing pro bono work.

Among Aguilar’s noteworthy achievements:

  • In his first year of practice, he conducted five jury trials, prevailing in four of them. One involved a poor, Spanish-speaking immigrant family who had been threatened with eviction. Instead, Aguilar won their right to remain in the housing as well as a rent reduction because of substandard living conditions.
  • He donated more than 100 pro bono hours in cases involving 60 tenants living at rundown buildings in Oakland owned by one landlord. The litigation resulted in a seven-figure settlement for the tenants.
  • He trained other young attorneys on how to prepare and try a landlord-tenant case before a jury.
  • After being nominated by the East Bay Tenants Bar Association, he presented comments to the Judicial Council on proposed jury instructions for unlawful detainer action.

“In less than 16 months, he has impressed judges, opposing counsel, members of the community and his clients with the level of his litigation skill,” said Omura.

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