A TRIBUTE TO PRO BONO 2014

Message from the State Bar President

Luis J. Rodriguez
President, The State Bar of California, 2013-2014

Ensuring that all Californians, especially the most vulnerable, have access to justice is critical to the State Bar’s mission of public protection. California has one of the most diverse, complex, and coordinated legal services delivery systems in the nation. Yet, more than 7 million Californians live below the poverty level, and four out of five cannot obtain legal help from nonprofit legal services organizations that are stretched beyond capacity.  A justice system that cannot serve everyone is far from just.

As we endeavor to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to the justice gap — the gap between the need for civil legal services for the poor and the resources available to meet this need — the pro bono contributions by members of our profession are an essential component. There is nothing more fundamental or gratifying for lawyers than being directly engaged in pro bono to help those who would not otherwise have access to the legal system. 

The recipients of this year’s President’s Pro Bono Service Awards are some of the finest examples of the power of pro bono. Please join me in congratulating them, in addition to the recipients of the Loren Miller Legal Service Award and the Jack Berman Award of Achievement for Distinguished Services to the Profession and the Public. These award recipients move our profession to much greater and admirable heights. 

Message from the Honorable Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice of California

Honorable Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye
Chief Justice of California

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. This landmark legislation outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. And much has been accomplished in the intervening years to enhance access to justice and to protect the rule of law. 

Despite these tremendous strides, our society still has unmet legal needs. A modern-day civil rights crisis is upon us caused by ongoing poverty or the impacts of the global economic crisis. That is why I am honored to participate in a program that pays tribute to those who provide legal services pro bono publico — for the public good.

The Business and Professions code declares that it is part of the duty of an attorney to “Never to reject, for any consideration personal to himself or herself, the cause of the defenseless or the oppressed.” There is an ethical commitment to pro bono legal services and there are many ways to contribute to increasing access to justice or improving the law and the legal system. Your honorees can be lifetime achievers or new attorneys; individuals or firms; teams or associations; law schools or students. But all have embraced the desire to practice law and the privilege of serving the people of California.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from a Birmingham jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

About the President’s Pro Bono Service Awards 

Created by the State Bar Board of Trustees in 1983, the awards recognize California attorneys, law firms, associations of California attorneys, law schools and law students who have provided or enabled the direct provision of legal services to low-income clients or to nonprofit organizations whose primary purpose is to provide services to the poor or disadvantaged, free of charge, without expectation of compensation, in the preceding calendar year.  A total of up to nine awards may be given annually in all award categories. Nominations for the awards are reviewed by the Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services (SCDLS), and recommendations are submitted to the Board of Trustees for its consideration and final approval. SCDLS is a 20-member advisory committee appointed by the Board of Trustees that identifies, develops and supports improvements in the delivery of legal services to low- and moderate-income Californians and serves as a resource to the Board on legal services issues.

2014 President's Pro Bono Service Awards recipients:

RECENTLY ADMITTED

Thomas P. Feledy
San Carlos

Mr. Feledy entered the legal profession as a second career. Even before retiring from 30 years with the San Francisco Police Department, he contacted the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County (LASSMC) to learn how he could use his skills to aid the community.  As soon as he retired from police work in July 2013, he sought out pro bono opportunities, and from July to December, Mr. Feledy provided services to tenants facing homelessness at 41 separate housing clinics, assisting more than 120 clients. These cases involved preparing answers to unlawful detainer complaints, demands for jury trial and fee waivers, conducting landlord depositions, and attending formal settlement conferences with clients negotiating with landlords. He quickly became an expert in unlawful detainer procedures helping to train the new volunteers at housing clinics. In addition, he handled a difficult domestic violence case that became two parallel cases in family court, as well as a conservatorship case in probate court.  As a former police officer, Mr. Feledy’s experience working with the homeless, with domestic violence victims, and investigating elder abuse cases, have prepared him well for volunteering at LASSMC, where in just the last half of 2013, he contributed a total of more than 200 pro bono hours.

RECENTLY ADMITTED

Lindsey E. Martínez
Costa Mesa

Lindsey Martínez, a fourth year associate at Snell & Wilmer, provided more than 250 pro bono hours on 18 separate matters in 2013 for the Public Law Center (PLC) in Orange County. Among these cases, she assisted non-immigrant clients who were victims of domestic violence and violent crimes to obtain legal status and permanent residency through U-Visas and Adjustment of Status Applications.  Fluent in Spanish, Ms. Martínez was able to connect with the majority of her clients in their native language to retell their traumatic experiences. Additionally, Ms. Martínez assisted four victims of human trafficking to obtain T-Visas, allowing them to remain in the U.S. In conjunction with these cases, she arranged for the clients' restitution request with the Department of Justice resulting in all four clients receiving significant restitution payments. Ms. Martínez also represented individuals seeking asylum, withholding of removal, and Convention Against Torture relief due to fear of persecution and torture in their home countries before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  In addition to her case load as a commercial litigator and her pro bono matters, Ms. Martínez serves on the PLC Advocates executive committee, a group that encourages young attorneys to perform pro bono work.

SOLO PRACTITIONER

Keith David Hiatt
Sunnyvale

As a recently admitted lawyer, solo practitioner, and a current Ph.D. student in Jurisprudence and Social Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, Keith Hiatt has volunteered hundreds of hours for two legal services organizations, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA) and the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County. His work at both organizations includes advocacy for safe and healthy housing conditions, unlawful eviction defense, protection of tenants against unlawful landlord behavior including discrimination and retaliation, recovery of security deposits, and consumer protection cases. He does this work by directly representing clients, providing legal counsel and advice, and serving as co-counsel. Mr. Hiatt has continued to volunteer to learn new practice areas, including immigration law. He performs intake interviews, prepares answers and other responsive pleadings, prepares and responds to discovery, takes depositions, prepares motions for summary judgment, appears at mandatory settlement conferences, negotiates settlements, helps with trial preparation, drafts demand letters. At CLSEPA, Mr. Hiatt also serves as a consulting attorney at the biweekly housing clinics which are staffed by Stanford Law School students and the Volunteer Attorney Program which runs clinics to help clients with consumer law issues. In 2013, his work touched the lives of 35 families. 

SOLO PRACTITIONER

Ciarán O’Sullivan
San Francisco

Ciarán O’Sullivan is a general civil solo practitioner with a specialty in trusts and estates litigation.  Throughout his career, in large law firms and as a solo, Mr. O’Sullivan has provided pro bono legal services through his local bar associations, including the Alameda County Bar Association’s Volunteer Legal Services Corporation, the Bar Association of San Francisco’s (BASF) Justice & Diversity Center (JDC), and BASF’s Federal Pro Bono Project which assists litigants in federal court who do not have legal representation.  He provides full-scope representation in eviction cases as well as other cases involving his areas of expertise.  Mr. O'Sullivan serves as a resource to other JDC pro bono attorneys who are representing tenants in cases complicated by trust and estates law issues. In 2013 he contributed more than 175 pro bono hours to litigation in both state and federal courts, and at both the trial and appellate levels.  For his commitment to pro bono work, Mr. O’Sullivan received the Justice & Diversity Center’s 2012 Housing Justice Award.  He also volunteers significant time in service to the legal profession through his participation in numerous local and State Bar committees, particularly the BASF Delegation to the California Conference of Bar Associations.

INDIVIDUAL FROM A LAW FIRM 

Charles Crompton
San Francisco

During 2013, Charles Crompton devoted over 300 pro bono hours while a partner at Latham & Watkins LLP.  Principally, Mr. Crompton’s work involved three agencies: GLIDE; the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR); and Swords to Plowshares (STP). At GLIDE, he helped over 100 clients with issues that affect the poorest residents of San Francisco.  He also handled unlawful detainer and immigration matters in collaboration with LCCR. Finally, Mr. Crompton helped to organize and then chair a new committee of lawyers to handle pro bono matters for veterans who rely on STP for support. In mid-2014, Mr. Crompton withdrew from Latham to devote himself full-time to legal services, including a drop-in free legal clinic he established at GLIDE. Since the clinic opened in 2013, Mr. Crompton has helped over 170 clients with housing, benefits, immigration, domestic violence, consumer debt and more. Furthering GLIDE’s mission of unconditional love, Mr. Crompton meets each client where the client is, without restrictions on the people served or the work handled. The clinic is located at GLIDE to ensure its availability to clients, many of whom lack the means to travel and are already there to obtain housing assistance, medical care, meals, or other support in a trusting environment where people are seen, heard, respected, and supported.

INDIVIDUAL FROM A LAW FIRM 

Michael T. O’Halloran
San Diego

For 25 years, Michael O’Halloran of the Law Office of Michael T. O’Halloran has devoted untold hours representing poor and disadvantaged people whose financial lives were in disarray.  In 2013, he contributed more than 120 hours for 35 pro bono clients. As a certified bankruptcy specialist, Mr. O’Halloran is especially qualified to help vulnerable people, including the unemployed, veterans, the homeless, the mentally ill, or those with HIV/AIDS gain a fresh start through bankruptcy.  He has volunteered his services to the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, the San Diego Veterans Stand Down, and the Women’s Resource Fair.  Mr. O’Halloran directed his pro bono clients toward a more peaceful life and better economic future with a caring manner that reduced their fear and embarrassment.  He helped them gain financial control and confidence.  In addition to aiding individuals, Mr. O’Halloran has participated in and strengthened programs that provide financial counseling and education.  He has consulted on the credit education program offered by the bankruptcy court, lectured to high school and college students about credit and debt, taught counselors of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic, and mentored numerous new bankruptcy lawyers.  He has served as a volunteer mediator in the bankruptcy court mediation program for 25 years.

LAW FIRM BRANCH OFFICE

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP Orange County Office

Manatt’s 25-attorney Orange County office increased its pro bono participation to the Public Law Center (PLC) 150% by contributing more than 2,300 hours in 2013. The firm provided assistance in a variety of cases including time and resource intensive matters in the areas of immigration relief for victims of crime, domestic violence, housing, guardianship, consumer advocacy, nonprofit, impact litigation and appellate advocacy. For example, Manatt attorneys undertook complex asylum cases on behalf of transgender immigrants including language interpretation, and has developed significant expertise in the area of LGBT asylum practice. They also accepted several U-Visa petitions, each requiring 40 hours or more of attorney time.  Each month Manatt provides at least two lawyers to the Central District's Santa Ana Branch District Court Pro Se Clinic to provide counsel and advice in the areas of civil rights, intellectual property, foreclosure, employment and social security appeals. Their commitment to staff the clinic inspired other firms to make a similar commitment. Also, Manatt leveraged their expertise in real estate and tax law by assisting nonprofits and small businesses through PLC’s Community Organizations Legal Assistance Project, and took on impact litigation to preserve $54 million dedicated to an affordable housing project being developed by Habitat for Humanity in Santa Ana. 

LAW FIRM BRANCH OFFICE

McDermott Will & Emery LLP Los Angeles Office

In 2013, the 62-attorney Los Angeles office of McDermott Will & Emery LLP contributed over 5,000 hours to Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Public Counsel, Alliance for Children’s Rights, California Lawyers for the Arts, and the California Innocence Project, among others.  As part of Bet Tzedek’s Transitions Program, McDermott assists developmentally disabled adults.  It also helped Bet Tzedek develop its Advance Planning Clinics, creating end-of-life planning materials to serve clients at the clinics as well as Holocaust survivors served through Bet Tzedek’s national Holocaust Survivors Justice Network.  In 2013, McDermott took on 14 eviction defense cases through its relationship with Public Counsel and the Shriver Housing Project and is currently Bet Tzedek’s co-counsel representing 23 tenants in a substantial habitability housing matter.  Moreover, McDermott has partnered with many other legal aid and public interest agencies both within and outside of California, representing numerous individuals and organizations on a variety of matters.  For example, McDermott has partnered with the National Immigrant Justice Center on immigration appeals before the Ninth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court, and with Pepperdine’s Global Justice Program, recently sending a lawyer to Uganda to assist in representing prisoners involved in the country’s first plea bargaining pilot program.

DISTINGUISHED PRO BONO SERVICE

Alison H. Hong
San Francisco

Alison H. Hong is an Associate at Jackson Lewis P.C. where she practices employment law. Her commitment to pro bono began early in her legal career as Pro Bono Committee Co-Chair of the Korean American Bar Association of Northern California (KABANC). Ms. Hong has organized two pro bono legal clinics per year since 2011. She coordinates outreach and publicity, recruits volunteers, prescreens clients, schedules consultations, matches clients with volunteer attorneys who have the appropriate expertise, pairs English speaking attorneys with Korean speaking law students to assist non- and limited-English speaking clients, and supervises the clinic overall. The two clinics held in 2013 served more than 50 participants in the areas of immigration, family law, contract disputes, personal injury, government benefits, and other general civil matters. Although difficult to promote the clinic to Korean Americans who live in more rural areas or who do not have access to the Korean language newspaper, Ms. Hong has been able to reach them by utilizing a network of Korean American churches. As a result of Ms. Hong's efforts, a platform has been created on which KABANC members can engage in pro bono and serve a community that previously lacked access to legal services due to geographic or language barriers.