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Outstanding Volunteers Honored at Volunteer Legal Services Program Reception on March 26


March 27, 2009 – San Francisco -- The Bar Association of San Francisco’s Volunteer Legal Services Program celebrated its most exceptional volunteers at its annual Outstanding Volunteer Appreciation Party on March 26.

More than 200 people were in attendance at the event, which was held at the Green Room of the War Memorial and Performing Arts Center in San Francisco. Chief Justice Ronald George, California Supreme Court; Presiding Judge James McBride, San Francisco Superior Court and Judge Patrick Mahoney, San Francisco Superior Court, Family Court, were on hand to pass out the awards.

More than 150 volunteers were honored as recipients of the Outstanding Volunteer in Public Service certificates. Additionally, VLSP also recognized four volunteers and a law firm with special awards. 

Morrison & Foerster LLP was the recipient of the 2008 Outstanding Law Firm in Public Service Award. Accepting on behalf of the firm was Kathi Pugh, Pro Bono Counsel. The firm’s San Francisco office has been extremely active with the Eviction Defense, Family Law, Guardianship and Community Organization Representation Projects of VLSP. Through CORP, the firm has provided a wide range of pro bono business law services to community nonprofit organizations serving low-income communities, allowing these organizations to strengthen their infrastructure and organizational capacity.  In 2008, business law attorneys at MoFo contributed 460 pro bono hours. In total, the firm handled 15 active pro bono CORP matters for 14 nonprofit organization clients. 

The James P. Preovolos Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Services in Family Law was presented to solo practitioner Jennifer Ani.  She began volunteering with VLSP’s Family Law Project in 2007. In total, Ani has provided pro bono representation to 12 VLSP family law clients. In 2008 alone, she represented eight clients pro bono, devoting approximately 400 hours of pro bono service to their cases.

Caesar Belli of The Belli Law Offices was presented with the 2008 Housing Justice Award. This award honors an attorney who has provided outstanding pro bono services through VLSP in landlord/tenant law. Belli began volunteering with VLSP in 2006. He volunteers for all of VLSP’s eviction defense projects, providing both full and limited scope representation to low-income tenants through VLSP’s Eviction Defense and Housing Negotiation Projects. In 2008, he took at least four one-strike cases.  Belli is also a mentor to VLSP’s newer attorneys, sharing what he has learned about litigating one-strike cases with other volunteers. 

Each year, VLSP gives a Community Service Award to a non-attorney volunteer who has contributed in a significant way to VLSP, its clients and the community as a whole. This year VLSP is honored two recipients: Zora Kolkey and Cyra Koupal.

Zora Kolkey is a Marriage and Family Therapist who has been volunteering with VLSP’s Homeless Advocacy Project since 1998.  Kolkey’s services allow clients access to disability benefits to which they are entitled, as she is able to provide critical medical evidence for their applications. 

A unique aspect to VLSP’s program is its Interpreter Project. By training and using volunteer interpreters, VLSP and its volunteers are able to assist clients who do not speak English, and increase access to necessary legal and social services. Since joining VLSP’s Interpreter Project in 2007 as a volunteer Spanish interpreter, Cyra Koupal has been an exceptional resource and an outstanding advocate.  In 2008 alone, Koupal volunteered on eleven cases, serving as a vital link between VLSP’s monolingual clients and VLSP’s volunteer attorneys. In addition to taking on new cases, she also helped train new VLSP interpreters and thus lent her expertise to ensure the growth of VLSP’s Interpreter Project.

The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) is a nonprofit voluntary membership organization of over 8,000 attorneys, law students and legal professionals in the Bay Area. Founded in 1872, BASF is one of the largest and most dynamic metropolitan bar associations in the U.S., with a long and distinguished record of community action, public service and service to the legal profession.

Questions about media relations, BASF issues currently in the news, San Francisco Attorney magazine, marketing and communications:

Ann Murphy, Director of Communications & Public Relations
(415) 782-9000 x8792

For general communications inquiries:

Sayre Happich, Assistant Director of Communications & Public Relations
(415) 782-9000 x8104