On October 19th, The Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) hosted its annual Outstanding Volunteers in Public Service Celebration at UC Law SF. More than 100 people gathered to celebrate the amazing work of volunteers who provide pro bono legal services through the JDC’s Community Organization Representation Project (CORP), Diversity Educational Programs, Homeless Advocacy Project, Immigrant Legal Defense Program, Legal Advice & Referral Clinic, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, Family Law Project, and Federal Pro Bono Project.
At the event, the JDC’s top volunteers received certificates recognizing them as Outstanding Volunteers in Public Service. Each JDC project also honored one exceptional individual or firm with a Crystal Award for going above and beyond outstanding in their contributions in the past year. The JDC also presented its first Lifetime Achievement Award to Christopher F. Emley, recognizing his decades pro bono legal services in family law matters.
The evening featured several engaging speakers. The Honorable Monica F. Wiley, Supervising Judge of San Francisco Unified Family Court, delivered a funny and sincere keynote speech celebrating JDC’s volunteers. Mr. Emley also inspired guests with an acceptance speech reflecting on his Lifetime Achievement Award. Guests also heard remarks by Yolanda Jackson, Executive Director and General Counsel of JDC and BASF, Antonia More, Director and Managing Attorney of Pro Bono Legal Services at JDC, and Paige Pembrook, the Pro Bono Manager.
In addition to well-deserved recognition, guests at the event enjoyed meeting with like-minded individuals who are committed to providing pro bono representation to those who need it most. As Chris stated in his acceptance speech regarding his calling to pro bono service, “It’s been very satisfying to share that calling and the good feelings it engenders, to share that with you and all the other great pro bono advocates in this wonderful City.”
Left to Right: AWARD WINNERS KAISEE LEE, PATRICIA LAKNER, BARBARA DOHERTY, AVID ALAVI, CHRISTOPHER EMLEY, KRISTIAN WHITTEN, AND KATIE STEVENS, PICTURED WITH JDC’S YOLANDA JACKSON AND ANTONIA MORE.
The JDC thanks its award winning volunteers:
Amy Heath received the Crystal Award from the Federal Pro Bono Project. Amy and her firm have taken on many complex social security disability cases for pro se litigants, with a demonstrated record of success in those cases. In addition, Amy regularly volunteers her expertise as an advisor to other attorneys working on social security and disability matters, thus helping many more pro se litigants with obtaining social security and disability support.
Avid Eli Alavi received the Crystal Award from the Family Law Project. In addition to taking on pro bono cases herself, Avid provided critical mentorship to Family Law Project volunteers with no prior conservatorship experience. Thus, Avid allowed many more matters to be placed with volunteer attorneys, helping JDC address the underserved and compelling need for conservatorship legal services in San Francisco.
Barbara Doherty received the Crystal Award from the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic. Barbara has been a consistent volunteer for fifteen years, and the most reliable participant at Tax Court Calendar calls. Supervising Attorney Tim Carter has described Barbara as someone who exemplifies civility, as she builds good will with clients as well as opposing counsel.
Patricia Lakner received the Crystal Award from the Immigrant Legal Defense Program (ILDP). As an ILDP volunteer, Patricia wrote a legal memorandum in support of a family from El Salvador who had applied for asylum. Thanks to Patricia’s pivotal support, that family won their asylum case, and now resides in the Bay Area.
Kristian Whitten received the Crystal Award from the Legal Advice and Referral Clinic (LARC). Kris is one of LARC’s most consistent and long-term volunteers. He is always early, never cancels, and willing to talk to anyone, regardless of the area of the law or whether the client’s issue even has a legal remedy. Kris approaches each consult with a respect and appreciation for humanity that is admirable to witness.
Kasie Lee received the Crystal Award from the Diversity Educational Programs. Kasie has volunteered as a mock trial coach for public high school students for over ten years. Kasie often serves as the only coach for student teams as large as 20 students, guiding them through competitions at the local, state, and national level. Thus, Kasie provides critical support and mentorship in developing the next generation of diverse legal professionals.
Cooley, LLP received the Crystal Award from the Community Organization Representation Project (“CORP”). Collectively, the Cooley LLP team volunteered for over twenty nonprofit transactional projects in 2022, with many attorneys volunteering for multiple projects throughout the year. Thus, Cooley LLP handled more pro bono matters through CORP than any other firm, providing critical legal support to deserving nonprofits in our community.
In addition to Crystal Awards, the JDC presented its first Lifetime Achievement Award to Christopher F. Emley. This award recognizes his decades of public service as an active volunteer, a critical advisor, and a great mentor to the next generation of pro bono attorneys within the JDC Family Law Project and beyond.
The JDC thanks its Outstanding Volunteers in Public Service, as well as our Gold and Silver Sponsors: