The Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) presented Crystal Awards to seven individual attorneys and one law firm at its annual Outstanding Volunteer Celebration. This year, the awards were presented virtually, with Justice Goodwin Liu, Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court, recognizing awardees’ service to JDC’s Pro Bono Legal Services Programs, Homeless Advocacy Project, and Diversity Educational Programs.
The Crystal Awards are the top honors presented by JDC to those firms and individuals who exemplify the ethos of pro bono—to promote fairness and to make justice equally accessible to all people.
2020 Crystal Awards
The Outstanding Law Firm in Public Service Award was presented to Perkins Coie. The firm has taken on thirty-six pro bono matters in 2019 and 2020 so far, including family law, tax law, and transactional matters on behalf of low-income residents and nonprofits. In particular, Perkins Coie attorneys have given vital support to JDC’s Racial Equity Partnership, providing pro bono assistance to multiple Black-led organizations, which serve as the backbone for communities of color and as lifelines for low-income communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
John O’Grady, O’Grady Law Group
The Diversity Education Programs Award went to John O’Grady of the O’Grady Law Group. John is a longtime JDC volunteer who has dedicated countless hours to mentoring and helping nontraditional students learn about and join the legal profession. His mentees refer to him as a ‘father’ for his compassionate and understanding guidance, and his contributions over the years have helped JDC further its mission of making the legal profession reflect the diversity of the communities we serve.
Richard Kinyon, Shartsis Friese
The Essential Planning Award was presented to Richard Kinyon of Shartsis Friese. In response to COVID-19 and this year’s wildfires, JDC launched a new pro bono project called Essential Planning for Essential Workers, which provides estate planning assistance to essential workers. These include the healthcare workers and firefighters whose jobs are to protect the rest of us from danger, and who risk their lives every time they go to work. Dick Kinyon responded to our call to action like no other, accepting an incredible twenty pro bono referrals to help frontline workers with their wills and trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives.
Deanna DeCosimo, La Raza Centro Legal
The 2020 Consumer Advocacy Award went to Deanna DeCosimo of La Raza Centro Legal. One of the pandemic’s unfortunate consequences has been that at-risk consumers are financially and psychologically even more vulnerable to unfair and fraudulent commercial practices. In response, Deanna stepped up by taking on and successfully resolving many challenging cases, including one for a client experiencing homelessness and another for a woman recovering from a prior abusive relationship.
Karine Cargo, Hersh Family Law Practice
The Family Law Project Award was presented to Karine Cargo of Hersh Family Law Practice. The need for family law volunteers is constant, and as we have learned during the pandemic, that need only increases when residents are stuck at home with potentially abusive partners and household members. Karine has been a supporter of JDC for many years, taking on some of our most difficult family law cases. Her work is a direct benefit to people in need of safe and stable lives, and her dedication to pro bono work has been a significant contribution to the San Francisco community.
Chantelle Egan, Seyfarth Shaw
The Community Organization Representation Project, or CORP, Award went to Chantelle Egan of Seyfarth Shaw. CORP provides free transactional law assistance to Bay Area nonprofits, whose number one area of need is employment law. Chantelle has helped hundreds of nonprofit leaders over the years by providing free educational workshops on employment law, with an emphasis on preventing harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Chantelle’s work strengthening local nonprofits’ organizational capacity has enabled them to serve tens of thousands of low-income families and underserved communities in the Bay Area.
Steven Noel Williams, Joseph Saveri Law Firm
The Federal Pro Bono Project Award went to Steven Noel Williams of the Joseph Saveri Law Firm. Steven has been a star volunteer for many years, and last year he demonstrated true commitment to JDC's goal of equal access to justice by accepting three cases on behalf of pro se clients in federal court. The Northern District of California was quick not only to praise the high quality of representation that Steven provided to his clients, but also to express their appreciation for his demonstrated mentorship of young attorneys on each of his pro bono cases.
The 2020 Homeless Shelter Clinic Award went to Andrew Klair, a 2020 graduate of the UC Hastings College of the Law. Andrew has volunteered with JDC’s Warrants Clinic at San Francisco’s largest homeless shelter since he started law school, providing effective assistance to dozens of homeless clients and working to recruit new students to volunteer. His commitment to helping our most vulnerable community members while working as a full-time law student and law clerk has been extraordinary.
The Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) Crystal Award is presented to Bernardine Lam. Bernardine is a longtime LITC volunteer who has taken on more cases than any other volunteer in 2020. This includes taking cases during the tax filing season, when most tax professionals are unable to take on pro bono work. As an Enrolled Agent, Bernardine accepts collections cases that other volunteers are not willing to take on, and in one case, completed a case faster than most volunteers take even to get started. As LITC Supervising Attorney stated, “Bernardine is simply an A+ volunteer helping low-income taxpayers in need!”
The Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) advances fairness and equality by providing pro bono legal services to low-income people and educational programs that foster diversity in the legal profession. JDC is the largest legal services providers in San Francisco. JDC’s programs serve approximately 9,500 disadvantaged San Franciscans a year, with the overarching goal of assisting the community’s most vulnerable members with accessing the judicial system and strengthening their personal, professional, and economic security.