2017 Awards of Merit

OAKLAND  – The Legal Aid Association of California (LAAC) honored four people at this year’s Awards of Merit Ceremony at the Piccadilly Inn in Fresno.

This year’s Awards of Merit recipients included Christine Lin of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS), Anna Moore-Goodwin and Marth Tamayo of Central California Legal Services, Inc. (CCLS), and Leticia Toledo of Aaron, Riechert, Carpol and Riffle for the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo.

The LAAC Awards of Merit are the legal services community’s opportunity to recognize the importance of legal services and to particularly honor a few of the many who have made contributions to the field during the last year.

LAAC recognized the honorees with a luncheon on Monday, November 6th at LAAC’s annual Travel Training.

Salena Copeland, LAAC Executive Director, said “The LAAC Awards of Merit Ceremony is a great opportunity to honor outstanding advocates in our community. Anna, Christine, Leticia and Martha have all demonstrated that they are willing to do the hard work of helping others who are in crisis navigate our justice system, and do so with grace and understanding. LAAC is proud to continue its tradition of recognizing excellence in the legal services community through the Awards of Merit.”

About Christine Lin

As a Managing Attorney of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS), Christine empowers and increases the capacity of attorneys and organizations to provide quality legal representation to indigent asylum seekers.

Christine’s presence at CGRS is fundamental to the support center’s success. For example, she assists with particularly challenging legal questions when they arise, engages new legal services organizations and attorneys with CGRS technical assistance and training programs, and serves on many statewide immigrant rights coalitions.

Most notably, Christine developed education materials and trainings on best practices for representing survivors of trauma, now in high demand throughout the state. Her expertise on the subject has helped others develop strategies on communicating with survivors, prepping clients for court appearances, and ways to avoid burnout and vicarious trauma.

Deputy Director of CGRS, Moira Duvernay, says, “Christine is an absolute pleasure to work with. Her colleagues describe her as unfailingly conscientious and extremely hard working. We admire her ability to remain calm and focused under pressure.”

Christine received this year’s Award of Merit for Legal Aid Attorney category.

CGRS serves women, children, LGBT, and other refugees fleeing gender-based violence and other harms. CGRS works with domestic and international partners to push the US and other refugee-receiving countries to recognize gender-based persecution and to grant asylum to its survivors. To learn more, visit www. cgrs.uchastings.edu/cgrs-california/cgrs-california.

About Anna Moore-Goodwin

For over two decades, Anna has been serving low-income tenants during her tenure at CCLS.  In her service to her community, Anna explains documents and procedures to the public, helps in settlement negotiations, and does her best to ensure that homelessness and evictions are avoided.

Anna also has a thorough knowledge about housing laws and a keen sense of how to apply those laws to individual sets of facts. She serves an integral role in training new housing and other legal services providers, including incoming attorneys.

Anna is known for treating her clients with respect, and making them feel secure and comfortable. This undoubtedly takes great skill considering the short time frame she has with them.  Anna cares about her community and remains a vigilant member by producing informational materials and conducting direct outreach.

Colleague, Suzanne Swenk, remarked, “She has helped thousands of vulnerable families avoid homelessness with her dedication and skills.”

Anna was honored for her work with the Award of Merit for Paralegal category.

About Martha Tamayo

For several years, Martha has been an indispensable asset to the CCLS board.  She serves as the client representative to the board and diligently works to ensure the voices of low-income, rural Kings County residents are heard. She also recently served as Board Treasurer.

In an effort to provide more access to justice, Martha has many accomplishments. For instance, she helped in organizing to bring OneJustice’s Justice Bus and the Mexican “Consulate on Wheels” to Kings County to conduct various informational sessions, including workers’ rights clinics. She regularly attends events and effectively networks on behalf of CCLS and her community, as well as hosts a Facebook page where she shares information with residents.

Martha has also served as a Spanish-speaking interpreter at conferences and was instrumental in changing NLADA conference planning to include interpreters and Spanish speaking workshops in their conferences.

Executive Director, Patience Milrod, exclaimed, “Outspoken, [Martha] doesn’t shy away from tough questions when it comes to serving her community, all the while providing excellent leadership and direction to the organization.”

Martha was recognized for her work with the Award of Merit for Board Member category.

For almost 50 years, CCLS has served as a vanguard of equity by fighting social injustice through education and representation of low-income residents.  The organization’s mission is to fight social injustice, to provide education and representation to the disadvantaged, and to maintain access to the legal system.  For more information, visit http://www.centralcallegal.org/. 

About Leticia Toledo

Leticia began her pro bono work with Legal Aid Society of San Mateo as a summer law clerk in 1984.  In both her capacity as a lawyer and as a mentor, Leticia brings a level of heart and expertise that allows her to take on the most challenging cases and projects.

In the last year alone, she assisted in opening two different pro bono projects at the organization: the Conservatorship Project and the Veterans Legal Clinics. But perhaps her biggest contribution has been her commitment to developing a robust panel of pro bono attorneys willing to serve at Legal Aid and her mentoring of other pro bono attorneys from big Silicon Valley law firms.

When asked why she is a committed mentor, Leticia responded, “I have been fortunate to have great mentors in my career. I really want to pay it forward in something that matters to me—legal services for the underserved.”

Leticia is also a current Legal Aid Board Member, past recipient of the Eleanor Falvey Award, presented by the Women Lawyers Section of San Mateo, and she was inducted into the San Mateo County Women’s Hall of Fame.

“Leticia is a great example of what a mentor attorney should be, and her contributions allow pro bono attorneys from firms that do not practice probate law to take on these important cases for children and their prospective guardians,” says colleague Olga Slobodyanyuk, DLA Piper Fellow

Leticia was honored with this year’s Award of Merit for Volunteer Attorney category.

The Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County works in partnership with over 30 law firms and corporate counsel in Silicon Valley, with four hundred volunteers providing thousands of pro bono hours annually. Legal Aid’s work covers five main areas of urgent client need: accessing income support programs, bridging the education gap, fighting for freedom from domestic violence, obtaining health care, and preventing homelessness. For more information about their work, visit www.legalaidsmc.org.

About Legal Aid Association of California

Founded in 1983, the Legal Aid Association of California (“LAAC”) is a nonprofit organization created to ensure the effective delivery of legal services to low-income and underserved people and families throughout California.  LAAC is the statewide membership organization of 91 nonprofit legal services organizations in the state. Our members provide high-quality legal services to our state’s most vulnerable populations.

These services to low-income and other underrepresented individuals form an essential safety net in California and often ensure that the programs’ clients have access to life’s basic necessities, such as food, safe and affordable housing, freedom from violence, health care, employment, economic self-sufficiency, and equal access to justice through the legal system.