2013 Awards of Merit

The LAAC Awards of Merit are the California 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 past year. More about the Awards of Merit

The 2013 Awards of Merit were presented Jan. 31, 2014. Sponsors for the LAAC 30th Anniversary and Awards of Merit Celebration include Disability Rights California, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, Legal Services of Northern California, National Immigration Law Center, National Senior Citizens Law Center, and Watsonville Law Center.

2013-2014 Awards Merit Press Release, Jan 27, 2014 (MS Word file)

2013-2014 LAAC Awards of Merit honorees
Above: Honorees Adriana Melgoza, Gerald McIntyre

Following are the honorees.

Gerald McIntyre, Directing Attorney, Justice in Aging

At Justice in Aging (formerly National Senior Citizens Law Center) since 1993, McIntyre has, through his work, affected the lives of thousands of low-income Californians. He recently led litigation efforts which returned more than $1.7 billion in Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to thousands of seniors and people with disabilities. His advocacy has led to the development of the Social Security Administration’s language access plan. As a national expert, McIntyre provides training to advocates throughout the country on various legal issues, including equal rights and access to benefits for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults.

“In addition to his high-profile advocacy work, Jerry works to expand access to the social safety net in countless small but important ways every day, as he provides unfailing and incisive support to legal services attorneys across the state. His intelligence, humility, generosity and dedication to those in need inspire us all. His effectiveness as an advocate for justice has had a life changing impact on hundreds of thousands,” said Kevin Prindiville, executive director of Justice in Aging.

Adriana Melgoza, Clinic Manager, Watsonville Law Center

Melgoza works as clinic manager at Watsonville Law Center, where she started as a volunteer in 2009. She organizes legal services for low-income, primarily Spanish-speaking clients in the rural Central Coast. Her work to recruit both student and pro bono attorney volunteers has led to an increase of thousands of hours of volunteer service in legal aid on the Central Coast.

In addition to her work at Watsonville Law Center, Melgoza founded Unidos por un Corazón Inocente (United for an Innocent Heart), an organization that hosts support groups for Spanish-speaking, immigrant parents to share information about legal, medical, and personal resources.

Deborah Chase, senior attorney, Judicial Council of California, Administrative Office of the Courts (special 2013 Joint Award of Merit recipient)

Judge Mark Juhas, Deborah Chase, Justice Kathleen O'Leary
Above: Judge Mark Juhas, Deborah Chase, and Justice Kathleen O’Leary

In addition to the Family Law Awards, the California Commission on Access to Justice joined LAAC in recognizing Deborah Chase as the 2013 Joint Award of Merit recipient. Chase works as senior attorney for the Judicial Council of California, Administrative Office of the Courts. She serves as judge pro tem for Superior Court of California, County of Alameda. A member of the team that developed the statewide self-represented litigants action plan, Chase is primarily responsible for California’s self-help center guidelines.

As part of both the Elkins Family Law Task Force and the Elkins Implementation Task Force, Chase helped conduct a comprehensive review of family law proceedings to develop recommendations for California courts. Chase holds both masters and doctoral degrees in psychology. She received the California Lawyer of the Year (CLAY) Award in 2002.

“Deborah has worked tirelessly throughout her career to open the doors of justice for low-income family law litigants and to give these litigants an effective voice once they are before the court,” said Justice Kathleen O’Leary, president justice of the California Court of Appeal, Fourth District.